Springfield… State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) has issued the following statement in response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s decision to restore the $26 million in cuts that were made on the Friday prior to spring break…

“Revised estimates from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) report indicate the state is projected to receive $300 to $500 million in additional revenue,” said Rep. Sosnwoski. “This extra revenue will partially be used to restore $26 million in funding reductions back to a list of providers who receive grant money from the Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Health.”

“I wish to commend Governor Rauner and the legislators who have continued to work diligently on the state’s budget. This discovery will now allow critical programs that serve our community to once again become operational. It’s imperative that we continue to have constructive budgetary discussions so that we may focus on fixing our state’s financial problems.”

“Illinois citizens should undoubtedly be a priority; and if we can stabilize our finances we can create an environment where the state budget is a forthright plan based on realistic revenue that ensures financial stability for providers.”

Springfield… State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) passed legislation that will allow for amateur kickboxing tournaments to come back to Rockford and the entire State, ensuring adequate safety measures for all involved. House Bill 1646 regulates amateur elimination tournaments and defines in statute how these tournaments operate.

There has been overwhelming support from across the State,” said Rep. Sosnowski. “These tournaments will bring in revenue and offer additional entertainment options for communities in a safe and appropriate manner. We made sure to take into account the safety of the sport competitors, venues patrons and the entertainment interests of the community.”

Current State statute is vague and does not define these tournaments for amateurs. The legislation will enable the tournaments to offer prize money without amateurs having to declare themselves as professionals. Also, promoters would have more options (tournament styles) to choose from.

The legislation was supported by the Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority (RAVE) and other similar venues,” said Rep. Sosnowski. 'The popular Toughman competitions (kickboxing) would now be able to come back to Rockford with the proper regulations in place. These tournaments provide an extra boost to local tourism and that is something that is extremely important to our area.”

Before the start of any elimination tournament, the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulations (IDPFR) has to check all promoters, professionals, and officials associated with the tournament for licenses issued by the Department, and anyone who does not meet safety standards and have a license may not participate.

House Bill 1646 now heads to the Senate for consideration. 
Springfield… After a recent “Chicago Tribune” investigation showing the Chicago red light program failed to deliver on longtime safety claims, State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) co-sponsored legislation to eliminate the program. House Bill 173 passed out of the House and aims to end the abuse of questionable tickets issued to increase revenue instead of focusing on the safety of Illinois motorist. 

"We have taken a first step to dismantling an experiment gone wrong in Illinois.  Red light cameras are not about safety, they are just about revenue.  I used to support them in an effort to reduce dangerous accidents, but they have not helped, and communities have simply started ticketing people for questionable violations to make massive amounts of revenue."

Supporters of the ban assert that the cameras do not generate any benefit to public safety. Also, the cameras cannot identify drivers. The legislation exempts home-rule units and states that after January 1, 2017, non-home rule units within the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair, and Will are prohibited from enacting or enforcing existing automated red light camera systems.

In 2010, a new law, P.A. 96-1016, established reforms to the red light camera laws, including providing administrative adjudication of violations by a law enforcement officer, no fee for exercising one’s right to an administrative hearing, and requiring that recorded images of violations and the locations where red light cameras are installed be posted on a municipality’s website.

House Bill 173 now heads to the Senate for consideration. 

FY15 Budget Solution and Forecast for FY16 Budget 

The Illinois House and Senate took a tough, but necessary vote to fix the $1.6 billion gap in the FY15 budget.  The bill passed with bi-partisan support and was signed by Governor Rauner.  If immediate action had not been taken, the State would have been unable to make payroll at prisons, low-income working families would have lost their child care assistance, court reporters would have been laid off, and money for services for the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled would have  run out come April 1st.

In addition, inaction would have further delayed and perhaps jeopardized critical categorical school funding.  While education takes a minor funding reduction, the Governor will have discretionary funds available to ease the burden on schools. Granting emergency budget authority to the Governor is not without precedent, and given my faith in Governor Rauner and his commitment to holding the line on spending, this was the right thing to do.

The FY16 budget will be a challenge in its own regard. The House Revenue and Finance Committee heard testimony for the spending period that will begin on July 1, 2015. Just like the $1.6 billion gap in the FY 15 budget, legislators will have to work around the continuing phase-down of the "temporary" January 2011 income tax increase.  Estimates show that the State's cash intake from the income tax increase is dropping by nearly $5 billion over the two-year period starting in FY14 and leveling off in FY16. FY16 budget negotiations have begun and will continue to be discussed as the May 31st deadline approaches.

Effingham native Jim Schultz brings entrepreneurial spirit to state agency

As reported in: The State Journal-Register
By: Seth A. Richardson
March 28, 2015

Jim Schultz learned the business trade from getting beaten up by his older brothers. "I was born the sixth of eight children," he said. "I learned at a very early age how to negotiate in a collaborative cooperative fashion. In other words, if I didn't, as the sixth of eight, I'd end up with bloody nose or on the ground."

Now, the newly appointed director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity wants to draw on those lessons that started so long ago to improve Illinois' economy. To read more click here.

Stop bestowing student loans upon all who ask

As reported in: Chicago Tribune
By: Megan McArdle
April 2, 2015

A group of student-loan borrowers has declared that they're not going to repay their student loans, and they are asking the Department of Education to cancel their debt.

They are former students -- perhaps I should say "victims" -- of a for profit college operator that lost eligibility for federal student loans last year and has been purchased by a company that specializes in ... collecting student-loan debts.  The students claim that before the denouement, the school did everything but turn them upside down and shake the loose change out of their pockets.  They're now deeply in debt, with degrees that don't seem to be worth much. And that's those who graduated; those who didn't are in even worse shape.  So they want the Department of Education to forgive their loans and allow them to get back on their fee.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about the topics discussed in this newsletter, or any other part of state government, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (815) 547-3436 or email me at sosnowski@ilhousegop.org.