Representative Winger was a featured speaker at the Addison Chamber of Commerce Multi-Chamber Legislative Luncheon at Medinah Shrine Center in Addison. At the luncheon, the Representative presented a legislative update of current issues affecting Illinois.

State Board of Education Approves Recommendations to Expand and Diversify Highly Qualified Teacher Workforce

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has approved specific recommendations to expand and diversify the state’s highly qualified teacher workforce. The recommendations remove barriers and create new avenues of entry into the profession, while maintaining high standards.

The recommendations stem from a year of study involving focus groups, data analysis, and a review of state and national research. The year of study culminated in the Teach Illinois report released on Sept. 7. ISBE received more than 150 public comments on the report over a three-week period and took each comment into consideration in developing the agency’s next steps and legislative recommendations.

“Tremendous commitment has gone into the Teach Illinois project over the last year,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “We now have a comprehensive set of actions that consider teacher recruitment, educator preparation, and licensure requirements. I look forward to putting infrastructure and energy behind what started as ideas. Now the next round of partnership and dialogue begins.”

Representative Winger receives the Champion of Free Enterprise award from the IL Chamber of Commerce, in recognition for her voting record on key pro-business legislation during the 2017-2018 legislative session. A legislator must receive an average of 85% or higher voting record over the previous two General Assemblies to qualify. The award was presented on Oct. 18 at the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce. Pictured are Tyler Diers of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Representative Winger, and Nanette Gudenkauf, President & CEO of the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce.

Representative Winger and daughter Samantha join in a Halloween community event sponsored by the Itasca Park District. Pictured with volunteer Celeste Seavey, they tour the Trick or Treat Trail at the newly-opened Ray Franzen Bird Sanctuary in Itasca.

Big Jump in Illinois ACT Scores
The aggregated Class of 2018 scores by Illinois high school students on the ACT exam, one of America’s Big Two college-prep examinations, showed a dramatic increase in Illinois high schoolers’ performances. The Illinois members of the high school class of 2018 who took the ACT exam prior to graduation scored an average composite score of 23.9 points out of a possible score of 36.0 – a number that soared 2.5 points from the Class of 2017 average of 21.4. The Illinois Class of 2018 also average marked a considerable advance over the national average of 20.8.

The increase, although inspiring, was statistically affected by changes in Illinois high school testing policies that accompanied the altered performance of the Class of 2018. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has instituted statewide policies that encourage school districts to have their high school students take the ACT’s principal competitor, the Standardized Aptitude Test (SAT) exam, and to use aggregated SAT data as a benchmark of overall district-by-district student performance. Illinois high school students are now expected to take the SAT as a universal standardized test, and the SAT test is paid for by the State. In conformity with these expectations and budget policies, the SAT is now administered to almost all Illinois high school juniors except those whose individualized education programs (IEPs) do not include standardized tests.

The ACT has, meanwhile, reverted within Illinois to its traditional place as a test taken by students preparing for college. Instead of the ACT being taken by almost every student, with respect to the Class of 2018 it was taken by students seeking to demonstrate their higher-education credentials. Many Illinois high school students fall into this category. Tens of thousands of Illinois Class of 2018 students took the ACT prior to graduation, with the exam taken by 43% of the students heading for graduation in that year; but educational statisticians cautioned that this subgroup was likely to contain a disproportionate number of self-selected students with a previous record of high educational performance.

Illinois House Subcommittees Hold Joint Hearing on Gaming Issues
One of the issues discussed by witnesses and panelists was the possibility of legalized sports betting in Illinois. This is a new industry for which the door was opened earlier in 2018 by a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Prior to the May 2018 decision in “Murphy v. NCAA,” most states were forbidden by federal law from allowing persons and businesses to open and operate bookmaking activities when the activities being bet on were sports contests and activities.

Until this year, people who wanted to place legal bets on single teams and games had to go to Nevada, which was exempted from the federal prohibition. The “Murphy” decision, however, struck down this ban and implicitly allowed the other 49 states to set up regulated sports-betting parlors and phone apps. Several states, such as New Jersey, responded to the Supreme Court decision by taking immediate action to legalize sports betting within their state lines. Federal law continues to prohibit sports bets that cross state lines, and an Illinois resident cannot legally place a sports bet in New Jersey. New Jersey sports betting operators are required, by law, to ask a prospective bettor to share his or her phone’s geo-location, and if the phone sends a “beep” that shows it is out of state the operator is not legally allowed to take the bet. Sports betting, if it is to be done legally within Illinois, will require the General Assembly to enact an Illinois sports betting law.

The Illinois House held a joint-panel hearing this week to examine questions relating to Illinois gaming in general, including what an Illinois sports betting law could look like. One outline discussed by witnesses before the hearing was the creation of a limited number of licenses for sports-betting host sites. For reasons of security and regulatory consistency, these licenses could be awarded to owners of existing large-scale gaming locations and destinations, such as casino riverboats and horse racetracks. The sports betting license-holders could then contract with Internet firms to create licensed sports-betting phone apps for legal wagering on sports contests from a customer’s smartphone.

Many concerns were raised at the Illinois House hearing, which was held on Wednesday, October 17. Witnesses representing Illinois major-league sports and associations of major-league athletes expressed concerns about the integrity of some of America’s most-widely-admired sports, and the personal safety and privacy of the athletes who play them. Advocates voiced concerns about gambling addiction and underage gaming. The debate is expected to continue.
Fun fall celebrations like Halloween and Harvest Day are great times for children, who can dress up in costumes, enjoy parties, and go trick-or-treating. To help ensure adults and children have a safe holiday, check out these safety tips ahead of Halloween: 

  • All costumes, wigs and accessories should be fire-resistant
  • Avoid masks, which can obstruct vision
  • Remind children never to enter a stranger's home or car
  • For trick-or-treating, only travel in familiar, well-lit areas and stick with friends
  • Children and adults are reminded to put electronic devices down, keep heads up and walk, don't run, across the street
  • Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs. Children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully
  • At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing
  • Halloween can be tricky for children with food allergies. It's important that parents closely examine Halloween candy to avoid a potentially life-threatening reaction. Tell your children not to eat any treats until they return home
Have fun! Happy Halloween!

Representative Winger and daughter Samantha attend the First Annual West Chicago Food Festival, with food and entertainment, in downtown West Chicago.
Representative Winger visits a community recycling event in Carol Stream, sponsored by the Village of Carol Stream, SCARCE, and CoreCentric Solutions Inc.

Illinois Department of Insurance Releases ACA Exchange Health Care Insurance Rates for 2019
On Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) released its on-Exchange health care rate and plan analysis for Plan Year 2019, showing that rates have stabilized for the first time in recent years.

Average rates for the 2019 lowest cost silver plans decreased four percent and the lowest cost gold plans decreased by six percent from last year. Overall, rates for the lowest cost bronze plans modestly increased approximately six percent, far less than the 20 percent increase reported for 2018 rates. "Illinois consumers will finally have some relief after facing years of on average double -digit increases in health insurance premium rates," DOI Director Jennifer Hammer said. "We are starting to see signs that the Exchange is stabilizing given this year's rates, a new insurer entering the on-Exchange market in 2019, and no insurers from last year exiting."

Illinois consumers in all counties will have options to purchase health insurance coverage on the Exchange.

Get Covered Illinois (GCI) is the official health marketplace or "exchange" for health insurance for all Illinoisans. Individuals and small businesses can purchase their health insurance on the GCI website. Because GCI facilitates the federal subsidies, consumers are able to see their monthly premium at the discounted price.

DOI is advising consumers enrolling or re-enrolling in coverage to start shopping early, due to the six week enrollment period set by the federal government, and to look at all options available to them on and off the Exchange, from November 1, 2018 to December 15, 2018. "We continue to focus on our core mission - to protect and educate consumers," Hammer said.

"We recognize some families may have to face difficult decisions this fall, and we will be visiting all 102 counties for the second year in a row to discuss coverage and answer questions about mental health and substance use disorder treatment. We want to make sure consumers are aware of all their options."

Consumers are encouraged to visit DOI's GCI website at: for further information and assistance, or to contact their trusted licensed insurance agent. The Get Covered Connector on the website allows consumers to search for options by zip code to find local, free application help in English or Spanish. Consumers can also use this tool to schedule in-person assistance appointments with navigators and certified application counselors. Anyone may call DOI at 866-311-1119 for additional resources and information regarding health insurance.

Illinois Department of Revenue Launches New Website
The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) is inviting taxpayers to explore the new look of its redesigned website; The new mobile-friendly website features simplified site navigation and enhanced functionality to provide businesses, tax professionals, and the public easier access to the information needed most.

"As times have changed, so have the ways taxpayers access and consume information," said Connie Beard, IDOR Director. "With this website redesign, we make it easier for the public to navigate our information, no matter what device is utilized."

Key features of IDOR's new website include encrypted security, better accessibility, a drop-down menu system at the top of every page, and real-time traffic-driven listings showing users what questions, forms, and tax types are currently garnering wide interest.

Visitors accustomed to the former IDOR website at will be automatically redirected to the new website located at IDOR advises anyone with previously saved bookmarks to visit the new website to update their favorites.

Department of Homeland Security Approves Illinois Drivers’ Licenses for One More Year of Air Travel 

Illinois’ drivers’ licenses are out of compliance with various REAL-ID mandates intended to maintain and increase security of U.S. air travel. The federal agency has granted Illinois a further extension of almost one year, until June 1, 2019, to move further towards compliance with these mandates. During this extension period, federal agencies will be allowed to accept currently valid Illinois drivers’ licenses as adequate ID-card identification for admittance to federal buildings, nuclear power plants, and commercial aircraft takeoff and landing space. Illinois drivers’ licenses are printed and issued by the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State.

As part of its movement towards REAL-ID compliance, the Secretary of State’s office has already consolidated the way that it produces and prints out the license cards. The cards, which were once printed and handed out on the spot to applicants at local Secretary of State Driver Services offices statewide, are now manufactured in a secure facility and mailed to approved applicants. Illinois is being urged to adopt further components of the REAL-ID Act. These additional mandates impose separate sets of additional verification information that (a) new drivers’ license applicants, and (b) applicants for license renewal, will be required to provide. All applicants, including renewal applicants, may soon be asked to bring in a Social Security card, a passport or other form of secure supplemental personal identification, and proof of current address such as a utility bill that has been computer-addressed and mailed to their place of residence. In addition, new applicants may be asked to submit additional information.
Representative Winger visited "Build Day" at Oak Brook Elementary School, Wood Dale. Wood Dale School District 7 received a grant from Discover Financial Services to build a new playground for the students at Oak Brook Elementary. The program is in partnership with KaBoom!, a nonprofit dedicated to giving kids great, safe places to play.

Illinois K-12 High-Speed Internet Connectivity Rises to 96%
It was announced this week that 96 percent of K-12 school districts in Illinois can access the internet at speeds of 100 kbps per student, a substantial improvement from 71 percent just three years ago. Median bandwidths also have markedly improved, increasing 2.5 times since 2015.

High-speed connectivity ensures that students have access to more digital resources, which in turn expands learning opportunities. By making high-speed internet accessible, educators and students gain the benefits of greater interactivity, collaboration, engagement and personal instruction.

Illinois’ digital advances were reported by the EducationSuperHighway which tracks progress toward K-12 connectivity across the United States. The national nonprofit advocates for upgrading internet access in every public school classroom in America.

While Illinois has advanced its school digital resources, work remains. EducationSuperHighway says that 407,093 students in 32 school districts across the state still need adequate bandwidth for digital learning. There also are 136 school campuses that lack scalable fiber-optic broadband connections.

The Illinois Classroom Connectivity Initiative, launched by the Rauner administration in 2016, is an effort to ensure that all districts receive the support and funding to close this school broadband gap. The FY19 education budget includes a $17 million Broadband Expansion fund to help cover costs of fiber upgrades for school districts. There is also provision for free technical assistance.

Illinois State Fire Marshal Wants You to Have a Fire Free Fall
Fall is officially here and so are cooler temperatures. The Office of the State Fire Marshal is offering a few tips that will help Illinoisans stay safe as temperatures continue to drop.

This Fall, be sure to remove leaves and debris such as sticks, branches and shrubs from the roofs and gutters of homes as they act as fuel to a fire. These items should also be cleared before lighting a bonfire. It is recommended that all recreational fires, such as bonfires, be contained in a pit, with sidewalls, and do not exceed 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall.

Avoid burning leaves and debris on windy days, as wind can cause a fire to get out of control quickly. Always follow your local ordinances when burning and disposing of yard waste and remember, embers from burning leaves can spread and start a larger fire. All fires are recommended to be a minimum of 15 feet from structures and combustible materials and should remain attended at all times. This helps ensure the fire is controlled and prevents it from spreading.

Make sure all Fall and holiday decorations are flame retardant and use a battery light instead of a candle in jack o' lanterns.

Anyone opting to use a space heater to keep warm should be sure it is placed at least three feet away from other objects, such as curtains, and always be sure to unplug it when it's not in use. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) space heaters account, annually, for 43 percent of U.S. home heating fires.

All fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected before use to ensure everything is in proper working order. Utilize a fireplace screen to keep sparks from floating out of a fireplace and always put out a fire before going to bed or leaving the house.

Additional fire safety tips can be found on the NFPA website or on the Office of the State Fire Marshal website.

Representative Winger tours Superior Ambulance in Elmhurst, a local provider of emergency medical services.

Illinois Pioneers Community College Pathway to Professional Status
In these times of soaring tuition bills and increased costs of residential campus living, many Illinois families are finding increasing challenges in helping their loved ones afford four years of attendance at a traditional college or university. Many students are responding to these challenges by starting out their higher education in one of Illinois’ 48 community colleges. There, they take courses that build up credits that can be transferred to a four-year institution.

This week, data released by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) shows that many of these students have a bright future. Among all 50 states in the calendar period studied, Illinois now ranks #1 in terms of the rate of bachelor’s degree completion among community college students that transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

Illinois, the state with the first community college in the nation (Joliet Junior College), has worked intensively to coordinate community college credits with a baccalaureate pathway that a student can follow to a four-year degree and eventual professional status.

The study tracked a group of first-time college students who enrolled in Illinois community colleges in 2010, and then subsequently transferred to four-year schools. The students were tracked through 2016; by that year, 53.8% of them had earned a bachelor’s degree. This was the highest four-year transfer completion rate of any U.S. state with community colleges.