Winger's Weekly Wrap-up

Winger requests AG's help for residents impacted by O'Hare
Rep. Christine Winger continues to stand with residents adversely impacted by O'Hare Airport. In April, Winger sent a letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan asking her to take action to protect the health of those affected by noise and pollution generated by operations at O’Hare.

According to the Attorney General's website, "One of the primary responsibilities of the Attorney General's office is safeguarding the public by protecting the environment. Attorney General Madigan plays a significant role in protecting the health and welfare of all Illinois residents and strives to provide a future that will include a safe environment." Read the letter.

Budget – “Lockbox” Amendment
Transportation “lockbox” constitutional amendment approved by General Assembly, will appear on ballot. HJRCA 36 is a response to the lack of an overall State balanced budget and the movement of money from specifically transportation-related taxes and fees to other spending programs. If approved by the voters in November, this amendment will put all revenues from transportation taxes and fees into a “lockbox” that can only be used for transportation purposes.

Under HJRCA 36, the money generated by these taxes and fees could only be spent for road construction and repair, enforcing traffic laws, and paying off transit-related debt. Cash flows that would be affected by this amendment include the state tax imposed on motor fuel of 19 cents per gallon of gasohol and 21.5 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. Sales taxes also imposed on motor fuel are not defined as specifically transportation-related taxes and fees, and would not be affected by this amendment.

The transportation “lockbox” amendment was the only constitutional amendment approved by both houses of the General Assembly in time to be submitted for final action to the voters in November 2016. Other proposed amendments, such as measures to abolish the office of Lieutenant Governor, to legalize a graduated individual income tax rate, or to change the way districts for members of the Illinois General Assembly are drawn on maps, failed to get the required three-fifths approval of both legislative houses by the constitutional deadline, and will not appear on the ballot.

The House vote to approve HJRCA 36 for submission to the voters was 98-4-2. Approval of the amendment by the state Senate on Thursday, May 5, completed the task of clearing this measure for submission to the voters in November 2016.

General Assembly – Redistricting
Redistricting reform measures advance. Two measures, one citizen-initiated and one originating in the Illinois House, were moved forward in attempts to change the way the State draws legislative maps to elect future members of the Illinois House and Senate. Circulators of petitions for the Illinois Independent Map Amendment stated on Friday, April 29, that they had gathered the needed signatures to place their amendment on the Illinois ballot in November. 290,216 signatures were required. If the signatures and amendment are accepted by the courts, Illinois voters will face a ballot question on whether to amend the state Constitution. The amendment, if adopted, will create an independent commission to draw future district maps for Illinois legislators. The next mapmaking cycle will follow release of the numbers generated by the 2020 census.

Because the Constitution places very narrow limits on the kinds of amendments that can be originated by the people and placed on ballots by petition, litigation against the Independent Map Amendment is likely.

On Tuesday, May 3, the Illinois House approved an alternate independent map constitutional amendment, HJRCA 58. Unlike the Independent Map Amendment, HJRCA 58 was a conventional constitutional amendment originating in the General Assembly. After being approved by the House this week by a vote of 105-7-0, however, HJRCA 58 was likely killed in the Senate when it was assigned to a subcommittee. The Senate’s inaction places additional attention on the Illinois Independent Map Amendment as the one remaining pathway to get the issue of “fair maps” on the Illinois ballot this fall.

Higher Education – College of DuPage
Ann Rondeau selected as College of DuPage’s sixth president. The Glen Ellyn-based public college was founded in 1967, and will celebrate its 50th birthday in September 2017. Rondeau, a retired vice admiral in the U.S. Navy, has executive experience leading the National Defense University. The NDU is a consortium of continuing-education centers and research institutes that serve the fighting services of the U.S. Department of Defense. Rondeau’s advocates point to her Washington, D.C. experience as a potential selling point to grow the College’s Homeland Security Education Center, a consortium of programs that train homeland security professionals and first responders.

Rondeau’s selection followed a period of executive disarray at the DuPage-based educational institution. A series of news stories and law-enforcement investigations discovered questionable financial practices at the College. The uncovering of apparent abandonment of administrative best practices led to the dismissal in August 2015 of former college president Robert Breuder. Voters within the College of DuPage’s property-taxing district elected a ”clean slate” of trustees to take over the majority of the troubled community college’s board trustees, and members of this “clean slate” cast votes as trustees on Monday, May 2 to select Rondeau as the institution’s new president. Her term will begin on July 1.

Transportation – Illinois Toll Road Changes
Illinois Toll Highway Authority announces summer 2016 plans. These plans, according to Executive Director Greg Bedalov, will include the institution of all-electronic tolling on Route 390, also known as the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway. Vehicles using this road will be expected to have transponders for automatic payments of tolls due, although Bedalov stated that drivers without transponders will also have the right to go online and make subsequent payments. Online payments will be due no more than 7 days after the non-transponder vehicle passes over the highway. No Route 390 toll gates will accept cash. Cashless tolling will begin on July 5, 2016.

The movement in Illinois towards cashless tolling parallels policies instituted by toll roads and bridges in other states. California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington have instituted cashless tolling for certain defined toll roads, bridges, and high-speed toll lanes. According to the Illinois Toll Highway Authority (ITHA), 90% of drivers using Illinois Route 390 already have I-PASS, an ITHA-approved transponder device, which matches a driver with a financial account and automatically deducts toll payments due. The ITHA will charge an electronic toll of $1.90 for drivers traveling the entire 10-mile length of Illinois Route 390. The ITHA has published a map of the expanded highway and its segments on which tolls will be charged. The Route 390 east-west toll road offers access from Hanover Park, in far northern DuPage County and northwestern Cook County, to Bensenville, adjacent to O’Hare International Airport.