Legislative Update: September 5, 2017

Historic Education Funding Reform Signed into Law
On Thursday, August 31, I was honored to join Governor Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders at a Ebinger Elementary School in Chicago for the signing of landmark bipartisan legislation that fundamentally changes how public education will be funded in Illinois. SB 1947, signed into law as Public Act 100-0465, adopts an evidence-based model based on years of study and several recommendations brought forth by a bipartisan, bicameral School Funding Reform Commission. The new funding formula secures historic levels of funding for every Illinois school district and prioritizes new education dollars for our State’s most impoverished schools and students. All students are treated equally and there are no special deals for any specific school district. One of the best negotiated points of this bill, in my opinion, is that Chicago Public Schools’ normal pension costs will be paid in the same manner as all other school districts - outside the school funding formula.

The final language included in SB 1947 represents true compromise on the part of Republicans and Democrats from both chambers of the General Assembly. Legislative leaders were able to achieve a compromise that provides all school districts with the State support they need; no party left the table with everything they wanted. There are elements of the new formula that I do not like. But there are also elements, like relief from unfunded school mandates and ensuring that no district will see funding cuts, which will benefit the taxpayers in the 81st District.

With the signing of SB 1947, state aid payments will flow to Illinois’ 852 school districts without further delay. This bill is a prime example of the positive progress that is possible when lawmakers set personal agendas aside and work together for the betterment of the State. I hope this level of bipartisan cooperation can be carried forward as we address other pressing issues in the State of Illinois. The top picture was taken immediately after the bill signing, and I’m shown in the other photo with Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis at the event.

Olsen to Host Property Tax Event This Saturday
At a time when many homeowners feel they are being taxed out of their homes, it is important that they understand the assessment process and know what remedies are available to them. Citizens of Illinois’ 81st District are invited to join Downers Grove Township Assessor Greg Boltz, Lisle Township Assessor John Trowbridge, DuPage Township Assessor Jean Kelly and me this Saturday, September 9 for a free seminar on understanding the property tax assessment process and learning how to appeal your property tax assessment. The event will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at the Downers Grove Public Library, 1050 Curtiss Street in Downers Grove. After a presentation and facilitated questions, attendees will also have the opportunity to consult individually with their local assessor or their staff about property-specific issues. Due to space constraints, RSVPs are requested. If you would like to attend the property tax forum, please RSVP by calling my office at (630) 737-0504.

Olsen Honors Retiring Fire Chief with State Recognition
On August 31, it was my pleasure to present retiring Downers Grove Fire Chief Jim Jackson with a recognition from the Illinois House of Representatives at his retirement ceremony. Under Jackson’s leadership, the department attained many honors and distinctions. Most notably, the department achieved an ISO 1 status and established nationally recognized education programs. Chief Jackson began his career in Downers Grove in 1987. He rose through the ranks as firefighter, lieutenant, and Deputy Chief before being sworn in as Chief in 2010. I wish him the very best in retirement.

New State Standards for Financial Literacy Coming to Illinois Schools
New state standards, adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in February 2016, will be put into effect in the 2017-2018 school year by local school districts. The standards are meant to cover fundamental principles of financial literacy such as bookkeeping (balancing a checkbook) and financial planning (saving money on a regular schedule). The revised standards have been added to the social science curriculum and will be taught to all students starting in the elementary grades. Students will learn about debt, investments, and credit scores. Many school districts have already adopted standards of financial literacy that meet the newly adopted standards.

Rep. Olsen Named Young Business Professional of the Year by Chamber630
It was an honor recently to be named 2017 Young Business Professional of the Year by Chamber630 in DuPage County. I received the award as part of the Chamber’s annual awards celebration, which was held in Woodridge on August 17. I have been proud to sponsor and pass legislation that helps business owners and I will continue to work toward creating a regulatory climate that allows businesses to thrive in Illinois.

Chamber630 is one of the largest business organizations in DuPage County and represents more than 700 members from over 50 municipalities with a focus in the Villages of Downers Grove and Woodridge. The Chamber provides marketing opportunities legislative advocacy and workforce development for small, medium and large businesses.

Governor Signs Additional Olsen Bills into Law
This is the time of year when the Governor signs bills approved in the spring legislative session and during any subsequent special sessions into law. Many pieces of legislation that I have sponsored or co-sponsored have been signed and are now part of the State Statutes as Public Acts. Some of the more recent signings of bills I have sponsored or co-sponsored include:
  • HB 3251 (P.A. 100-0166): Strengthens cyberstalking laws in Illinois by creating the offense of illegal electronic monitoring. A person commits this offense if he/she knowingly and surreptitiously installs without consent electronic monitoring software or spyware on an electronic communication device like a cell phone or tablet as a means of harassment. 
  • HB 2390 (P.A. 100-0260): Enhances penalties for those who commit hate crimes (targeting others based on their race, color, creed, religion or other perceived classification). Increases the amount of damages for which a defendant can be held liable and also ensures that sentences for multiple convictions for hate crimes will be served consecutively rather than concurrently. The new law also includes an educational provision, so that rather than just being penalized for their crime, defendants will face an educational sentence so they may learn why their actions were wrong.
  • HB 3122 (P.A. 100-0274): Bipartisan legislation that increases the number of hours an elected official must work to become eligible for a pension through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). Previously, local elected officials could become pension-eligible at 600 hours of work per year unless a municipality or unit of local government has specifically approved a measure requiring them to work 1,000 hours per year. This legislation increases the standard for all local elected officials who wish to qualify for a public pension to a required minimum of 1,000 hours of work per year. 
  • HB 512 (P.A. 100-0298): amends the election code to provide that public referendum questions must be published not more than 60 days (currently 40 days) and not less than 10 days (currently 30 days) before the election. Providing greater notice to voters improves the process and the ability for voters to become better informed about ballot initiatives that could impact their tax bills. Especially as more and more people are taking advantage of early voting, expanding that window for posting information will be very helpful. 
Several other bills I sponsored or co-sponsored have also been signed and I will be writing about them in the coming weeks.

Realtors See Solid Gains in July
The median price of a home sold in Illinois rose 5.8% over the last year. The data was published in the monthly report submitted by Illinois Realtors to their members and to the general public. The statewide median price of an Illinois home sold in July 2017 was $210,000, up from $198,500 in July 2016. At the same time, the Illinois realty report showed a decline in overall housing sales activity. 15,677 homes were sold through licensed realtors in July 2017, down 698 homes (4.3%) from the 16,375 homes sold in July 2016. The data contained in this report is limited to properties that passed through the hands of licensed realtors, and does not include housing data from private sales.

Illinoisans Rally to Support Gulf Coast
The Illinois Red Cross has marshaled its resources to rush support to the Gulf Coast, which has suffered widespread deaths and devastation from Hurricane Harvey and its catastrophic tropical-storm rainfall. The nature of the damage makes infrastructure maintenance and repair especially urgent. ComEd has deployed electrical repair teams to the Houston area. Many other businesses and nonprofit organizations are also stepping in to help.
Local non-profit Watts of Love is bringing thousands of solar-powered lights to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Last week I joined Downers Grove Village Commissioner Nicole Walus and other local residents volunteering to assemble the lights. With power expected to be out for weeks in some areas, these lights will be important to the relief efforts. For more information on how you can help disaster survivors in Texas, please click here

Technology Consulting Firm Announces Plans for Chicago Hiring
West Metro Partners, a Chicago-based consulting firm which specializes in technology solutions, projects that it will hire 500 new employees over the next five years. The majority of new hires are expected to be STEM college graduates with joint-majors or credentials in business and enterprise. West Monroe Partners’ CEO Kevin McCarty states that his employees perform contract deep customer-oriented analytics with their partner clients, and develop plans to increase their customer-relationship productivity. They also develop solutions for welding previously-incompatible information technology systems together when two or more firms are implementing a business combination.

Still Time to Participate in Olsen Legislative Survey
Responses to my 2017 legislative survey continue to arrive at my office, and the input I am receiving is extremely valuable. There is still time to share your opinions with me by participating in my short survey. A paper version of the survey should have arrived in 81st District mailboxes as part of my End of Session report, but a digital version is also available on my web site. Click here to get started!

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