While many bills were approved and signed into law in 2016, several very worthwhile initiatives failed to receive fair consideration in the House or Senate. House Speaker Mike Madigan controls the Rules Committee, and he uses it to block any bill he does not wish to have considered by lawmakers. Bills that would seem like common sense to you and me were blocked this year by the Speaker. The list below represents a sampling of the “should haves” that will not be, thanks to far-reaching hand of the House Speaker:

HB 5744 – If the General Assembly fails to pass a balanced budget by the end of the regular session each year, lawmakers would have been required to stay in continuous session every day until a balanced budget is passed. 

HJRCA 7 – A constitutional amendment that would have created term limits for leaders of the Illinois General Assembly: Would have limited the Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, Minority Leader of the House, or Minority Leader of the Senate to a total of 8 years in any one office and 12 years combined in 2 or more offices.

HJRCA 27 - A constitutional amendment that would have created a redistricting advisory commission separate from the legislature to change the way legislative districts are drawn to create a more fair and representative map.

HB 5794 – Would have created the offense of illegal electronic monitoring to protect victims of domestic violence from being stalked by their abusers by placing electronic tracking software or spyware on their electronic communication device.

HB 6198 - When applying for a property tax exemption, social security benefits would not have impacted income status and would have helped prevent senior citizens from being taxed out of their homes.

HB 4118 – Would have changed the property tax code by lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 55 to participate in the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption.

HB 4119 – Would have changed the property tax code to allow disabled Illinoisans to participate in the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption.

HB 5008 / HB 6241 – Would have helped senior citizens stay in their homes by increasing the maximum income limitation under the Senior Citizens Assessment (property tax) Freeze Homestead Exemption from $55,000 to $75,000.

HB 6582 - Electronic Voter Registration: After providing state services, agencies would have had to inform individuals of qualifications for voter registration in Illinois and could present an opportunity for voter registration.

HB 4574 –Would have created penalties for fraudulently using the benefits on an Electronic Benefit Transfer card (EBT) or LINK card intended for SNAP recipients.

HB 4505 – Would have prevented pension double-dipping, which occurs when a retired public employee who is receiving a state funded pension is employed by a different public entity so they receive a pension and a salary at the same time.

HB 4639 –Would have amended the procurement code to make it easier for institutions of higher education to save money by banding together to make bulk purchases. Since Illinois has been a member of one buying pact in particular (MHEC), universities, colleges, school districts, park districts, libraries, cities and counties have saved over $190 million on their purchases.

HB 2531 - Job Creation Finance Act, would have allowed municipalities to designate job creation areas in exchange for a sliding scale of tax incentives based on the number of jobs created and maintained.

HB 1558 - As a result of the tornado in Gifford, for commercial/industrial property that has been rebuilt following a tornado disaster, this bill would have provided for a partial reduction in Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) if the square footage of the rebuilt structure is at least 10% larger than the original structure.

HB 4041 – Would have allowed for due process of a red light camera ticket by allowing a vehicle owner to contest the ticket and receive proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the violation occurred.

HB 6602 – Would have forfeited a persons' survivor benefits for any person who is convicted of any felony relating to or arising out of or in connection with the service of the member from whom the benefit results.

HB 5021 – Would have limited the amount a person who has been convicted of assaulting a peace officer, fireman, corrections officer, or DHS employee (among others) can have their sentence reduced.

HB 4215 – Would have created the Illinois College Procurement Reform Act to allow public universities to procure funding to meet their needs that is not dependent on the current restrictions of the Illinois Procurement Code for state agencies.

HB 4569 – Would have ensured that disabled adults have the right to communicate and interact with other people unless their guardian can show the court good cause to prevent another person from interacting with the disabled person.

Again, this is just a small sample of the hundreds and hundreds of bills that never had a chance to be heard, discussed, nor voted upon in 2016. Lawmakers go to Springfield to represent the priorities and needs of the approximately 108,000 people in each district. When one man can derail a piece of legislation, that process of fair representation is restricted.

I am putting the final touches on my 2017 legislative agenda and will be announcing those bills in the coming weeks. Since taking my oath of office in early August, I have worked hard to cultivate relationships on both sides of the aisle with hopes that all of my legislation will receive wide, bipartisan support. As the new 100th General Assembly is sworn in on January 11, I will also be supporting efforts to eliminate the rule that allows the Speaker of the House to control the movement of bills for all 118 State Representatives.

I wish everyone a very Happy New Year, and please know that I am eager to return to Springfield where I can work on behalf of the people of Illinois’ 81st District. If my office may be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone at (630) 737-0504 or through the contact form found at www.repolsen.com.

On January 1, 2017, 191 new laws will take effect in Illinois. Be aware of what’s coming so you can be in compliance. Watch below to learn about some of the more noteworthy laws coming your way on January 1st.

Olsen Recognizes Innovative Teaching Practices in District 58

In addition to my role as your State Representative in Springfield, I also serve as chair of the Grants Committee for the District 58 Education Foundation. Last week I was proud to help recognize educational excellence by awarding a record-breaking 31 grants to 46 teachers and staff from Downers Grove School District 58. Each grant supports highly innovative teacher-driven projects that align with the District’s curriculum and strategic goals. This year’s grants included makerspaces, 3D printers, classroom libraries, thermal energy cameras, a podcast studio, a recording studio, a writing toolkit, a cello, cooking experiences for special needs students, and a program to promote parent engagement.

Illinois House Posts Schedule for 2017 Spring Session
The newly-elected and re-elected members of the Illinois House will convene in Springfield on Wednesday, January 11, to take the oath of office. House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office has posted a session calendar for the House to follow when we introduce new bills next spring and debate them in committee and on the floor. The House will also consider bills sent over from the state Senate. The spring session is scheduled to end on Wednesday, May 31. 

In addition to the session work of the new 100th General Assembly, the 99th General Assembly may well have a few last things to do in January. Two lame duck session days have been posted on the schedule for Monday, January 9, and Tuesday, January 10. It is not yet known for what purposes these days will be used.

As we prepare for this new term, I look forward to working with both new and returning legislators on important initiatives that will benefit our communities and all of Illinois.

Chamber630 Closes 2016 with Holiday Members’ Luncheon
Last week I joined local business leaders for the annual Chamber630 Holiday Luncheon which was held at the Seven Bridges Golf Club in Woodridge. Chamber630 is one of the largest business organizations in DuPage County, with over 700 members involved with a variety of business types and sizes, from small, family-owned companies and start-ups, to large international corporations. The Chamber offers top notch marketing opportunities, legislative advocacy, workforce development and a connection to the residential and business communities in all of DuPage County with a focus on the communities of Downers Grove and Woodridge. It’s a pleasure to be involved with this group. I’m shown in this picture with Chamber630 President and CEO Laura Crawford.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As we end 2016 and prepare to usher in 2017, I hope you are able to spend quality time these coming weeks with family, friends and other loved ones. While this has indeed been a difficult year for the State of Illinois, we have much for which we can be truly grateful. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a bright and prosperous new year! It is my privilege to serve you in Springfield.
General Assembly Concludes 2016 Veto Session
The 1970 Constitution of directs lawmakers to come back to Springfield twice each fall for veto session. The first week was held the week prior to Thanksgiving, and the second week was held from Tuesday, November 29 until December 1. During this fall session, legislators reconsider bills that received either a partial or a full veto by the Governor during the spring session. These days marked my first session days in Springfield as the State Representative for the 81st District.

Of the many bills that were brought back for reconsideration, only one, SB 440, received the supermajority vote required to override the Governor’s veto. SB 440 amends the Chicago Police and Firefighter Articles of the Pension Code to address Tier II survivors’ annuity and issues related to cost-of-living adjustments, widow annuities and other death benefit provisions. I was proud to support this bill.

Rep. Olsen Votes Against Energy Bill, Citing “Too Much Risk” for Rate Payers
Illinois lawmakers approved a comprehensive energy bill on Thursday that will allow nuclear energy plants in Clinton and in the Quad Cities to remain operational as part of a broad package of measures that support clean energy in the state. SB 2814 was approved in the House and Senate in the final hours of veto session, and Governor Bruce Rauner has said he will sign it.

I support clean energy initiatives, but voted against the bill due to its scope and because the costs associated with the massive bill will be absorbed by rate payers. Additionally, I have concerns with any policy initiative that chooses winners and losers. Rather than creating more regulations, we should be reducing regulations so that the electricity market can work and we can benefit from lower rates in a truly market-driven system.

While I was disappointed that the energy bill was the focal point of our veto session when we have no budget and social service agencies aren’t getting paid, I was pleased with the bipartisanship and compromise that was shown by the legislative leaders and Governor in crafting an agreed bill. We need to insist that the same process be extended to the creation of a balanced budget with necessary reforms, once and for all. Now that we know that compromise legislation like the final version of the energy bill is possible, there is no excuse for the ongoing budget stalemate.

Lawmakers Sent Home until January 9; 1 ½ Weeks After Stopgap Budget Expires
After observing bipartisanship and compromise in action on the energy bill, I was extremely disappointed that House Speaker Mike Madigan sent us home before a budget deal was reached. Emergency stopgap spending is in place only until December 31, at which point there will be no spending authority for many critical budget areas as we head into 2017. Upon our adjournment on December 2, the Speaker said we will return for a lame duck session on Monday, January 9. In a recent interview I was asked to weigh in on the Speaker’s decision to send us home rather than continue to work on a budget. Click here to hear that interview.

Annual Bonfield Express Thanksgiving Race a Huge Success in Downers Grove
Every Thanksgiving morning I join thousands of runners from across the region as we run or walk through the streets of Downers Grove for the Bonfield Express Thanksgiving 5K. This annual event is sponsored by the Bonfield Express Foundation, a local charity that works to build character and community commitment in high school students. The group provides scholarship assistance to high school seniors to help build future community leaders. Through the generosity of donors, the Foundation has distributed more than $300,000 in scholarships and has begun funding programs for local grade school students.

Governor Rauner Renews Call for Compromise and Bipartisanship
With substantial segments of Illinois state spending scheduled to run dry with the expiration of the stopgap State budget on December 31, on Friday I joined several of my colleagues and Governor Bruce Rauner at a press conference in Chicago, as the Governor renewed his plea for an agreed budget deal that includes money-saving and job-creating reforms. Up to this point, meetings between Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders have not yet succeeded in achieving the level of agreement necessary for a balanced budget with necessary reforms to move forward. 

Illinois House Approves Constitutional Amendment
The amendment, if approved by the state Senate and adopted in the 2018 general election, would increase the voting margin required to increase an income tax rate or a sales tax rate during the so-called “lame duck” session of the Illinois General Assembly. I voted in favor of this amendment. The General Assembly, under current law, can enact “lame duck” tax hikes by simple majority in both houses. If HJRCA 62 were to become law, the margin would increase to three-fifths – the same “supermajority” as is currently required to increase State general-obligation debt, approve amendments to the Constitution of Illinois, and approve amendments to the federal Constitution of the United States. Lame duck sessions are sessions after Election Day when retiring legislators are still in office. The Thursday, December 1 vote by the House to approve HJRCA 62 was 84-18-2. The Senate has not taken action on this measure.

DuPage County Mayors Visit Rep. Olsen in Springfield
Last week I had an opportunity to visit with several DuPage County mayors, when they stopped by the Capitol for a quick meeting representing the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference. I’m shown in this picture with Mayors Rich Veenstra (Addison), Rodney Craig (Hanover Park), Jeff Pryun (Itasca) and David Brummel (Warrenville). This group of community leaders is doing great work on behalf of the people they represent, and it was a pleasure to see them in Springfield.

The Capitol at Christmastime
As legislators returned to the Capitol last week we were able to enjoy the State Christmas Tree and other holiday displays in the first floor rotunda. This year’s dedication ceremony was held on November 29. The two-story tree and other items certainly provided some perspective during these difficult days for our State. The display is open to the public during normal business hours throughout December at the Capitol, located at 301 S. 2nd Street, Springfield. Area singing groups often volunteer to sing over the noon hour during the holiday season. If your holiday travels bring you near Springfield, please try to find time to see the display in the rotunda. 

Legislators will spend the remaining days of 2016 in their home districts tending to the needs of their constituents and I hope you see you around the 81st District. The House and Senate are both scheduled to return to the Capitol on Monday, January 9 for two days of lame duck session prior to the swearing in of the 100th General Assembly on Wednesday, January 11. However, I will continue to urge leadership to bring the legislature back to session earlier to address the budget before the stopgap expires at the end of the year.
Lawmakers left Springfield on Thursday, December 1, and while bipartisanship and compromise were used to craft a comprehensive energy bill that was approved by the House and Senate, and which the Governor said he would sign, that same process did not extend to discussions on Illinois’ most pressing issue- the lack of a state budget.

During a recent interview, State Representative David S. Olsen expressed his disappointment that lawmakers were not kept in Springfield until a budget deal could be reached. “To hear that the next time we’re going to be in session is on January 9th, after the stopgap has expired, is really distressing for me,” said Olsen.

Click here to listen to the complete Olsen interview.
Today in Springfield the House of Representatives approved a comprehensive energy bill that will allow nuclear energy plants in Clinton and in the Quad Cities to remain online, but at a steep cost for rate payers. In response to the 63-38 vote in the House, State Representative David S. Olsen (R-Downers Grove) has issued the following statement:

“I am disappointed with the passage of the energy bill today. I have concerns with any policy initiative that actively chooses winners and losers. Rather than creating more regulations, we should be reducing regulations so that the electricity market can work and we can benefit from lower rates in a truly market-driven system.”

“While renewable energy, energy costs and accessibility are important issues that are worthy of our time, I am troubled that this issue has been the major focal point of our fall veto session. Our stopgap budget expires in just four weeks and we still do not have a budget. Our time this week should have focused on finding a compromise to address Illinois’ most pressing issue - the lack of a budget.”