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Today Governor Bruce Rauner gave his annual Budget Address to a special joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives of the 100th General Assembly. The budget remains the biggest challenge to the state of Illinois, with the current impasse reaching almost its second year, and a backlog of unpaid bills climbing to $11.3 billion.

In his Address, the Governor acknowledged the difficult position the state is in, but also noted significant progress that has been made through bipartisan compromise in the Senate. He presented specific parameters needed in a balanced budget plan, and stressed the importance of coming to an agreement that benefits both tax payers and job creators. The Governor also emphasized job creation as the cornerstone for economic growth, something for which the budget must account for.

State Representative Steve Andersson (R-Geneva) appreciated the Governor’s optimistic tone in presenting his budget plan, especially Rauner’s emphasis on working together with both sides of the legislature toward a compromise.

“The Governor has presented a budget to us with the necessary reforms to help make Illinois competitive again—and benefit our taxpayers,” said Andersson. “He has given us parameters on what is acceptable to bring necessary change to our state, and this will help guide us as we navigate the difficult decisions ahead. Now it is our job as legislators to pass this budget, end this impasse, and do what’s right for our state.”
Representative Steve Andersson was recently named to the following committees in the House of Representatives for the 100th General Assembly:

· Appropriations-General Services

· Business Incentives for Local Communities

· Industry and Code Enforcement

· Judiciary-Civil

· Mental Health

· Museums, Arts, and Cultural Enhancement


Rep. Andersson was named to these committees by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, and was also named the minority spokesperson for three of his six committees: Business Incentives for Local Communities Committee, Judiciary-Civil Committee, and Museums, Arts, and Cultural Enhancement Committee. Serving as the Republican Floor Leader during debates in the General Assembly, Andersson will extend his reason, diplomacy, and understanding of the law in his special role on these committees.

The Representative will be able to use his professional expertise as an attorney most notably as a member and minority spokesperson of the Judiciary Civil Committee. He has practiced municipal law for over two decades and is looking forward to using his experience in serving on this committee for the second time.

The Judiciary Civil Committee will hold its first hearing of the 100th General Assembly on February 8th, to begin reviewing legislation and the 10 bills that have already been assigned to this committee.
The Conference of Women Legislators (COWL), a not-for-profit organization and a bipartisan coalition of women legislators in the Illinois General Assembly, recently announced their 2017-2018 Scholarship Award Program. Their scholarship program is offered annually, and was created to promote economic independence, community service and leadership development for women who choose to continue their college degrees.

The scholarship award is $2500, and is available for full and part time students. Applicants are required to enroll in an Illinois accredited college or university for a minimum of six credit hours. In addition to academic achievement, the scholarship committee also considers volunteer or paid community service work in determining scholarship recipients. Particular consideration is given to women who have shown leadership through community service opportunities.

The scholarship fund is made available through fundraising by COWL, with the goal of assisting women whose education was interrupted due to family concerns, economic problems, or other obligations. Deserving women wishing to continue their undergraduate degrees are encouraged to apply!

Applications must be postmarked by March 15, 2017. Awardees will be notified of the decisions by April 15, 2017. More information on the scholarship program and application process can be found on the COWL website: www.cowlil.com.
Today the grand opening of the Aurora St. Charles Senior Living was celebrated with a special ceremony and ribbon cutting. The new senior housing center will provide healthy and affordable homes for seniors in the community.

Formerly serving as St. Charles Hospital, many of the historic Art Deco aspects of the building were preserved as it was converted. Some of the original design features that were preserved include the terrazzo and stone floors in common areas, oversized windows in each residence and 9 foot ceilings throughout the building.

The preservation and repurposing of this building was a challenging project that took much collaboration amongst local, state, and federal government entities, not to mention various community partners. The vision and common understanding of the overall project united the many hands in its work, which was successfully completed in a year.

Representative Steve Andersson serves as a chairman on the Historic Preservation Caucus in the General Assembly, and was honored at the event for working with state legislators to pass a law extending the River Edge Historic Tax Credit program. The program provides tax relief to developers in Aurora, Elgin, Peoria, Rockford and East St. Louis who seek to rehabilitate old properties for modern use, and has allowed for millions of dollars in development in downtown Aurora.

This tax credit was integral in making the senior living project a reality. Andersson attended the ceremony as a key note speaker to discuss the importance of historic preservation and express the positive impact this building has in the community. As a strong supporter of historic preservation, Andersson said that “there are so many different ways that we all succeed when a project like this comes to fruition.” He continued to note the positive effects this project had in creating jobs in the community, stimulating business growth, and helping senior residents in the area.

While the project created much positivity, it is also a reminder of the past. “This is an uncertain time,” said Andersson. “With that uncertainty, we are in danger of forgetting our past. We need to remember our history, and a building like this is a great reminder of that.”

Rep. Andersson also presented Aurora Mayor Robert O’Connor with a Certificate of Recognition from the Illinois House of Representatives, to acknowledge the grand opening of Aurora St. Charles Senior Living, and a job well done.

Today, Governor Bruce Rauner addressed the 100th General Assembly for his annual State of the State remarks. In this special joint session of the Illinois House of Representatives and the Senate, Governor Rauner noted the many accomplishments the state has made with significant improvements to education funding, ethics reform, job creation, and criminal justice reform. While much more work lays ahead for state lawmakers, Rauner encouraged legislators to continue this momentum to solve Illinois’ biggest challenges.

State Representative Steve Andersson (R-Geneva) echoed the Governor’s optimism about the future of Illinois, should the General Assembly work together to overcome the challenges ahead:

“There is much more work to be done, and as legislators, this opportunity to continue to make positive change for Illinois is critical to providing a better future for Illinois,” said Andersson.

Rep. Andersson is hopeful that solutions to the state’s biggest issues can be accomplished through bipartisan compromise. Andersson added that he is ready to work for systematic change, which he believes is essential to passing a balanced budget. “For Illinois to move forward, we must accept the challenges in front of us and find good, honest, and transparent solutions for all residents in Illinois.”


HR46 was presented and debated in the Illinois House of Representatives today, which contains the House Rules for the 100th General Assembly and guidelines for the legislative process.

The resolution was met with vigorous debate, led by Representative Steve Andersson.

Representative Andersson questioned the fairness of the Rules, and expressed the need for more transparency in the Rules process. Andersson repeatedly stressed the need for full and fair debate in the House, not only for legislation but to give every member in the House of Representatives an equal opportunity for their bills’ consideration.

Andersson found the current Rules as presented in HR46 to be unjust, restrictive, and lacking the necessary public transparency that Illinois residents deserve. Andersson opposed the House Rules, and you can see more of his floor remarks on the resolution in the video below:

 

With 63 members of the House voting yes and 53 voting no, HR46 was adopted.
At a recent meeting, one of my colleagues took the chance to apologize to the rest of the House Republican Caucus by saying: "I am sorry. Most of you have no idea what it is like to truly be a state representative, because every two years more of your rights and responsibilities are stripped away by the speaker's House Rules."

We are supposed to be a representative democracy, where all Illinois residents from every House district are represented equally. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Every two years, the people of Illinois elect representatives from 118 districts across the state to serve as their voice in Springfield. Once sworn in, these representatives have the opportunity to take two important votes.

The first is to elect a speaker of the House, which typically goes to the leader of the majority party.

The second important vote, which occurs two or three weeks later, is to adopt a set of procedural rules to govern the House for the subsequent two years.

For 32 of the last 34 years, those rules have been drafted in a manner that consolidates control with one individual - Speaker Michael Madigan - allowing him to circumvent our representative democracy and make the House subject to the power of one.

For example, the speaker has authority over what bills are called for a vote and when. Rank-and-file members receive little or no notice and therefore don't have the ability to prepare for amendments to legislation that are about to be debated in a committee or legislation that will be considered for passage on the House floor. When considering that at any given moment there are hundreds upon hundreds of bills ready to be called for a vote, no one, including our constituents, benefits with these surprise or unplanned votes.

In addition, House committees can only be called with the consent of the speaker, meaning that the Democratic members serving as committee chairmen, each earning an additional stipend for their work, can't even convene their own committees when they deem fit.

Another example is the requirement to discharge a bill from the tightly-controlled Rules Committee.

The Rules Committee is controlled by three of the speaker's most loyal stalwarts who operate under his direction and can be removed by him at any time. This committee is important because the rules require that all legislative measures be immediately assigned to this committee when filed. Nothing may advance any further through the legislative process unless the Rules Committee approves it.

Needless to say, nothing gets through Rules Committee without the speaker's blessing, unless a discharge motion is successfully filed. This requires support from three-fifths majorities of both Democratic and Republican Caucuses. If you do the math that means it requires 72 votes, not 71, to simply discharge a bill from the Rules Committee, making it easier to override a veto than to discharge a bill from Rules.

The most egregious component of this, however, is that rulings of the speaker on such a motion may not be appealed. So, even if the requirements of the rule were met for the discharge of a particular bill, the speaker could, without cause, rule the motion out of order. No member can question this and it cannot be overturned.

There are other examples, many of which make Illinois an outlier when compared to other states, which prove that we owe it to those we represent to take a stand and restore the House as a true representative democracy.

The speaker is the speaker. It's his right to propose his own rules, just as he has for 32 of the past 34 years that he has been speaker. But that doesn't mean we have to support them.

Democratic members have spoken out publicly on the need for changes to the way the Illinois House operates, calling for a more open and transparent process. This is their chance to demonstrate their commitment to making positive change on behalf of all Illinois families.

We have the opportunity to return representative democracy to the people by rejecting Speaker Madigan's rules and making reforms to restore fairness that will allow legislators of both parties, to advocate for the people of their districts. I hope that when it comes time to vote, Democrats and Republicans will stand together and say, "Enough is enough," and oppose Speaker Madigan's rules. Let's return power back to the 118 members of the House and break the power of one.