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Last Wednesday, State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) had the opportunity to meet with the Winnebago-Boone County Farm Bureau. Legislators were able to discuss current legislation and the Farm Bureau’s positions.
As the Illinois Legislature searches for ways to provide taxpayers relief, everything must be on the table. That is why I have introduced House Bill 261, which will remove the state unfunded mandate requiring local units of government to publish public notices in newspapers. HB261 will save local units of government and taxpayers’ money by allowing public notices to be placed on government websites instead of in newspapers.
I believe this is a common sense reform that increases government transparency.  Local governments can easily spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on these publications. The internet is a more cost effective approach and allows everyone increased and continual access to information.
This is the 21st century after all.  The least we can do is bring our requirements up to the 20th century.
Your tax dollars are paying for a service that local governments can provide at no cost.  That is called waste.  One quick example that happens all over Illinois: Boone County spent over $17,000 in 2013 on assessment publications for property taxpayers who had an assessed value change. That’s $17,000 to publish assessment information. Currently, a resident receives notification in the mail of changes in assessed value and Boone County has property assessment information on their website every day.  
We should not financially punish local governments that are accountable and transparent to their taxpayers; therefore, why do we require local governments to pay more to put this information in the newspaper that will be published and viewable only once?  
The answer is the newspapers lobby.  Yes they have lobbyists in Springfield looking to get their cut of taxpayer money.  The newspaper lobby claims they are increasing accountability and transparency by fighting for these types of notices to be filed in the paper. Articles written by some journalists claim my proposal will decrease government transparency.  That is utterly false.
The only thing that will be affected is the profits of newspapers.  It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility to keep newspapers afloat. If we are being serious, how many of us are avidly searching their local weekly newspaper to find a fire protection district budget, school annual statement of affairs, taxpayer property id numbers, etc.? If you miss it, it is not printed again, whereas if the notice was posted online it would be available all the time and readily available for public viewing.
This legislation is a step in the right direction. Local governments will continue to operate in public and save taxpayer dollars.  As Illinois local units of government face more possible cuts due to budget pressures, I call on the newspaper lobby to think of the taxpayers and be fair and practical. 
Springfield… Today, newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his first State of the State speech. State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) released the following statement in reaction to the Governor’s remarks…

“The Governor conveyed a positive message that outlines a plan to turn Illinois around. Everything he said today is geared towards fighting the biggest fight we have, creating jobs, improving our economy and bringing manufacturing jobs back to Illinois.

“I agree that we have to make Illinois more competitive and grow more jobs.   The themes are familiar, initiatives we’ve fought to change for years including worker’s comp reform, property tax relief and prioritizing education funding.

“I believe the Governor is on the right track and I am motivated to make sure his initiatives are carefully examined before we take action. I expect his budget speech in two weeks will be more vivid and will include more details.”

Belvidere… As the legislature enters into the new 99th General Assembly, State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Belvidere) discussed his new committee assignments and the impact it could have on the 69th District. Rep. Sosnowski was selected to serve on five different committees that focus in on education, infrastructure, revenue, and budget appropriations.

“I am honored to have received some new assignments on key committees that deal directly with funding,” said Rep. Sosnowski. “These committees will give people of the 69th District a voice in funding education, promoting local infrastructure, finding new revenue, and approving a balanced budget.”

Rep. Sosnowski was selected to serve on the following committees; Elementary & Secondary Education: School Curriculum & Policies, Revenue & Finance, Tollway Oversight, Appropriations: Elementary & Secondary Education, Appropriations: Higher Education, Executive, and Minority Spokesperson for Elementary & Secondary Education: Charter School Policy.

“Lack of new jobs and our spending problems have been strangling the state’s economy. Through my upcoming role on Revenue & Finance and education appropriations, I will work with my colleagues to improve the state’s operations and Illinois’ business environment. We must expand opportunities for everyone,” said Rep. Sosnowski.

Constituents can find more information on this cycles committee assignments by visiting the State website ( The website also provides a full calendar for this year’s spring session and committee schedule. 

Links below will direct you to the homepage for each committee:

Belvidere... Illinois has problematic issues that constantly keep the State from recovering.  Due to the State failing to resolve its most critical concerns, State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Belvidere) has offered commonsense solutions by crafting a better government legislation package that improves government transparency, efficiency and accountability.

“It’s highly imperative that we restore faith in government,” said Rep. Sosnowski. “This package serves as a step towards turning Illinois in the right direction by reducing regulations and promoting responsible government.”

The better government package includes legislation to address the state’s growing pension crisis. Illinois has a pension deficit approaching $111 billion, which means one in four State tax dollars goes towards funding pensions. This legislative package will stabilize the pension issue, provide the budget relief to fund other programs like education, and create changes to our business environment.

House Joint ResolutionConstitutional Amendment 9 if passed by the General Assembly will place a constitutional amendment on the next general election ballot allowing voters to repeal the pension protection clause in the Illinois constitution. We all contribute to the pension system and therefore deserve the opportunity to redefine the structure if necessary.

House Bill 314 changes our state’s economic development model to a public private partnership modelled off of Indiana where key community and business leaders are brought together to help lead our retention and recruitment efforts and to foster a positive atmosphere through partnerships, government reform, and pro-business policy changes that create jobs and community investment.

“This design works great at a local level with our regional economic development councils (similar to RAEDC); we need to do the same thing across the state of Illinois,” Sosnowski said.

Other bills within the package (House Bill 315 and House Bill 258)  creates an optional self-managed plan (SMP) for all state employees modeled from the SMP that was enacted for the State University Retirement System (SURS) and eliminate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for State government legislative and executive elected officials and qualifying appointees.

“Saving the State money while taking steps to fix the pension crisis in Illinois is essential to improving how we operate,” said Rep. Sosnowski. “Our growing financial obligations to state employee pension systems continue to grow every day we fail to act. However, we can begin to mend the problem with these commonsense reforms.”

The better government legislative package reduces state spending and promotes economic growth. Additional highlights of the legislative reform package are below:

Better Government Package Highlights:

House Bill 256: Reduces filing fees imposed upon limited liability companies by 50%.

House Bill 253: Stops abuses in the state plans regarding overtime.

House Bill 260: Reduces State stipends for county officials based on population.

House Bill 314: Private Public Economic Development Program.

House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 10: Prohibits a person from holding the office of State Senator or State Representative or a combination of those offices for more than 20 years. (Term limits)

Inauguration, Budget & Executive Orders

In his inaugural address, Governor Rauner made budget reform, job creation, economic growth, and educational reform four of the top priorities of his new administration. In addition, he and his staff have signaled their readiness to use additional executive orders to reorganize State agencies, abolish redundant and unnecessary offices, and reduce State spending.

As he launched into his duties as Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner issued a series of executive orders to freeze all nonessential State spending (Executive Order 15-08), including spending on infrastructure projects. Some forms of spending are expected to continue. For example, ongoing State-financed infrastructure projects may continue if construction has started or equipment purchased. This exemption does not apply to major State programs that are currently in the planning stage, such as the proposed Illiana Tollway. State agencies are barred from awarding new contracts or grants during a review period to be supervised by the Governor’s office, which is expected to continue until July 1, 2015.

Executive Order 15-09, was issued to halt the state’s horrific revolving door history. The order bans executive branch employees and appointees from negotiating for employment with a lobbyist or lobbying firm. It creates a one-year-long barrier between the act of leaving an executive-branch position and accepting any compensation for lobbying. Thirty-seven other states have implemented this type of policy within state government. The executive order goes further reducing the per diem food and beverages lobbyists may buy a member of the executive branch. In addition, the order increases the scope of the required annual filing of annual Statements of Economic Interest by State employees. Under the expanded disclosure requirement, mandated disclosures will include additional information about each filer’s outside work, volunteer work, legal status, and property holdings.

Executive Order 15-10, was issued to increase government accountability and transparency. The order mandates Central Management Services (CMS) to update the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal website to include salary and job classification information about Rutan-exempt employees and assist local governments in doing the same.

Executive Order 15-11, reversed last minute executive orders and appointments made by former Governor Pat Quinn before exiting office.

Executive Order 15-12, orders state agencies to review state contracts within 30 days and require labor organizations, contractors and subcontractors to catalog the total number of minority and veteran participants. In addition, CMS must conduct a review of programs and goals to ensure minority-owned businesses and veteran-owned businesses are provided equal opportunities to obtain state contracts. Governor Rauner commented, "We need to ensure jobs and business opportunities are open to everyone, but especially those who serve our country or are underrepresented in the economy."
Springfield, IL … On Thursday, Governor Quinn called for a special session of the General Assembly in January to consider a 2016 special election to replace the late Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) called the move misleading and unnecessary.

“The Illinois Constitution requires Governor-Elect Rauner to appoint a new comptroller to a four-year term. This means that any measure approved by the General Assembly in the special session to hold a special election for a shorter term would require changing the constitution and therefore would require voter approval. The soonest opportunity for voters to decide on whether or not to hold a special election would be 2016, which wouldn’t make any changes before the term in question has expired,” said Sosnowski. “Any changes made to the Illinois Constitution should be carefully debated, and not be hurried through in a political, last-ditch effort by a departing Governor.”

For more information, call Rep. Sosnowski’s office at (815) 547-3436.