Rep. Wheeler’s Weekly Roundup: May 18


Governor Rauner proposes major public safety package to reinstate death penalty and extend 72-hour wait to all guns. 

Gov. Bruce Rauner has asked the Illinois General Assembly to reinstate the death penalty for mass murderers and those who kill law enforcement officers.  

The proposal is part of a precedent-setting public safety initiative that the Governor unveiled in an amendatory veto (AV) of House Bill 1468 which also urges legislators to:  

o   Extend the 72-hour waiting period for delivery of all gun purchases in Illinois. o   Ban bump stocks and trigger cranks. o   Authorize restraining orders to disarm dangerous individuals.

o   Make judges and prosecutors more accountable by making them explain – on the record – why charges are reduced in plea agreements for violent offenders in gun cases.

o   Free up local revenue to hire resource officers and mental health workers to help intervene and prevent student violence before it occurs.  

“Gun violence has rocked the nation and our state,” Rauner said. “This is a responsible, bipartisan approach to the problem that will help ensure the safety and security of our children, our peacekeepers, our families, and our communities in Illinois.”  

“Few crimes are more heinous than purposeful killings of children and peacekeepers,” Rauner said. “We didn’t propose the death penalty lightly. We had to balance the need for safety and, in the end, we wanted to make it abundantly clear we have no tolerance for such atrocities in Illinois.”   Rauner’s changes to HB 1468 create a new category of homicide called “death penalty murder.” It would apply to offenders 18 and over that prosecutors charge with killing peace officers or two or more people without lawful justification.  

The Governor’s proposal was redrafted as Floor Amendment #1 to SB 2580 and has been referred to the House floor for consideration.  


State orders CPS to grant special education oversight to State-named monitor

The move followed significant special education findings affecting Illinois’ largest school district.  The overarching theme of criticism against existing Chicago Public Schools (CPS) special education management was that despite spending $900 million annually for the benefit of 52,000 enumerated students with a broad range of special needs, the troubled school district had failed to meet a series of mandates set down by federal special education law. 

Many of the 52,000 enumerated student affected by this order are young persons with individualized education programs (IEPs).   Under the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) order published on Wednesday, May 16, Chicago Public Schools are required to grant operational sign-off powers over much of its special education establishment to a monitor appointed by ISBE.  The monitor will oversee the implementation of a list of 40 mandated corrective actions.  Students affected by the order include students with learning issues, behavioral disabilities, and physical disabilities. 

In cases uncovered by the investigation, students and their families with diagnosed needs and challenges were unable to get help in a timely manner.   The duration of the takeover order will be at least three years.  Chicago Public Schools will have to get permission from the monitor to implement any changes to its special education policies and procedures.  Stakeholders will have the right to talk to the monitor and report ongoing special education problems and challenges within CPS.  The monitor will have the right to attend any and all CPS senior staff meetings at which operations are discussed. 

The role of the appointed ISBE monitor will be akin, in some facets, to the “special masters” that can be appointed by federal courts under current law to oversee or assist in the oversight of school systems and other units of public infrastructure.

Heroic action by school resource officer stops Dixon school shooter

An armed intruder entered the high school building in Dixon, Illinois and opened fire on students and educators. Taking immediate action, school security officer and longtime Dixon police officer Mark Dallas returned fire, shooting the gunman and taking him into custody. The Wednesday, May 16 incident occurred when Dixon High School senior class members were rehearsing for graduation. Educators and students responded to the incident in line with school security protocols, and the heroic action of Officer Dallas helped to ensure no other persons were physically hurt in the violent incident.  State Rep. Tom Demmer, who represents Dixon, praised Officer Dallas in remarks delivered on the House floor on Thursday, May 17.      


U.S. Supreme Court sports betting decision affects Illinois

Placing large-scale and electronic bets on sports teams is currently prohibited in Illinois. The Criminal Code ban on Illinois gambling covers many forms of wagering activity, with one sports-related exception that covers bets on horse racing.  Until this week, this ban was buttressed by a federal law enacted by Congress in 1992 that froze in place the laws of 46 U.S. states that forbade betting on sporting events. Pushed by the state of New Jersey, the U.S. Supreme Court this week struck down this federal law.   The action by the federal high court opens the door for the General Assembly to begin to debate the amendment or modification of Illinois’ ban on sports betting. 

Many Illinoisans will continue to oppose the expansion of the State’s gambling industries.  Others may look at the revenues that taxing a gambling transaction can bring in – money that does not have to be extracted by incomes, sales, or property taxes.  Potential revenue estimates from the legalization of sports betting in Illinois range from $300 million to more than $600 million.  


Record year announced for Illinois tourism

Records from Illinois hotels, motels, and tourist attractions show that nearly 114 million visits were made to Illinois in 2017, up 1.4% from 2016.  The visitors spent $39.5 billion, up 3% from 2016, and supported the creation and maintenance of 335,500 jobs.  The numbers for 2017 were announced by Governor Rauner on Tuesday, May 15.     

The Illinois Office of Tourism encourages visits to Illinois as a way for persons from elsewhere to enjoy authentic U.S. “heartland” products and experiences. Illinois experiences are featured in our State’s “Illinois Made” campaign. 

Visitors pay taxes for goods and services such as hotel rentals, restaurant meals, local beverages, and rental motor vehicles. Tourist travel to Illinois generated $2.95 billion in 2017 State and local tax revenue, representing $1,300 in tax payments for the average Illinois household.      

STATE GOVERNMENT Representative Wehrli introduces new anti-corruption bill

Working with Governor Rauner, House Republican Rep. Grant Wehrli is pushing the General Assembly to adopt what would be the toughest public corruption penalties in the United States. 

HB 5878 creates or toughens the penalty levels for 20 separate criminal offenses involving political and government corruption.  The bill increases penalties for criminal offenses involving bribery.  Receiving contributions on state property, engaging in prohibited political activities, abuse by a state legislator of his or her status as a lawmaker, and many other violations of law and ethics are covered under Wehrli’s measure.  

“Shady business, as usual, is no longer the standard for Illinois,” said Gov. Rauner.  Four of Rauner’s last ten gubernatorial predecessors were convicted of federal criminal offenses and forced to serve terms of confinement. 

HB 5878 was assigned to the House Rules Committee.  


Quincy to get deep well water

The river city traditionally gets its water from the Mississippi River.  Recent health problems at the Quincy Veterans Home have pointed to the need to develop a new source for the city’s potable water.  A $6 million matching-funds grant will be used to switch Quincy’s water supply to a sand-and-gravel aquifer that is known to be flowing underneath the Quincy area.  The project was announced on Wednesday, May 16, by Gov. Bruce Rauner.    

Cooler, cleaner groundwater should reduce health concerns at the Quincy Veterans Home, which uses piped Quincy water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.  Tragic outbreaks of Legionella disease, caused by bacteria that live in stagnant warm water, have played a role in the deaths of some Veterans Home residents. 

The Quincy Veterans Home, one of Western Illinois’ largest employment centers, houses more than 350 residents who are veterans of the U.S. armed forces and their spouses from Illinois.  The facility employs approximately 500 caregivers and support staff. Even after cleaner water begins to flow throughout Quincy, additional work will be necessary at the Veterans Home complex. The Rauner Administration, working with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, has published preliminary plans for the construction of an entirely new veterans’ complex in Quincy with new plumbing and piping.            


Frank Lloyd Wright Trail

Illinois’ Frank Lloyd Wright heritage is celebrated in the creation of the new Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, which will join the Illinois River Road and the Lincoln Heritage Trail among the networks of marked roads celebrating the Illinois experience.  The heritage of Frank Lloyd Wright is protected by owners of the 13 Wright-designed buildings open to the public throughout Illinois.  The modern architect’s Illinois masterpieces are capped by his own Home and Studio in Oak Park, owned and operated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, and by the State of Illinois-operated Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, with its 35 rooms filed with Wright-designed and Wright-approved fittings and furniture.  The Trail includes all 13 open-to-the-public sites.   

The work that eventuated in the creation of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail was sparked by the Illinois General Assembly in the adoption of HJR 66 in summer 2017.  Work in 2017-18 led to the stamping of the metal signs that will be used this summer to mark the Trail on the roads of Illinois.               


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