by Rep. Mike Fortner

It has been said that the fundamental problem with the way Illinois draws its political districts is that it lets the politicians choose their voters, rather than let the voters choose their politicians. This year an attempt to solve that problem by Independent Maps was rejected as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. I’d like to offer another solution, one that I have filed as HJRCA 60.

The method for creating an independent commission proved to be one of the stumbling blocks for the Independent Map Amendment in court. I’d keep the formation of the commission the same as it currently is in the constitution, but I would change its function. Instead of drawing a map, the commission would provide data and software for drawing maps to the public. This provides a procedural change as required for a citizen initiative.
Representative Fortner is hosting his second annual document shredding event on Saturday August 27th.

The event will run from 9a.m. to noon at the Batavia VFW, 645 S. River Street. All area residents are welcome to bring up to two bags of papers to be shredded.

Shredding documents is important in order to ensure any personal information remains secure. Rep. Fortner is looking forward to again hosting this popular event, to provide residents with a free and convenient way to shred their papers. He encourages all area residents to attend the upcoming event:

“It is important that documents with personal information on them are properly shredded to protect you and your family from fraud and identity theft,” said Fortner. “This event provides a free service to help protect your information, while also protecting the environment by recycling and reusing the shredded paper.”

If you have any questions contact Rep. Fortner’s District Office at (630) 293-9344.

State Representatives Christine Winger (Wood Dale) and Mike Fortner (West Chicago) have partnered with area pet rescue and shelter organizations to host their second annual Pet Rescue Fair on Saturday, June 18 at the James "Pate" Philip State Park, 2054 W Stearns Rd in Bartlett. The free event will take place from 12:30 pm until 3:00 pm and is open to the public.

The goal of the Pet Rescue Fair is to promote pet adoption and the humane treatment of animals, something that both Representatives Winger and Fortner strongly support.
Today an emergency stopgap bill to fund higher education passed in the House. Senate Bill 2059 was presented as a measure to keep state universities open through the summer months and until further funding can be appropriated for higher education. Specifically, the bill has appropriated $600 million for higher education institutions from the Education Assistance Fund, funding which is immediately available.

Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) was on the forefront of discussions on this legislation. Fortner proposed a plan on Monday and worked diligently with legislators on both sides of the aisle throughout the week to find a solution to keep state universities open and running.

“This bill was an important step to ensure our universities can keep their doors open through the summer, and to give our students assurance that their universities are there for them in the fall,” said Fortner. “There is still much more to accomplish, but today was proof that we can make progress on funding issues through bipartisan work by members of the rank and file in the House and Senate.”

The Senate has approved the bill and it awaits final action from the Governor.

Rep. Fortner is hopeful the success of this legislation will set a tone for further resolutions on other funding related matters.
Higher education in Illinois is in crisis. The state has not appropriated basic operations money to the state universities this year. As a result one institution is preparing to close on May 1 and others cannot guarantee that they will be open when students return in the fall. May 1 is also the day when students traditionally must decide where they will attend in the fall. If students are uncertain about the future of our state universities, they may not plan to attend. Waiting longer to fund our universities may come too late to get those students back. There are three things we can do now to help this crisis.

First I propose that we utilize the Educational Assistance Fund (EAF) as a stopgap to fund the universities through August. The EAF will have about $600 million left in it at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. August is an important time since that is when students return and revenue from tuition, room and board comes to the universities. In SB 2046 (J. Cullerton/Currie), the total appropriation for ordinary and contingent expenses for the state universities and the Illinois Math and Science Academy is $1,079,180,600. This represents a full year appropriation, but there was no identified revenue to pay for it. An equivalent expenditure for four months from May 1 to August 31 would be one third of that, $359,726,867.

Second I propose that we provide one semester of MAP grant funding to help keep Illinois students of limited means at college in Illinois. SB 2046 also appropriates $397,073,100 to provide the MAP grants. Half of that to fund one semester would be $198,536,550. Combining the four-month university appropriation along with one semester of MAP grant funds comes to $558,263,417. This can be funded entirely from the EAF this fiscal year.

Finally I propose we give the universities relief from some of the procurement code. This has been a request from the universities long before the current administration and would be expected to save many millions. Modifying HB 4644 (Brady) to affect just the universities would provide this kind of relief and help the universities better manage their budgets while the state seeks a full long-term solution.

Of course the best outcome would be a full budget for all agencies. But anyone following the budget impasse in Illinois reads about the lack of trust among the leaders. A full budget is difficult at best in this environment. The General Assembly successfully took a more limited approach in December, appropriating money for cities to take care of snow removal and pay the lottery winners along with a long list of other activities. The General Assembly can take that approach again and move past this crisis in higher education.