Winger's Weekly Wrap-up

Budget – Possible Compromise
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Governor Bruce Rauner hint at possible budget compromise.  Illinois is the only one of the 50 states that has not enacted a balanced budget to control its spending in FY16.  Not surprisingly, Illinois also has the lowest credit rating among the 50 states.  On Monday, May 9, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin expressed optimism that current talks going on between partisan budget experts could generate movement towards a solution.

At an educational event in west suburban LaGrange that he attended with Governor Rauner, Durkin discussed the need to reach budget action in order to improve prospects for sufficient school funding for Illinois public schools.  While Illinois’ General Assembly enacted full funding for Illinois school districts in FY16, this money was not part of a constitutional balanced budget and does not extend into FY17.  The next fiscal year will begin on July 1, 2016, adding to pressure on state negotiators to talk seriously on urgent issues of fiscal reform, budget reform, and Illinois job creation.

Budget – Social Services
General Assembly approves $700 million in stopgap human services spending.  SB 2038 provides emergency help to some providers of essential and community-based programs.  Service providers that may get some money from this emergency appropriation include providers of services for families of persons with developmental disabilities, providers of community-based addiction treatment services, child-care visitation services for families of children at risk, and programs that provide emergency and transitional housing for at-risk families.  These are segments of a large group of state programs that are not funded by consent decrees, court orders, or continuing appropriations.  Program areas helped by SB 2038 are expected to get about 46% of the spending they would otherwise have received in FY16.  The House vote to pass SB 2038 as amended was 111-0-3, and this approval was followed in the Senate by a vote of 56-0-0.

Although the Illinois General Assembly advanced SB 2038 on Thursday, May 12, the Governor has not signed the amended measure.  In addition, SB 2038 does not substitute for a constitutional balanced budget and does not meet some of the essential operating needs of the State that are also high on the public-sector emergency list right now – such as payments for the suppliers that sell food and utility services to state prisons.  Negotiations continue on these serious questions and challenges.  Illinois, the last of the 50 states to operate without an enacted balanced budget for FY16, has been operating without spending controls since July 1, 2015.

O’Hare Airport – Noise Issues
Progress seen on noise issues.  A consortium of local leaders, brought together as the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, has approved major modifications to the “Fly Quiet” program.  This program is a basket of voluntary flight and taxiing procedures that are presented to the operators of heavy planes flying in and out of O’Hare International Airport.  The purpose of these procedures is to reduce the burdens of aircraft noise and emissions on communities around the airport.  The Commission has the standing to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the federal body with overall regulatory authority over O’Hare airspace, on noise abatement.  The Chicago area won the right to set up a Noise Commission, with standing, as part of an overall deal to expand O’Hare Airport reached more than a decade ago.

Under the “Fly Quiet” modifications, approved on Friday, May 6, O’Hare and its airlines will alternate and rotate the preferred runways to be used by heavy planes during nighttime hours.  The Fly Quiet Runway Rotation Plan will alternate runways on a week-to-week basis.  Runways rotated in and out of use under the Plan will be used for both aircraft takeoffs and landings.

The Runway Rotation Plan follows public reports showing widespread noncompliance with earlier “Fly Quiet” flight recommendations that explicitly favored some runways over others for nighttime use.  Noise-monitoring devises, stationed near O’Hare Airport by current law, generated objective evidence that pilots, ground controllers, and air-traffic controllers were using runways with heavy residential impacts as favored runways during nighttime and sleeping hours.

Runway rotation is possible because although O’Hare International Airport as a whole is operating close to its design capacity, the runways component of the system is not jammed up to its limits.  The capacity choke point of the current airport is represented by its counts of landing gates and cargo-aircraft pads, which are separate from the concrete strips the airport’s pilots use for takeoffs and landings.   As a result of the airfield’s physical expansion and the construction of new runways, the airport has a surplus of runway footage in relation to landing gates/cargo pads.  It can rotate some of its runway footage in and out.  The O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission supervised the development of the Runway Rotation Plan by the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Suburban O’Hare Commission.

The FAA is expected to approve O’Hare runway rotation to be operated in the form of a six-month test period.  During the test period data and comments will be gathered with an eye toward permanent future O‘Hare noise policies.  Local residents who are concerned about noise issues have worked with their local lawmakers, including Reps. Michael McAuliffe of Chicago and Christine Winger of Wood Dale, to get support within the Suburban O’Hare Commission and the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission for the runway rotation test program.

General Assembly – Redistricting
Redistricting reform measure advances.  A citizen-initiated measure continued to move forward this week to change the way the State draws legislative maps to elect future members of the Illinois House and Senate.  Circulators of petitions for the Independent Map Amendment turned in 65,000 pages of voter petition signatures to the Illinois State Board of Elections to get a “Fair Map” amendment on the Illinois ballot in November.  The petitions were turned in at Springfield on Friday, May 6.  At least 290,216 signatures were required, and more than 570,000 names – almost twice the required number – were turned in.  If the signatures and amendment are accepted by the State Board of Elections and 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 was filed by allies of Democratic Party Chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan immediately after these petitions were turned in.  Challenges to the amendment can question either the wording of the amendment, the signatures turned in to qualify the amendment for the November 2016 ballot, or both.  Independent Map Amendment, an Illinois citizens’ organization, believes it has gathered enough signatures and that it has written a legally valid amendment that will withstand court scrutiny.  Constitutional amendments, to be adopted by the voters, must get either a simple majority of the entire voting electorate or a special three-fifths majority of those voting on the question.  The Independent Map Amendment would superseded the current Illinois law that allows these key maps to be drawn by politicians and well-paid political consultants.

Higher Education – Tech Partnership
The University of Illinois and Illinois State University announce new entrepreneurship pact.  The intergovernmental agreement will match the Office of Technology Management, a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Illinois State University (ISU).  Both offices have sought to serve as launching pads for innovative technologies and solutions generated through intellectual property.  The agreement was announced on Wednesday, May 11.

The University of Illinois system, including but not limited to UIUC, is one of the nation’s leaders in applied research and development. The U of I system notched 299 patent applications and 97 patents granted in fiscal year 2015.  During the same period, persons and firms affiliated with the U of I system granted 83 intellectual-property licenses and founded 15 new start-up companies.  ISU believes that this week’s agreement will enable its researchers to gain access to some of the infrastructure utilized at UIUC to foster the development of intellectual property.

Illinois State Police – Scam Phone Calls
State Police say scammers are impersonating police. Scam phone calls by fraudsters impersonating the Illinois State Police are being reported by Illinois residents.  In some cases, the misleading phone calls ask for monetary donations, warn the listener there is a warrant for their arrest, or both.  The State Police, which issued a public warning of the scam phone calls on Wednesday, May 11, states that the police force will never use telephone wires to solicit money for any reason.  They advise anyone who is a recipient of a call of this type to contact the consumer fraud hotline of the Office of the Attorney General.  At the Office’s Springfield headquarters, this number is (800) 243-0618.  The parallel Chicago number is (800) 386-5438.