Sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping begins Aug. 5
Beginning this week on Friday, Aug. 5, the Legislature is providing families with some relief as parents and students do their back-to-school shopping.
Senate Bill 157 (P.A. 102-0700) is a comprehensive package of tax relief measures that address many costs families face. A key component of the bill is a provision for a 10-day sales tax reduction (reduced to 1.25% from 6.25%) for back-to-school shopping from Aug. 5-14. The 5% reduction, which represents the full portion of the tax collected for the state’s purpose, may be applied to clothing purchases and all traditional classroom school supplies. I was happy to support this legislation as families continue to grapple with record-high inflation.
Click here to learn more about what is and is not included in the back-to-school sales tax holiday.
New legislative package proposed as electric bills rise for Illinois residents
You may recall that in early June I wrote in a newsletter about skyrocketing energy rates and rolling brownouts/blackouts downstate for Ameren customers. In that piece, I explained that while current rebates are keeping our costs up here somewhat in check, without legislative involvement we could begin to see significant rate hikes as soon as this fall. You can re-read that newsletter item here.
The alarming rate hikes have taken hold downstate, and last week one of my colleagues, State Senator Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro), filed a package of legislation that would address utility price spikes and rolling blackouts statewide by securing Illinois’ energy-producing capabilities.
The legislative package is comprised of three pieces of legislation that will help ensure that Illinois’ high energy production remains intact.
Senate Bill 4215 would repeal the forced 2045 closure date for coal and natural gas power plants that was implemented under Gov. JB Pritzker’s Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) of 2021. The bill would also allow companies to build new gas peaker plants without the fear of a forced closure.
Senate Bill 4216 would repurpose $10 million from the fees assessed to fund clean technology for retrofitting coal and natural gas plants with carbon capturing technology. It also includes the creation of a new Power Grid Task Force to study the effect of state laws, including CEJA, on energy prices as well as grid reliability. Additionally, the Task Force would study ways to improve the power supply mix within the state and deployment of new technologies.
Senate Bill 4217 would eliminate red tape at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that has been preventing new power plants from coming online in a timely manner by expediting the state permitting process. An example of long permitting delays includes the Lincoln Land Energy Center in Pawnee, which started the permitting process with the Illinois EPA in 2017 in the hopes of finishing construction on the plant by 2022. The power plant is still waiting for the approval of its final construction permit, which it filed with the Illinois EPA more than seven months ago.
Summer events continue in the 33rd Senate District
As we head into August, my staff and I will continue to deliver a variety of constituent outreach events across Kane and McHenry Counties. Upcoming events include:
- Thursday, August 11 Traveling Office Hours: A member of the DeWitte legislative staff will have a table at the Fox River Valley Library (previously known as the Dundee Twp Public Library), 555 Barrington Avenue in East Dundee, from 10:00 AM until 12:00 noon. At this event, constituents can receive help with issues involving state agencies, including unemployment (IDES), FOID and CCL, professional licensing, Dept. of Insurance, etc.
- Tuesday, August 23 Unclaimed Property Day: Representatives from the Illinois Treasurer’s office will be at the Crystal Lake Library’s Ames Meeting Room, 126 W Paddock St in Crystal Lake to help connect Illinoisans with more than $3.5 billion in unclaimed property and cash. One in four Illinoisans who search the state’s database find items or money that is owed to them, so please take a few minutes to participate in this free event.
- Thursday, August 25 Traveling Office Hours: A member of the DeWitte legislative staff will have a table at the Lake in the Hills Village Hall,600 Harvest Gate, from 10:00 AM until 12:00 noon. At this event, constituents can receive help with issues involving state agencies, including unemployment (IDES), FOID and CCL, professional licensing, Dept. of Insurance, etc.
- Wednesday, September 7 Senior Fair: Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie and I are co-hosting a Senior Fair at the East Dundee Township Building, 665 Barrington Avenue, Carpentersville, from 10:00 AM until noon. A variety of local vendors will be on site to discuss and provide information about several local programs that benefit seniors. There will be free refreshments and health screenings.
- Thursday, September 8 Traveling Office Hours: A member of the DeWitte legislative staff will have a table at the Gail Borden Public Library Rakow Branch, 2751 W Bowes Rd, Elgin, from 1:00-3:00 PM. At this event, constituents can receive help with issues involving state agencies, including unemployment (IDES), FOID and CCL, professional licensing, Dept. of Insurance, etc.
- Friday, September 16 Senior Fair: State Senator Craig Wilcox and I are co-hosting a free Senior Fair at McHenry County College, 8900 U.S. Route 14, Crystal Lake, from 9:00 AM until 11:00 AM. A variety of local vendors will be on site to discuss and provide information about several local programs that benefit seniors. There will be free refreshments and health screenings.
- Thursday, September 22 Traveling Office Hours: A member of the DeWitte legislative staff will have a table at the Geneva Public Library, 227 S 7th St, Geneva, from 1:00-3:00 PM. At this event, constituents can receive help with issues involving state agencies, including unemployment (IDES), FOID and CCL, professional licensing, Dept. of Insurance, etc.
- Saturday, October 15 Document Shredding Event: I will partner with State Rep. Dan Ugaste for a free document shredding event from 9:00-11:00 AM (or until the shred truck is full) at the Gail Borden Library’ Rakow Branch, 2751 W Bowes Road in Elgin. Visitors can bring up to two boxes or bags of sensitive paper documents for shredding and should stay in their car while event volunteers take their items. Those who wish to see their documents go through the shredder may park in designated parking spaces.
DCFS Director takes heat over Department’s dysfunction
Following a scathing performance audit of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) met last week to ask questions of its director, Marc Smith.
The audit found a list of upsetting findings including DCFS’s negligence in ensuring that children in its care are receiving their well-child visits and check-ups. Of the cases tested, nearly 20 percent of children were missing at least one physical examination.
Additionally, the report found that DCFS lacked major control over the Home Safety Checklists and lacked required documentation for families involved in after-service care.
Despite these unsettling findings, Director Smith stated in the LAC hearing that his agency is “one of the best child welfare systems in the country.” Since the start of this year, Smith has been held in contempt of court 12 times for failing to properly place youth in care. And since December, nine kids on the radar of Illinois DCFS have died. Still, Gov. Pritzker says he has complete confidence in Director Smith and has failed to remove him from the position.
The complete lack of accountability at DCFS has gone on for far too long, and our state’s children deserve better. It is well past time that Governor Pritzker makes a leadership change at DCFS.
New GDP data indicates that U.S. has entered a recession
A key measure of economic output fell for the second straight quarter, indicating the United States is in a recession. On Thursday, it was announced that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell 0.9 percent in the second quarter from April to June.
According to the traditional definition of a recession, which is two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction, this new data means that the U.S. has entered a recession. In anticipation of this bad economic news, President Joe Biden’s administration has tried to redefine what a recession is, claiming that the U.S. has not yet hit a recession, according to the definition from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
The NBER’s definition states a recession is a “significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.”
Regardless of how people define “recession”, this news is not good and does not paint a rosy picture of the economy that is being hit with record high inflation and rising interest rates.
Meanwhile, in Illinois, the unemployment rate continues to fall behind all surrounding states. Illinois’ economy added 18,800 jobs during the month of June, but its unemployment rate, which is now at 4.5 percent, is still the worst in comparison to neighboring states.
Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin all had jobless rates below 3 percent while Kentucky is at 3.7 percent. In fact, Illinois’ 4.5 percent rate is the fifth worst in the nation.