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Springfield, IL – State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) today introduced House Bill 5864, the Blue Collar Jobs Act, to incentivize construction projects in the state of Illinois and create jobs for the middle class. State Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator) is a co-sponsor to the bill.

“Our biggest asset here in Illinois is our highly-skilled, labor force,” said Rep. Long.  “If we want to send the message that Illinois is open for business, then we need to put our construction workers to work. That is the goal of this legislation; to create good paying jobs.”

The Blue Collar Jobs Act is supported by both labor and business groups and offers tax incentives to companies making significant capital improvements in Illinois based on the withholding tax paid to construction workers. It does this through the creation of four new tax credits, including:
  •     High Impact Business construction jobs credit
  •     Enterprise Zone construction jobs credit
  •     New Construction EDGE Credit
  •     River Edge construction jobs credit

“We support prioritizing Illinois construction workers in our state’s economic development toolset through incentives for new construction, expansion, and rehabilitation projects,” said Marc Poulos, Executive Director IN, IL, IA FFC, the labor-management group of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150.

The program will work under the same structure as the current EDGE program:
  • Tax credit value is 50% of Illinois income tax withheld of workers covered under the agreement;
  • Tax credit value rises to 75% of Illinois income tax withheld of workers covered under the agreement in areas designated to be in an underserved area that meets certain poverty, unemployment, and federal assistance rates;
  • Tax credit is issued to the organization that builds, renovates or expands the building just as the EDGE tax credit goes to the company hiring the workers. The tax credit is meant to incentivize the company to construct new buildings or improve existing buildings which can’t be built without the use of Illinois labor.


“The Blue Collar Jobs Act gives growing businesses another reason to make substantial capital investments in Illinois to bring more jobs and opportunities to our state,” said Todd Maisch, President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

The tax credits only become available after the work has been fully completed. There is no risk to the state for a company not meeting its requirement as the state has already captured the withholding tax prior to the tax credit being issued.

HB 5864 has been introduced is waiting to be assigned to committee.


Springfield… Today, the Illinois House of Representatives passed HJR 105 to rename the Route 23 bridge in South Streator the "Vietnam Veteran Michael W. Ragusa Memorial Bridge." The resolution was introduced by state Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator) after Michael Ragusa (USMC Ret.) passed away from cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the herbicide and defoliant chemical used by the United States forces during the Vietnam War.

“Michael Ragusa dedicated his life to others,” Rep. Long said on the House floor.  “His legacy is reflected in his family, his wife Roseann, daughters Renee and Kim, and three grandchildren as well as in the lives of the countless veterans he assisted and their families.  It is only fitting that we dedicate the Route 23 bridge in Streator over the Vermillion River in his name. This is the bridge he passed over every day to go out and assist his brothers in arms.”

Michael Ragusa began his service in 1968 at the age of 19 in the 2nd Marine Division in Vietnam, then as a Medivac in Japan, and ended his enlistment here in Illinois at the Great Lakes Naval Base. His service to our country and its veterans did not end with his enlistment, though. Michael worked for the Disabled American Veterans and the AMVets, eventually becoming the Deputy Service Officer for Illinois AMVets. Michael also served his community as a member of the Streator VFW, AMVet Riders, Pekin Marine Corps League, Streator American Legion, and Streator Elks Club. 

The Illinois Valley is under a flood warning following the massive amounts of rain and melting snow over the last 24 hours. The Illinois River has risen nearly 9½ feet in 24 hours and the National Weather Service now projects major flooding that could crest 6 inches short of the record flood of April 2013.

Rep. Long's office is aware of the situation communities like Marseilles and Ottawa are currently in and is in touch with IEMA. If there is anything they can do to assist in the aftermath of the flooding, they will be there. 

Springfield State Representative Jerry Long (R-Streator) has introduced legislation which would make it the exclusive right of the General Assembly to pass legislation regarding right-to-work zones and other issues concerning union security agreements . The bill, House Bill 5470, contains similar language from Senate Bill 1905 which failed to pass last year but excludes the portion regarding class misdemeanor and private right of action for violations of the Act.

            “I am very happy to introduce HB 5470,” said Rep. Long.  “This bill is a wonderful compromise to SB 1905. My legislation will not only eliminate right-to-work zones, but it will put Illinois on a competitive track with surrounding states to ensure that we can experience the growth of the economy that is currently happening nationwide.” 
  
Included in this proposal is workers’ compensation reform first proposed in House Republican Leader Jim Durkin’s HB 4068 known as the “Capitol Compromise.” One of the new reforms involves the consideration of an impairment report when determining the level of permanent partial disability. Additional factors, such as age, occupation and earning capacity will now be considered by The Commission when determining an employee’s level of disability.  The proposal also clarifies that injuries will not meet the causation standard if they occurred while traveling away from the employer’s premises when not required for job duties. This legislation also institutes reporting requirement for self-insured employers and penalties will be increased for certain types of workers’ compensation fraud.

“It’s time for a true compromise,” said Rep. Long. “At this point, we need to stop increasing the taxes, regulations, and fees that are chasing our citizens and jobs out of Illinois and enact smart reforms that will grow our economy into the future.”


Rep. Long has a track record of supporting unions and job creation in his district. For more information about bills Rep. Long sponsors, visit www.ilga.gov or contact his office by phone at (815)-510-9689 or by email at long@ilhousegop.org.
Springfield… School Library Grants have been issued from the State Library via Secretary of State Jesse White’s School Library Grant program to schools here in the 76th District. The grant totals $9,992.25 with no school receiving less than $750.

“As a former public school teacher and administrator, I know our school libraries are very important in helping students learn and prepare themselves for the future,” said Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian, Jesse White. “Illinois was the first state to implement a school district grant program for libraries, and I am pleased that we can continue to provide them with some of the financial resources they need to produce well-educated students.”

The School District Library Grant Program is designed to help provide more library books and materials for the students of public schools in Illinois. The state legislature has authorized up to a $.75 per pupil expenditure for qualifying schools. The grant award is based on funds appropriated by the General Assembly and the official enrollment as of the previous September 30th of a school district.


 “I’m very happy to announce that this grant money will be put to good use here in our district’s schools,” said State Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator). “I will continue to look for grants that improve education in our community.”
Wheeling... A new partnership between Illinois and FirstNet will ensure that the lifesaving advantages of enhanced wireless broadband technology are available to public safety personnel statewide, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced today.

“Communication is a life or death proposition in emergencies. Opting in to FirstNet’s dedicated network means first responders — fire, EMS, police — always have an open channel when it comes to doing their lifesaving work,” Rauner said against a backdrop of officials from numerous first responder agencies who gathered at the MABAS Readiness Center in Wheeling.

Illinois joins dozens of states opting in to the national First Responder Network, a communications network that is being built, operated and maintained at no cost to participating states through a public-private partnership between FirstNet and AT&T.

FirstNet participation will:

Provide first responders with prioritized network access;
Connect subscribing first responders with critical information needed in a highly secure manner, whether for day-to-day operations or large-scale emergencies;
Create an efficient communications experience for public safety personnel in jurisdictions across the state when responding to natural disasters;
Enhance network coverage across the state’s diverse landscape, particularly benefitting those in rural areas;
Drive infrastructure investments and create jobs across Illinois; and,
Usher in new lifesaving tools, including apps, specialized devices and technologies, with the potential for future integration with NextGen 911 networks and Smart Cities’ infrastructure.
Joe Galvin, statewide interoperability coordinator for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said today’s opt-in letter signing culminates a years-long effort to ensure broad-based participation.

"Illinois has assembled a 100-member multidiscipline, multijurisdictional stakeholder group that has provided input on what emergency responders will require in a broadband network,” Galvin said. “All the information gathered has been provided to the First Responder Network Authority and has been incorporated in to the offering provided to Illinois.”

“FirstNet is a major step forward for law enforcement — and for all first responders,” added Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz. “Whether we’re heading toward the aftermath of a tornado or an incident involving an active shooter, public-safety workers need their communications devices to work, oftentimes in adverse conditions. This will give them the best possible chance to save lives and provide aid to the injured.”

FirstNet, short for First Responder Network Authority, is an independent authority established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It grew from a key 9/11 Commission finding that clogged communication lines made it impossible to warn firefighters that the Twin Towers were collapsing, and generally hindered effective response.

“The ability to exchange data between public safety agencies and various other disciplines will be greatly enhanced with the development of the FirstNet network,” said Chief Jeff Macko, president of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System. “Voice communications on FirstNet will be a significant supportive adjunct to the current land mobile radio systems.”

Alsip Fire Department Deputy Chief Robert Ricker agreed that FirstNet will be a blessing.

“This will provide enhanced communication capabilities for first responders from all levels of government, whether operating at a small local event or a larger regional disaster,” he said. “With FirstNet, we will have additional tools at our disposal to help with decision-making.”

Joseph Klinger, acting director for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, also welcomed today’s announcement.

“This decision is a culmination of a four-and-a-half-year effort leveraging input from first responders across all of Illinois,” he said. “It is essential for lifesaving activities that public safety has the ability to make cellular phone calls, access critical information and transmit video during an incident.”

And Kirk Lonbom, the acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), said the action demonstrates the governor’s vision to modernize state government.

“The decision to opt in to FirstNet will enable DoIT to provide enhanced services and innovative solutions in support of public safety and emergency management,” he said.

“Governor Rauner's decision to join FirstNet demonstrates his strong support and dedication to public safety throughout the state,” added First Responder Network Authority CEO Mike Poth. “We are honored to serve Illinois’ first responders and deliver to them a reliable, broadband communications network that will help them save lives and protect communities.”  
YORKVILLE (Nov. 5, 2017) — Gov. Bruce Rauner today declared a statewide harvest emergency to assist farmers and grain handlers who are grappling with the fallout of rain-related delays.
 
“Illinois is home to 72,000 farms on 26.7 million acres. We are among the top three corn producers in the nation,” Rauner said while visiting Stewart Farms in Yorkville Sunday afternoon. “Moving corn and other crops in a timely and efficient manner affects the bottom line of hard-working farmers. This declaration is an appropriate response to an urgent need.”
 
Under a new law Rauner signed Aug. 11, the declaration permits drivers of trucks carrying agricultural commodities over state highways to obtain a free permit to exceed gross vehicle weight limits by 10 percent. Further, local authorities may waive the permit requirement at their discretion. The emergency declaration is in effect for 45 days beginning today, Nov. 5.
The Illinois Department of Transportation already is mobilizing the permitting process and notifying law enforcement agencies throughout the state. More information is available at https://truckpermits.dot.illinois.gov/.
“I would like to thank the governor for making this declaration today,” said Richard Guebert Jr., president of the Illinois Farm Bureau. “This harvest season emergency declaration will improve the transportation of our crops.”
 
According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Illinois corn harvest at the end of October was 17 percentage points behind the prior year and 11 percentage points behind the five-year average. The corn harvests in the Northwest, Northeast and East regions are especially hard hit. Harvesters of a variety of crops made up ground toward the end of October, but early delays still are causing backups in the transportation chain.
 
Jeff Adkisson, executive vice president of the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois, also praised the governor’s action, noting that a bumper crop combined with the harvest delays to compound the situation.
 
“In years when harvest is better than anticipated, crops like corn and soybeans may need to be stored in piles outside of the traditional concrete or steel bins or tanks,” he said. “This declaration will allow grain elevators to transport commodities out of their facilities quicker, thus making room for grain stored on the ground to be moved to more suitable storage structures.”
 
Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Raymond Poe said the action will encourage the farming community.
 
“Illinois farmers work tirelessly year-round, even more so around harvest,” he said. “The Department of Agriculture would like to thank Gov. Rauner for making this declaration and for his support of Illinois farmers.”
 
And state legislators also welcomed the harvest emergency declaration.
 
State Rep. Toni McCombie, R-Savanna, co-sponsored HB 2580, which amended the state vehicle code to allow for exceeding trucks’ gross weight limits when a governor declares a harvest emergency.
 
“Mother Nature has presented Illinois farmers with a rainy spring and fall, making this year’s harvest challenging,” she said. “The State of Illinois was proactive when we foresaw an emergency this year.”
 
“Farmers form the backbone of our state’s economy,” said state Sen. Neil Anderson, a Republican from Andalusia who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. “Declaring a harvest emergency will reduce red tape and allow those farmers who are still in the field to focus on getting their crops in before winter really takes hold.
 
“The sooner farmers can get their commodities to market, the more stable the market will be for the consumer.”
 
State Rep. Dan Swanson, R-Alpha, a member of the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee, said the rainy planting season caused corn and beans to mature later this fall.
 
“As a result, many farmers are behind in getting their crops harvested,” he said. “With this declaration of a harvest emergency, we will allow farmers the ability to get more grain to the storage sites quicker.”