Governor Presents Budget Address Before Joint Session of House and Senate

On Wednesday, February 14, Governor Bruce Rauner outlined his Fiscal Year 2019 budget plan before a joint session of the House and Senate. The annual budget address always takes place in mid-February, and the speech marks the beginning of budget discussions for the next fiscal year. After the speech I gave an interview and presented my thoughts about the Governor’s proposal. My comments focus around the need for an agreed revenue estimate before any discussions of spending occur, and bipartisan participation and compromise as we work toward a balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2018. You can watch that interview here.

On the day of the address, which also happened to be Valentine’s Day, many members of the House and Senate wore red in recognition of heart health and Illinois’ “Go Red for Women” event. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and I was pleased to show my support by donning a red tie. I am shown in this picture with many of my colleagues from the General Assembly.

President’s Day Celebrated Across the Nation

With an eye towards the Prairie State’s history in the White House, today Illinois is celebrating President’s Day. General Washington’s victories at Yorktown and other battlefields helped force Britain to officially cede Illinois Territory to the new United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, making it possible to create the future state of Illinois thirty-five years later. Washington’s Birthday is the official federal holiday now commonly celebrated as President’s Day, and 2018 marks the first President’s 286th birthday. One of Washington’s veterans, James Monroe, as President signed the bill in 1818 that made Illinois the 21st state.  

The first President who lived in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, was elected in 1869 when Illinois as a state was only 42 years old. Lincoln, whose 209th birthday was observed last week on February 12th, has become a symbol of the State’s bicentennial celebration. The most recent President who lived in Illinois, Barack Obama, returned to Springfield in February 2016 to deliver remarks to a joint session of the General Assembly. A historical plaque was unveiled last week in the Illinois House chamber to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the address.

Legislators Rush to File 2018 Bills Prior to February 16 Deadline

Friday, February 16 marked the deadline for bills to be filed for the 2018 session year. This year my legislative agenda includes 19 recently-filed bills on a variety of subjects, including initiatives that improve government transparency, protect taxpayers, improve the Illinois business climate, and improve the safety and welfare of animals. I will be highlighting these bills in the coming weeks. You can always follow the progress of my legislation by clicking on this link. The list of bills includes all bills filed during this 100th General Assembly. To view the bills filed for this session year look for those pieces of legislation filed in 2018.

ComEd Launches New Energy Efficiency Programs

ComEd has introduced new energy efficiency programs to help public sector and income-eligible customers manage their energy use and save on their electric bills. The energy efficiency plan includes an investment of up to $1.4 billion over four years to substantially expand and create new energy efficiency offerings.

The plan offers 30 programs that are expected to help ComEd residential, business and public sector customers achieve 11.8% in total energy savings by the end of 2021 and stimulate job creation. Programs include a variety of energy efficiency options, such as rebates on appliances, instant lighting discounts and savings on installation of HVAC and weatherization. Over the life of the energy efficiency measures, customers are expected to save over $7 billion on bills and reduce carbon emission by over 96 billion pounds.

Income-eligible programs for customers at or below 80% area median income include:

  • Home energy upgrades: Eligible customers can receive free home energy assessments and upgrades, which may include weatherization improvements, LED bulbs, thermostats, advanced power strips, faucet aerators, efficient showerheads and pipe insulation.
  • Multi-family units: Building owners and managers serving income eligible tenants can receive comprehensive energy efficiency retrofits in common areas and tenant spaces.
  • Public housing buildings: Public housing authorities can receive technical and financial assistance to make improvements to their properties.
  • Food pantries: Com-Ed will partner with local food banks to distribute free LED bulbs and power strips to eligible customers at food pantries.
  • Energy Savings Kits: Free do-it-yourself kits which include LED bulbs, power strips and faucet aerators, plus information on energy-saving actions customers can take to reduce their energy bills, will be available to eligible customers at participating community action agencies.

To learn more about ways to save on energy bills, visit

State Board of Education Looks Toward Potential Expanded Use of College Admissions Tests

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is currently considering taking a major step that could be seen as simplifying the student testing regimen that is now imposed on Illinois high school students.  This could be done through the relatively straightforward pathway of identifying an existing standardized test for college aptitude, such as the SAT exam, and using it as the standard test to be administered to all students in 9th grade, 10th grade, and 11th grade.

The goal of ISBE in making this change would not be to demonstrate that a high school underclassman is ready to go to college, but to further utilize what is already a significant data set compiled by the SAT’s administration to Illinois 11th-graders to gather additional information about Illinois school performance and student academic growth. From the point of view of Illinois students and their families, the incentive would be that the students could take the additional aptitude tests for free. There is substantial belief that performances on college aptitude tests may, under some circumstances, improve upon retesting. The proposal would allow this retesting to be done at no cost to the student or the student’s family. This aptitude test proposal is being considered by ISBE and has not yet been approved as State policy.  

David S. Olsen