Dear Friend,

So far this week, the House has held three Special Sessions in accordance with Governor Rauner's proclamation calling the General Assembly back to Springfield to finally pass a balanced budget.

In typical fashion, the obstruction of Mike Madigan and House Democrats continues. House Republican leaders and the Governor have put a plan on the table that balances the budget and provides important economic and political reforms. The General Assembly should be given the opportunity to debate and vote on this package. Instead of writing about the 'action' we've seen this week, I'm going to refer you to the videos listed below for the updates.

Video 1 - Day 2 of Special Session.


Video 2 - Day 3 of Special Session.


Spoiler alert! Nothing has been done. The Speaker controls which bills are called for votes in Committees and in front of the full House. This week Speaker Madigan did not allow votes on bills that would address the following critical issues:

- Budget
- Education funding
- Property taxes
- Workers' compensation reform
- Term limits

Media Appearances
On the first day of the Special Session, I joined Tom Miller on WJPF Radio and Will Stephens on WXAN for interviews to preview what I thought was coming up this week.  Please click the links below to listen.

June 21  - Terri Bryant on the Morning Newswatch with Tom Miller on WJPF Radio

June 21 - Terri Bryant on the Will Stephens Show on WXAN 

Stay Connected!
My office in Mt. Vernon is open Monday through Friday and my office in Murphysboro is open Monday through Thursday, each from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. You can find me on Facebook to keep up with my travels throughout the district. You can also contact me directly through the Contact Form on my website at www.repbryant.com - Your opinions on important topics facing the State of Illinois are invaluable to me. Keep them coming!
Dear Friend,

In this week's edition I offer my reaction to Governor Rauner's Special Session Proclamation. This week House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and many of my colleagues in the House held a press conference to announce their support for a balanced budget and a packet of reforms to make Illinois a better place to create jobs. I am anxious to return to Springfield to get to work on these critical issues.

This week I also joined the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for a press conference to announce a new direction for Rend Lake Resort. There are photos and news links so you can learn more on that topic as well.

I have also included two opinion pieces I've drafted regarding two major issues. The first is regarding my NO vote on SB 1 (the school funding formula change legislation), and the second regards the Department on Aging's Community Reinvestment Program (CRP).

I am the minority Spokesperson for the House's Committee on Aging. I wrote the op-ed piece on the CRP in response to some unfair criticisms leveled by the Aging Committee's chairwoman Anna Moeller of Elgin. Rep. Moeller's piece ran in several outlets statewide and I felt a fact-based response to her heavily rhetorical and critical op-ed was necessary.

Thank you for your continued readership. At this pivotal point in our state's history, the participation of the citizens in petitioning their government and demanding action on a balanced budget is critical.

GOVERNOR CALLS SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS TO ADDRESS BUDGET IMPASSE

When the House adjourned on May 31, Speaker Madigan claimed we would be in ‘continuous’ session. However, aside from a couple of budget hearings in Chicago, the House has not met at all since that time. That is hardly ‘continuous’ session.

I applaud the Governor for taking the necessary step to call the legislature back into Session. I have maintained for two years now that we should be meeting every single day until a balanced budget is achieved. The Governor's proclamation demands the legislature stay in session until June 30, which is the end of this fiscal year.

Additionally, House Democrats and Speaker Madigan would do well to begin the hard work of compromise on issues relating to important economic reforms. Illinois needs the stability of a balanced budget and a more attractive jobs climate to ensure its long term financial viability. Time is running out to get this done. Speaker Madigan needs to compromise for the benefit of the citizens of Illinois.

Department of Natural Resources Working to Reopen Rend Lake Resort 

I was happy to stand with my colleagues from the House and Senate at a Wednesday press conference at Rend Lake Resort. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has announced a new request for proposal (RFP) to find new leadership at Rend Lake's lodge and conference center.

Rep. Bryant addresses the media and assembled crowd alongside Senator Dale Fowler and
 State Rep. John Cavaletto

Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center is a valued tourist attraction in Southern Illinois.  This announcement marks a new beginning. I want to encourage folks to invest their time and money in to making these amazing attractions an economic engine for the region once again. 

You can learn more by following the news links below:

WSIL TV
The Southern Illinoisan
Mt. Vernon Register-News 

Op Ed Pieces on Two Major Issues

As I mentioned above, I have included links this week to two opinion pieces I drafted in response to two major issues. Please click the links below to read more about the reason for my opposition to Senate Bill 1 and why I believe the Department on Aging is doing the right thing in implementing the Community Reinvestment Program to assist Senior Citizens in attaining a greater quality of life.]

SB 1 - Understanding the bill and why I voted NO!

Why Illinois Needs the Community Reinvestment Program

Solar Eclipse Update
The total solar eclipse will be seen in Illinois on August 21, 2017.  The “path of totality,” the ribbon of the Earth’s surface in which the sun will be completely blocked by the Moon, will pass over much of far southern Illinois.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit Illinois’ southern tip, which is expected to enjoy an especially long path of totality.  The area around Carbondale and Makanda, Illinois, will fall dark for more than 2 minutes and 40 seconds.  While the Land of Lincoln has seen eclipses before, including a dramatic annular eclipse in May 1994, this will be the first daylight moment in 148 years in which a section of Illinois will fall completely dark.

The eclipse will move from west to east as the earth spins on its axis.  Illinois county seats well within the line of totality will include Chester, Murphysboro, Vienna, and Golconda.  Another total solar eclipse will cross far southern Illinois in 2024.  

Stay Connected!

My office in Mt. Vernon is open Monday through Friday and my office in Murphysboro is open Monday through Thursday, each from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. You can find me on Facebook to keep up with my travels throughout the district. You can also contact me directly through the Contact Form on my website at www.repbryant.com - Your opinions on important topics facing the State of Illinois are invaluable to me. Keep them coming!


Recently, House Aging Committee Chairwoman Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) penned an op-ed criticizing the Illinois Department on Aging for its decision to implement the Community Reinvestment Program in place of the existing Community Care Program. As the Minority Spokesperson for the Committee on Aging, I felt that Rep. Moeller's criticisms were unfair and deserved a response.

While it’s true that our state’s budget situation in recent years has contributed to funding challenges for the Community Care Program, providers have also been faced with rapidly increasing numbers of older adults and limited resources with which to serve them. Many throughout the provider network understand that the State cannot sit by and do nothing to address the growing senior population and the corresponding increase in demand for services.

In response to shifting demographics, the Illinois Department on Aging has come up with a way to address the projected growth in our aging community that will allow the State of Illinois to continue to serve this population, regardless of their Medicaid eligibility status.

CRP would put Illinois in line with national trends and maintain a service package for people not eligible for Medicaid.  Currently, Illinois spends 3.7 times the national average on home and community based services for non-Medicaid eligible individuals.  CRP maintains funding at two times the national average.

Implementing the Community Reinvestment Program will provide a savings to the state of $120 million; the $120 million in savings realized through CRP comes from the flexibility of services that the Department of Aging is able to provide. These savings enable funding to be stretched to cover clients with greater needs or even new clients.

The Department on Aging has shown a commitment to fulfilling its mission to support seniors to live independently in their own homes and communities. As with CCP, seniors transitioning to CRP will be provided with a broad array of community services and support as their plan-of-care is determined.
It is vitally important to understand that clients remain the final decision makers regarding their care plans and are not unwillingly bound to a plan of care.

All seniors in CRP will continue to receive services based on their level of unmet needs. The Community Reinvestment Program is designed to be a highly individualized and person-centered program. Everyone’s needs are different and every senior in the program will receive the services they require to stay in their homes longer. If seniors that have higher incomes would like to purchase additional services, they will be provided the opportunity to do that through the same provider network and at the same cost the state pays.

California’s answer to a massive budget deficit was to serve Medicaid only; Illinois has decided to continue serving Medicaid clients, but we must do so in a way that is responsible and will allow us to maintain services and increase our ability to serve new clients.

The Department on Aging has continually engaged with the provider network throughout this process and solicited input to minimize the impact of such a significant undertaking. Homemakers remain an integral part of the services provided to clients of the Department on Aging and are among the core services offered under CCP and CRP.

However, there are some services that homemakers simply cannot provide such as home modifications (e.g., grab bars), assistive technology (e.g., walking canes, tub transfer benches) and medication management – all services offered through the Community Reinvestment Program.

The Community Reinvestment Program uses the same, established Aging network and the same care coordinators that are currently in place to work with seniors and providers to develop their plan of care. CRP was designed with the flexibility to address the specific needs of Illinoisans using the existing provider network structure.

After administering a successful demonstration program which established a framework for providing a larger menu of services with minimal bureaucracy, the Department was able to blend the successful models used by other states and the documented successes of the Flexible Senior Services Demonstration program and the Nursing Home Deflection Pilot program to create the Community Reinvestment Program.

Providing our seniors more flexible options for the services they need is not only beneficial to them, but it’s also essential for the sustainability of all of Illinois' social services programs. Finding new, innovative and cost-efficient ways to serve clients and increase the menu of options they can choose from to address their unmet needs is long overdue and is a necessary step to provide the best possible service to Senior citizens who need help.

Understanding SB 1 and Why I Voted NO

As Session wound to a close on Wednesday May 31, Chicago Democrat State Rep. Will Davis brought Senate Bill 1 up for debate. SB 1 is a bill that would dramatically alter Illinois’ public school funding formula. It is a huge piece of legislation that has been in the works for months.

Last year, Governor Rauner commissioned a bipartisan group charged with finding a fair and equitable comprehensive solution to the state’s school funding formula. The Commission met many times over the course of six months, taking hours of testimony from experts, school administrators, and other interested groups on what they thought needed to change.
                       
Again, the goal of the Commission was to come to a comprehensive, bipartisan, ‘agreed-to’ piece of legislation that both Republicans and Democrats could support. The negotiations were going well and SB 1 was looking as if it would find bipartisan support across the Senate and House. But, that was before Senate Democrats started freezing out their colleagues on the Republican side and added dubious and expensive new items to the bill.

The insertion of language that allows for a massive bailout of the city of Chicago’s public schools is perhaps the most egregious example of what I mean. The bill that eventually passed the Senate takes $250 million off the top of the education budget to pay for Chicago Public Schools pension obligations. The bailout language was a poison pill and Senate Republicans refused to go along. Still, the bill made its way to the House.

It is a shame that the Democrat leadership walked away from negotiations in order to run legislation with the single largest bailout of Chicago Public Schools in Illinois history. Since it has been 20 years since the last reform to the school funding formula, House and Senate Republicans have demanded that downstate schools be treated fairly and equitably in any final solution. We may only get one chance to get this type of reform and I want to get it right.

77% of Illinois’ school children attend public schools outside the city of Chicago. However, in SB 1, only 30% of the new funding would make its way to those students. The rest goes to the city of Chicago’s schools.

Let me be clear, I am not opposed to Chicago schools receiving state funding. The kids in the city of Chicago deserve adequate funding for a good education. However, the management at CPS has made a disaster of the school system’s finances. They have skipped making some or all of 11 pension payments in the last 25 years. I will not support the taxpayers of southern Illinois having their taxes continue to go up and up and up in order to subsidize Chicago schools.  

Perhaps the most important reason I voted NO on SB 1 is because it does not include appropriations or define any methods of paying for the spending that’s promised in the legislation. Schools across the state have already been short-changed; they are currently owed $1.1 billion in missed payments from just this fiscal year alone. More empty promises will only increase the uncertainty already facing school boards and administrations.

Before negotiations were halted by majority Democrats, legislators were very close to a bipartisan agreement. But I could not abide the Chicago bailout and the pie-crust-promises in the bill – easily made, and easily broken.  Southern Illinois Republican legislators stand ready to get back to the negotiating table to find a true fix to the school funding formula. It’s time to get the job done for all Illinois students.


State Representative Terri Bryant - 115th District
Dear Friends,

I want to start this week's edition on a positive personal note. I am happy to announce that this weekend, my family will be celebrating the wedding of my youngest child, Tyler, to his best friend, and my new daughter-in-law, Elaina.
Congratulations Tyler and Elaina!

I am so proud of Tyler, and my heart is just soaring as we welcome a new member of our family (and as Rick and I truly become 'empty-nesters.'  Thankfully, the newlyweds won't be going far. I am happy to report that Tyler and Elaina have decided to start their life together right here in Southern Illinois.  God is so, so good!

I remark on Tyler and Elaina’s decision to live and work here because at this point in Illinois’ history, it is rare that a young couple is deciding to stay, rather than leave for a better-run state.

Folks, Illinois is worth saving, but the road back to prosperity and stability is going to be long and difficult. Our state is in the throws of a budget impasse that’s headed into its 3rd year. This is unacceptable.

Those groups and individuals currently being negatively impacted by this impasse include, but are not limited to: children with special needs, veterans with disabilities, public schools, public universities, victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, hospitals, doctors, dentists, home health care workers, senior citizens who rely on meals on wheels, children and families that rely on daycare, 911 emergency centers, and many, many more.

For the last two years, and since returning home from Springfield this week following our scheduled adjournment, I have heard many people say, “Why don’t you just pass a budget already?!”

 I agree with these people. I want a budget.

I want a full-year, balanced budget.

The people of Illinois deserve the stability that a balanced budget would bring.

But, we have to remember why the State of Illinois is in the shape that it is: gross mismanagement and the 32 years of Mike Madigan being the Speaker of the Illinois House and the head of the Democrat party that enjoys huge majorities in the House and Senate.

There is a process by which a budget could and should come to the House for a vote. Appropriations committees are supposed to meet with affected parties during committee meetings in Springfield or Chicago to establish budgets for those groups and individuals that I mentioned above. Appropriations bills establish the amount of money that should get spent on any one of those items. However, this process has not been followed during my entire time in Springfield.

For the last two years, a back room deal has been cut by just the Democrats and Madigan drops a massive, unbalanced budget on Republican desks at the 11th hour, hardly allowing time for staff or the legislators to review what’s in the bill. We vote NO because the bill is out of balance and we don’t really even know whats in it.

Then Madigan turns around and spends millions of dollars attacking Republicans for voting against the items contained in the Democrats-only budget. But, this take-it-or-leave-it approach is now met with the resistance offered by Governor Rauner’s veto pen. Any deal must include input and approval from the Governor. That is the way a divided, representative Government works. But, Madigan doesn’t play well in the sandbox with others. And it isn’t just this Governor.

Going all the way back to the days of Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn, long, grueling summer over time sessions were the norm. These overtime sessions cost taxpayers millions of extra dollars – all because Mike Madigan can’t get along with ANY Governor – be they Republican or Democrat.

Now fast-forward to the recently passed adjournment day: Wednesday, May 31st.

Instead of working with House Republicans and the Governor to pass a balanced budget, the House Democrats, led by Speaker Madigan skipped town without changing a thing. A budget bill wasn’t even put on the board for a vote in the House. The negligence didn't stop there.

On the workers’ compensation reform bill, the House Democrats fudged the numbers, ignored good advice from the business community and went it alone to accept a watered down bill from the Senate.

On the school funding reform, the House Democrats fudged the numbers, lied to school administrators, promised money that isn’t coming, and passed a change to the school funding formula that offers no funding source or appropriation to actually get the money out the door.

The people of Illinois deserve much better than they are getting from Mike Madigan and the House Democrats.

Understanding SB 1 - School Funding Reform - Why I voted NO!
On the final scheduled day of regular legislative session, I voted no on a measure that would dramatically change Illinois’ public school funding formula.

Bryant says the bill unfairly bails out Chicago Public School pensions, while offering empty promises to the rest of the school districts in the state.

Although it is possible that some schools in southern Illinois would gain financially from a new funding formula, the language contained in SB 1 does not include appropriations or define any methods of paying for the spending. Without money, SB 1 is unworkable and disingenuous.

Following months of testimony and meetings before the Governor’s established School Funding Reform Commission, House Democrats brought the bill to the floor on the last day of Session.

This bill would dedicate $250 million dollars for Chicago school pensions every year, forever. With our budget in shambles and no way identified to pay for this new formula I simply can't support a Chicago bailout and I won’t support this bill being rushed through the process without an appropriation or funding mechanism.

I am also disappointed that Democrats shared inaccurate information with school administrators prior to the vote, leading many to believe that more money was coming their way.

I think it is a shame that our education officials were given false information regarding the amount of money that would go to school districts across the state if the new formula bill passed. In its current form, SB 1 is based on $350 million that is not included in the legislation. No one knows where the money will come from and the sponsor couldn’t answer that question.

Republicans also noted during debate that the money for Chicago pension payments is being inserted into the bill because Chicago skipped payments for 11 years even though they have been given a $250 million block grant that no other school district in the state received and then they didn't use the money to make the pension payments.

The bill passed with the bare minimum number of votes and still requires concurrence from the Senate for passage to the Governor.

Stay Connected! Send me your ideas to fix Illinois' budget mess!
As we head into yet another overtime session, I want to hear from you. I've told Speaker Madigan and Governor Rauner that I want a balanced budget. I want reforms to the economy to help our state grow jobs and compete with our neighbors. Now it is your turn! How would you solve the budget crisis?

You can send your ideas to me here: State Representative Terri Bryant Contact Form

Also, my office in Mt. Vernon is open Monday through Friday and my office in Murphysboro is open Monday through Thursday, each from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. You can find me on Facebook to keep up with my travels throughout the district. You can also contact me directly through the Contact Form on my website at www.repbryant.com - Your opinions on important topics facing the State of Illinois are invaluable to me. Keep them coming!