Wingers Weekly Wrap-up

Protecting your identity - Rep. Winger hosts Shred Event
Rep. Winger is hosts Shred Event on Saturday, July 30, 2016 to help residents protect themselves from identity theft. Rep. Winger encourages residents of the 45th District to bring up-to 2 boxes of paper documents they would like shredded to the event from 9 a.m. to noon at the corner of Schick Road & 3rd Street in Bloomingdale.

Not sure what documents you should shred? Read: How long should you keep documents before shredding them.

Drivers’ licenses – REAL ID Act compliance
Secretary of State’s office uses new process for drivers’ license renewals. One key change, mandated by the federal government, is an end to the traditional practice of presenting each driver with a new drivers’ license on-site when the renewal procedure is completed. The federal REAL ID law requires all new 50-state drivers’ licenses to be manufactured in guarded, secured facilities. In Illinois, starting in summer 2016, drivers who successfully renew their licenses at a Secretary of State Driver Services facility will get their old licenses back with a hole punched through them, accompanied by an additional 45-day paper slip of successful renewal. The punched hole will signify that the old license is on course to lose its validity, but will remain temporarily valid throughout the 45-day period. The driver should carry both the old license and the paper slip, which when carried together will be a valid drivers’ license for up to 45 days.

Meanwhile, the information gathered in the Secretary of State Driver Services facility will be transmitted to a central location where a new, secure drivers’ license will be printed and stamped. The new license will contain various features intended to increase the security of the license and further reduce potential counterfeiting. The new license should be mailed to the driver within 15 days, and once received should be carried and used. The old license with a hole in it will no longer be valid.

The Secretary of State’s office is also on course to impose additional security requirements upon first-time applicants for a standard drivers’ license, starting on July 1, 2017. First-time applicants will be required to present a U.S. passport, a certified copy of their birth certificate, or immigration documents that demonstrate proof of legal residence in the U.S. These are all requirements that are being imposed on all U.S. states by the federal Department of Homeland Security pursuant to implementation of the post-9/11 REAL ID Act.

Education – PARCC high school tests
Complex testing protocols helped end use of PARCC exam in Illinois high schools. The PARCC test was meant to generate high-quality variables to gauge the success of Illinois public high schools in preparing students for college. However, the processes used to prepare students for the test, and then administer the test, were seen by many participants as both complex and fragile. The high school PARCC exam was part of the controversial “Common Core” requirements adhered to by many states as part of overall efforts to improve U.S. educational performance. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced earlier in July 2016 that it would cease to supervise the use of the PARCC exam in Illinois public high schools, effective during the 2016-17 school year and thereafter. Students in Illinois 11th-grades will take a standardized SAT test in its place.

The “Chicago Tribune” has learned that the ISBE faced potential sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education in the wake of allegations that protocols may have been violated in the administration of the test. The alleged violations include apparent decisions in some high schools to leave out certain student subgroups from the high school PARCC testing cycle, including students enrolled in special education and English as a Second Language (ESL) groups. Subtracting members of subgroups such as these from the tested population could be seen as artificially lifting test numbers.

Had these alleged strategies been carried out successfully, a wide variety of Illinois public high schools could have generated unnaturally high PARCC test numbers. However, PARCC results from tests administered in the 2014-16 two-year period, as reported by ISBE to individual Illinois public school districts, showed that a wide variety of districts throughout the State had failed to meet PARCC expectations for high school student college readiness. Over the two-year period that it was in widespread administration, the controversial exam antagonized many students, educators, parents, and communities by generating numbers seen as negative. In an ironic twist, the same test now appears to have allegedly been administered in some districts in a manner that should have generated false positives. The improper protocols used to prepare for and administer the high school PARCC exams could have led not only to false positive numbers but also to federal school aid sanctions against ISBE and the public school districts that depend on federal aid funneled through ISBE.

A separate PARCC test, which has not generated potential federal sanctions, will continue to be administered to public school students in grades 3 through 8.

Energy – solar power
Illinois solar energy installations rose 75% in 2015. The rate of annual increase indicated increasing acceptance of solar panels in Illinois. The now-familiar installations are typically installed on roofs or other raised platforms. A solar panel will generate electricity whenever photons are striking the panel, including on cloudy days. “Net metering” technology enables a building equipped with solar panels to feed electricity into an electrical grid on sunny days and to draw power down during periods of time when the sun is dim or absent.

Covering activity in Central Illinois, a reporter for the Peoria Journal Star talked with a solar energy consultant and client. The businesses had collaborated to plan and install a $62,500 solar panel array on a rooftop in downtown Peoria. Aided by state and federal tax credits, the project was expected to generate a positive return in less than five years.

One challenge facing adopters of “renewable energy” infrastructure is that on a typical 24-hour cycle, the periods when renewable energy are not being produced tend to be commonly shared by everybody across the geographic area. At certain periods of time, none of these pieces of renewable-power infrastructure will be feeding net-metered power into an electrical grid. Periods of solar night, or wind calm, make the solar panels go dark and cause the wind turbines to stop spinning. Operators of traditional utility infrastructure often point out that in order to meet their franchise mandates to provide reliable power on a 24/7 basis, they typically must maintain almost all of the fossil-fuel energy infrastructure that they would have maintained had solar and wind power not existed.

Health care – Land of Lincoln shutdown
Bad news for 49,000 policyholders of failing health insurance co-op. Land of Lincoln Health had been founded as a co-operative to provide health care insurance policies to Illinois residents in compliance with the mandates enacted by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Approximately 49,000 individuals and households bought Land of Lincoln coverage for coverage year 2016.

In July 2016, the insurance co-op was forced to declare insolvency and commence steps to shut down its operations. Its policyholders will be required to seek new insurers that may charge more than Land of Lincoln charged. In addition, the state’s Department of Insurance confirmed this week that the new insurers are extremely likely to demand that their new customers take on a new health insurance deductible and a new insurance out-of-pocket maximum for the remainder of 2016. Moneys paid out by these insurance customers to health care providers under their contracts with Land of Lincoln Health are not likely to be credited to their new insurance accounts for the remainder of 2016.

As with other Illinoisans subject to the ACA, former Land of Lincoln Health policyholders will also be required to renew their policies or to find new insurance during the end-of-2016 annual renewal cycle for insurance coverage year 2017.

Human Rights – Snapchat
Snapchat accused of violating Illinois human rights law. The popular image-sharing service now includes an application, Looksery, that includes aspects of facial recognition technology. Facial recognition software relies upon the digital college and storage of information about the biometric variables of the faces being recognized. Illinois law, the Biometric Information Privacy Act, forbids operators of computers from using other peoples’ biometric information without their express consent. An Illinois plaintiff has now sued Snapchat for alleged violation of the law. Snapchat denies all charges and has labeled the case a “frivolous lawsuit.” The suit is currently pending in federal court.

The Snapchat case comes amid growing hopes and concerns about the potential for cloud-based storage and retrieval of biometric information. In a period of time when news coverage of actual and alleged acts of terror appears to be growing exponentially, we can expect to see requests that authorities consider universal databases of biometric information. Biometric databases could be conjoined, by 24/7 technology, with constant monitoring of specific geographic sites; places that are either secure or are thought to deserve to be secure. The appearance of a “bad person,” or a person thought to be a bad person, at a site could be wired in such a way as to set off a security alarm bell. At the same time, advocates warn increasingly of threats to privacy created by facial and other biometric information gathering and storage by key players in the public and private sectors.

Jobs – “Illinois Made” campaign
Illinois’ marketing to travelers concentrates on small businesses. The new “Illinois Made” campaign encourages visitors to come to Illinois to enjoy our homegrown and craft products. The $65 million appropriation, being distributed through the Illinois Office of Tourism, is funded through taxes on hotel and motel room rentals. Selections of featured local businesses are coordinated by local tourism bureaus.

The first round of “Illinois Made” featured products and tourism experiences features Funks Grove maple syrup, tapped and boiled down from a historic grove of sugar maple trees south of Bloomington-Normal. The confectionary product, which the Funk family has called “sirup” since 1824, is sold from a roadside store near the I-55 exit of Shirley, Illinois.

Springfield – Governor’s mansion
Plans to rebuild Illinois Executive Mansion; project would cost $15 million; private-sector fundraising drive has begun. The Lincoln-era stately home, located near the State Capitol in central Springfield, has been the home of Illinois governors since 1856. The mansion last saw major renovation work in 1971 and no longer conforms to current legal and building-code requirements for security, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, energy conservation, and many other checkoff areas. There have been serious incidents of pipe bursts and roof leaks in recent years.

Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner this week unveiled a $15 million plan that would encompass a major rebuild of the mansion and its grounds. The renovation and rebuilding, if implemented, would improve access to a section of the mansion to the public. The public section of the mansion would include a visitor orientation center and a gallery space for the celebration of Illinois works of art. At the same time, a private wing of the mansion would be renovated to provide actual living space for governors of Illinois and their families.

The Diana Rauner plan is expected to be entirely funded by the private sector. The Illinois Executive Mansion Association, a 501(c)(3) entity, is currently engaged in the active raising of funds to commence the first phase of the project. Approximately $4.5 million has been raised so far.

Summer in Illinois – unclaimed property
Live auction of unclaimed property at Illinois State Fair. The Treasurer’s office announced plans for a live auction of unclaimed property at the 2016 Illinois State Fair. Proceeds from the auction will be placed in trust for the owners, should they ever turn up. Unclaimed properties escheated to the State include contents from safe deposit boxes and storage lockers. If no rent is paid on these safe places, the custodian is required to turn the contents over to the State Treasurer. The State Treasurer by law is custodian of unclaimed property in Illinois. In the August 20 State Fair auction, 21,500 unclaimed items will be sold in 255 lots. Classic sports memorabilia to be sold include a pair of new 1997 Air Jordan shoes and a rookie baseball card featuring Hall of Fame member Ernie Banks.