McHenry, IL. -- A recent report ranks Illinois at the bottom of the 50 states for fiscal transparency, and as a new decade looms, lawmakers must commit to improving the state’s system of drawing legislative boundaries to limit undue influence from politicians and special interests.
In other news, kudos to Aunt Martha’s, a community-based not-for-profit that does amazing work providing critical health care and wellness services for underserved clients. Also, there was great conversation about Illinois issues making news these days at a special gathering at Rush Creek Distilling in Harvard and, I paid a visit to Hilltop Elementary School in McHenry for the Illinois Principal’s Association’s “Principal for a Day” program.
Finally, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission is recognizing the academic achievements of its newest group of Illinois State Scholars, including dozens of high schoolers from the 32nd Senate District.
Illinois ranks low in fiscal transparency
Watchdog group Truth in Accounting issued a report ranking Illinois among the least fiscally-transparent states in the nation.
Illinois was ranked ninth-worst, with the state’s score negatively affected by such factors as the late delivery of its annual documents, a failure to have an external auditor look at the numbers, and a distorted net financial position due to misleading and confusing information in its report.
The Truth in Accounting group measures each state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report in an annual report, and issues scores based on a number of criteria including public accessibility, whether the states used an outside auditor, the auditor’s opinion, timeliness of the report, financial liabilities and pension data.
Idaho, North Dakota and Nevada were ranked at the top of the report, while Connecticut was ranked 50th.
Legislative redistricting reform must be a priority
For many years, Senate Republicans strongly advocated for creating a new, non-partisan system for drawing legislative boundaries. Earlier this year, the Caucus pledged support for the passage of a bipartisan Constitutional Amendment that would have allowed Illinois residents to have their say on the issue.
The state’s current system of drawing voting maps is geared toward protecting current officeholders. Districts are drawn – by politicians – to protect partisan incumbents, and ensure that the majority caucus is likely to continue to hold those seats for the next 10 years (when maps are redrawn).
Redistricting reform requires the General Assembly to submit an amendment to the Illinois Constitution – providing voters the opportunity to put a new system in place. The most recent Constitutional Amendment would place the question of fair maps on the ballot for the next statewide election.
While the Senate Republican Caucus has been working on this issue for many years, the Democrat majority has not allowed the matter to reach the voters despite a nationwide call for fair map plans from members of both parties.
Public Service Excellence
Thanks to Aunt Martha’s, the community not-for-profit organization that does great work providing critical health and wellness services to thousands of underserved citizens for the invitation to their luncheon on December 3.
A presentation featured a live interview of the organization’s President and CEO Raul Garza by long-time and award-winning Chicago journalist Robin Robinson (pictured right). Aunt Martha’s does heroic work serving 70,000 patients and clients each year. They employ a highly-trained staff and motivated volunteers to bring quality healthcare and wellness programs where it’s needed most. They serve at-risk families at 22 community healthcare locations, mostly in the Chicago metropolitan area, but also in downstate communities of Danville, Rockford, Toulon, Watseka, and Woodstock.
Our latest “Conversations Untapped” event brought us to Rush Creek Distilling in Harvard on Tuesday evening, December 3 (pictured left). We had great conversations on public pensions, corruption allegations that are making news lately, taxes – quite a common concern, recreational marijuana and township consolidation, which is always a hot local topic. Thanks to all who came out to talk. I value these opportunities to interact and hear directly from constituents.
If you weren’t able to make our event, I encourage you to reach out to me about issues important to you. There are several ways we can stay in touch. Call my district or Capitol offices: 815/455-6330 or 217/782-8000 or, go to my legislative website at www.senatorwilcox.com. There is a contact tab at the top of the page, which you can use to email me directly. At the website, I also post news from the Capitol and you can sign up for my free newsletter, and connect with state government agencies and resources.
Hilltop Elementary School Visit
On Wednesday, December 4, I visited with the students of Hilltop Elementary School in McHenry for the Illinois Principals Association’s “Principal for a Day” program (pictured right).
Thanks to Principal Christy Brown for the tour. I also had a great time with third graders to talk about “How a Bill Becomes Law,” and also visited the school’s Innovation Center, which is under the capable hands of teacher Gina Nicholls. I met with first grade students who are learning about science, technology, engineering and math. The Center exemplifies Hilltop’s motto: “Today's Learners... Tomorrow's Leaders.”
Local High School State Scholars – Recognizing Excellence
The Illinois Students Assistance Commission (ISAC) announced the 2020-2021 Illinois State Scholars during the week. There are dozens of Illinois State Scholars in the 32nd Senate District of which we should all be proud. They are great achievers and reflect well on their families and their schools.
An online listing of current Illinois State Scholars or at (https://bit.ly/2Reh1IY) can be found on ISAC’s website. Students are listed by county and school.
Illinois State Scholars, who rank in approximately the top ten percent of graduates from Illinois high schools, are selected annually based on their ACT and SAT exams and sixth semester class rank. Each Illinois State Scholar receives a congratulatory letter from ISAC and a Certificate of Achievement.
Honorees can download an official Illinois State Scholar badge that can be displayed on their online profiles and social media platforms and shared with high school counselors, prospective colleges, employers, family members and others.