Springfield….“The status quo is simply unacceptable.” That’s what State Rep. Terri Bryant
(R-Murphysboro) had to say on Monday following a House vote to change Illinois’ broken school funding formula.  Indeed, Illinois ranks at the bottom of all states in regard to equity in the laws that govern how tax dollars are distributed to Illinois’ 852 school districts.

“I am proud to report that I voted Yes today for historic and positive changes to the way we fund public schools in Illinois,” Bryant said. “The bill I supported replaces a two-decades-old model with a compromise plan that implements an evidence-based model. The evidence-based model allows for reduced class sizes, full day kindergarten, teacher training, and special education services and adequate funding for impoverished schools.”

Bryant credited the sponsors of the legislation and the legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle and from both chambers of the General Assembly for compromising, negotiating, and stopping the threat of public school closings.

“I applaud the leaders and the rank-and-file legislators from both sides of the aisle for coming together to form a bipartisan compromise,” Bryant said. “SB 1947 as amended represents concessions from lawmakers from both parties and both legislative chambers. What’s more important though, is that the leaders and legislators have finally agreed to treat all 852 school districts fairly and provide historic funding levels for all Illinois school districts.”

Dear Friend,

This week I want to provide you with an update on the latest news on SB 1 and the fight to fix Illinois’ broken school funding formula. Also, I’ve got tips on how you can be sure you’re ready to view the total solar eclipse on Monday. The Union County Fair also kicks off this weekend and I'll provide a comprehensive list of events. As always, thank you for continuing to read this column and for the invaluable feedback you provide on issues that are important to you.

Update on SB1 –
The Illinois House returned to Springfield this week to consider legislation regarding school funding reform. You may recall that Governor Rauner recently amendatorily vetoed SB 1, a bill that contained a massive bailout for the city of Chicago’s public school pensions. On Sunday, the Illinois Senate voted to override the Governor’s changes to SB 1. I strongly disagreed with this action, but because the vote to override was successful, the bill has moved to the House for consideration.

On Wednesday, instead of taking action on SB1 so that the process can move forward, House Democrats opted to play games, putting a phony bill that they never intended to allow to pass up for a vote. The bill was an admitted sham and even the sponsor of the amendment that became the bill, Will Davis (D-Homewood), voted NO on his own bill. (SB 1947)

Many schools in Illinois have either already opened or will next week. As the uncertainty of whether some schools can stay open for the entire school year builds, and with no resolution to this issue in sight, Speaker Madigan has announced that no action will be taken on SB 1 until Wednesday of NEXT week.

I have argued for weeks that Speaker Madigan and the majority party should be working with Republicans to reach a compromise on this issue. We must avert the possibility of schools shutting down in the middle of the year! NO child should miss a single day of school because Mike Madigan wants to play political games.

When we return to Springfield, I will continue to urge my colleagues to get back to work on a compromise solution that treats all Illinois schools and children the same. NO bailout for Chicago. Enough is enough!

As you may well know by now, Monday will mark the first total eclipse of the sun, viewable throughout the United States in 99 years. Authorities are estimating more than 150,000 people will visit Illinois’ southern tip, which is expected to enjoy an especially long path of totality.

This past Tuesday, I was honored to join residents at Prairie Living of Carbondale for an afternoon of conversation. I also supplied the residents with some official “eclipse viewing glasses". See above!

The area around Carbondale and Makanda, Illinois, will fall dark for more than 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Illinois 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.

Authorities are urging folks that live in the area to stay home to help keep traffic congestion to a minimum. Here is a list of items prepared by the Rend Lake Tourism Council to help you stay safe and ENJOY the eclipse on Monday!

137th Union County Fair Opens this Weekend!
The  2017 Union County Fair opened last night in Anna last night! This year the fair will run from August 18 through August 27th. For a full schedule of this year's events, please CLICK HERE

DuQuoin State Fair Starts Friday August 25th
The DuQuoin State Fair will kick off on Friday, August 25th and runs through Labor Day. Each year, the Fair hosts a Twilight Parade to proudly announce the opening of the eleven day annual showcase in Du Quoin.  This year's parade will be held on Friday, August 25th at 6 PM. You can learn more about this year's DuQuoin State Fair by CLICKING HERE

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,

For the past several weeks, I have used this space to support Governor Rauner’s plan to fix Senate Bill 1, the school funding formula bill, using his amendatory veto powers. This week in Springfield, the Governor followed through on his promise to eliminate provisions that allow a bailout of Chicago school pensions and a block grant for transportation and other services that no other school in Illinois gets.

Now that the bill has been changed by the Governor, the responsibility to ensure that schools open on time and stay open all year falls to Chicago Democrats Mike Madigan and John Cullerton.

The Republican plan to fix the school funding formula is presented in the form of the Governor’s amendatory veto. But, Democrats don't want to accept our plan. Many are either too beholden to Speaker Madigan’s political agenda, or they truly believe that Chicago deserves a pension bailout, even though Chicago’s public school system has totally mismanaged their pensions by skipping payments for years.

I feel strongly that if Democrats can’t accept the Republican plan to fix the formula, they need to propose their own alternative that bridges the gap between SB 1 and the Governor’s veto. So far they've refused to do that. Time is running out, as many Illinois students start back to school either next week or the week after. It is time to accept the Governor’s changes to SB1 and stop using school kids as pawns in this political blame game.

I 57 Safety Efforts

As you may know, Route 57 between Mt. Vernon and Marion has been the scene of more than 30 fatalities caused by vehicle accidents just this year. A new story about a major wreck closing down a section of the interstate is a seemingly weekly occurrence. Awareness is increasing. 

One post that I made to Facebook regarding an accident was viewed more than 11,000 times. The same post was filled with dozens of comments detailing drivers’ frustrations with certain issues, and suggestions for increasing safety. Please know that I am working with my fellow Representatives and Senators from Southern Illinois

I want to take this opportunity to help the State Police with their education program on the “Fatal Four” of driving. These items are known to police to be contributing factors in fatal accidents. Please, as you head out on the highways, pay attention to these aggravating factors and do all you can to improve roadway safety for you and for other drivers.

1.      Speeding – speed is often the number one contributing factor to fatalities in car accidents

2.      Distracted driving – talking on the phone, texting and driving, eating, etc. Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road contributes to crashes.

3.      Driving under the influence – Just. Don’t. Do. It. You have the choice of driving safely or going to jail. A DUI in Illinois can now cost you more than $10,000 in fines and increased insurance rates.

Occupant restraint
– This goes without saying.  According to Illinois Law all vehicle occupants, regardless of seating position, are required to use a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt. Fines start at $25 and may vary depending on associated court costs and number of violations. The Child Passenger Protection Act was enacted to further protect the most vulnerable occupants of vehicles, young children. The fine for failing to properly restrain a child is $75 for the first offense and $200 for the second offense.

Mt. Vernon Senior Fair
We thoroughly enjoyed Thursday’s Senior Health Fair in Mt. Vernon. Senator Paul Schimpf and I want to thank the more than 3 dozen vendors, and the hundreds of seniors that came out to enjoy the event. Here are some photos. I hope to see a great crowd there again next year!

Associated Firefighters Association Award
Sen. Paul Schimpf and I joined our hosts, the Desoto, Illinois Fire Dept. , and many other southern Illinois fire department on Thursday night for a special awards presentation.

Sen. Schimpf and I were awarded helmets making us Honorary Fire Chiefs! Special thanks to the Illinois Firefighters Association and Margaret Vaughn for visting southern Illinois to make the presentation. I sincerely appreciate this special honor!

Eclipse Preparedness
The Rend Lake Area Tourism Council has put together a fantastic list of items to note to help prepare you for the coming total solar eclipse event. Thousands of people are expected to descend on Southern Illinois to view the eclipse. These tips can help you be ready! Click the picture below for more information. 

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!