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With 21 days left until the Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on May 31st. State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) recently co-sponsored a legislative package to encourage lawmakers to adopt a revenue estimate for Fiscal Year 2018. According to Rep. Charlie Meier, “adopting a revenue estimate is an important step in the budget making process.”

Rep. Charlie Meier co-sponsored House Joint Resolutions 49, 50 and 51, to provide realistic revenue estimates for the upcoming fiscal year 2018 set to begin July 1, 2017.  HJR 49 uses the non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) FY2018 revenue estimate of $31.147 billion, HJR 50 uses the FY2018 estimate published by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) of $31.476 billion, and HJR 51 utilizes an average of the COGFA and GOMB revenue estimates, or $31.312 billion, as the starting point for the creation of a balanced state budget.

According to Section 2, Article VIII of the Illinois Constitution, “Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year. Pursuant to this constitutional mandate, it is the duty of the Illinois legislature to adopt a revenue estimate for each and every fiscal year in order to have a basis from which to design a budget that is balanced.” Which means the legislature can’t spend more than what the State will have in the bank account.

Rep. Meier added, “the legislature has yet to agree on a revenue estimate. A revenue estimate will help the legislature craft a balanced budget as required by the Illinois Constitution which is why I agreed to co-sponsor this legislative package. If the legislature adopts a revenue estimate, than it will certainly help steer lawmakers in the right direction towards approving a balanced budget. With less than 21 days until adjournment, the clock is ticking. It’s time to get to work on passing a revenue estimate so we can adopt a balance budget now.”
The Illinois House of Representatives recently adopted House Resolution 327 to congratulate the Chicago Tribune for receiving the 2016 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism for its three-part series “Suffering in Secret.” The investigative stories identified 1,311 cases of documented harm occurring in state funded group homes for the developmentally disabled since July 2011 and determined at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years.

According to State Representative Charlie Meier, “The three-part series published by the Chicago Tribune which exposed the abuse and neglect that unfortunately occurred in group homes throughout the state was  in part due to the Murray Parents Association bringing their concerns to light. The story had to be told in order to further prevent these incidents of abuse and neglect from ever happening again.”

The Bingham Prize honors investigative reporting of stories of national significance where the public interest is being ill-served. These stories may involve state, local or national government, lobbyists or the press itself, wherever an “atmosphere of easy tolerance” exists, as journalist Worth Bingham himself once described public misconduct in his reporting on the nation’s capital.

Rep. Meier added, “This Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism will help ensure the story of abuse and neglect that occurred is not forgotten as it will be printed in newspapers throughout the country. I am hopeful this story will cause other states to reevaluate how they care for the developmentally disabled by making sure what happened in our state doesn’t occur in their state.”
Cardinals Opening Day against the Chicago Cubs is on the horizon, which is something most baseball fans can all look forward to. But there is something else I look forward to happening, and that is for both Democrats and Republicans to work together and approve a balanced state budget.

The Illinois General Assembly held its version of Opening Day on January 11, 2017 when all 118 representatives and 59 senators took the oath of office, marking the first day of business for the new legislature following the November election. It was a fresh start, a new year, and a real opportunity to accomplish what many promised to do after the election – pass a balanced budget. Yet here we are today, halfway through the season we call ‘session’ and the legislature has accomplished little to brag about in the record books except more losses and less victories for the taxpayers.

To make matters worse, two Senate Democrat Leaders recently went on the record to say they don’t believe we will have a budget until after the Governor’s election in November 2018. The unpaid bills are stacking up, our universities and community colleges are exhausting their emergency funds to stay open, healthcare providers are not getting paid. The lack of a state budget is continuing to harm our most vulnerable. The fact that some Democrats are already signaling they are giving up on the taxpayers and giving up on bipartisanship is outrageous.

House Republicans have repeatedly called for action on issues Illinois residents care about such as property tax relief for homeowners, redistricting reform that will give more power to the voters, not the politicians, and furthermore my Republican colleagues introduced a plan to ensure our State can pay down its massive pension debt. Unfortunately, the majority of House Democrats have not shown a willingness to work together on a balanced budget or compromise on any of the issues Illinois residents care about. Instead we are faced with silence and talk of giving up from the other side of the aisle.
The Illinois House of Representatives recently approved legislation directing the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) program administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). The resolution (HR 34) sponsored by State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) was introduced in light of the abuse and neglect which took place throughout the state in group homes for the developmentally disabled dating back to 2011.

The tragic reports of abuse and neglect came to light thanks to the Murray Parents Association’s work with the Chicago Tribune, sparking an investigation by the newspaper, then followed by the Tribune publishing its story earlier this year titled SUFFERING IN SECRET: Illinois hides abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities,” in which the newspaper “identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 and determined at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years.”

“The audit unfortunately can’t undo the abuse and neglect which occurred, however this audit will help us learn more about what went wrong and how Illinois can improve the quality of care for our most vulnerable,” said Rep. Meier. “DHS has already made improvements, though I am optimistic this audit will further improve how the state properly cares for the developmentally disabled.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services has seven State-operated developmental centers (SODCs) serving approximately 1,800 residents. Individuals also receive services in community-based settings through Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs), which house one to eight residents each otherwise called “group homes”. In 2012, then-Governor Quinn announced a "rebalancing initiative" with the goal of moving individuals from SODCs to community settings. In 2012, the SODC in Jacksonville was closed and the majority of its residents were transitioned to CILAs. Followed by the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia being slated for closure, resulting in some residents being transitioned out of their home they call Murray and being placed into group homes. However, as it stands today, Murray Center is and will remain open.

Rep. Meier added, “There are good CILAs and there are some bad CILAs. My goal is to help make sure unsafe CILAs are a thing of the past.”

State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Highland) released the statement below following Governor Rauner’s annual budget address before the General Assembly:

“I agree with Governor Rauner when he said we must ‘think anew and act anew’. It’s time to look forward instead of what’s behind us. We have an opportunity today to fix our broken state by growing our economy, paying down our debt and passing a balanced budget. We must work together. If so, we can move Illinois forward.”
Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) was recently chosen by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin to serve as Republican Spokesman for the Agriculture and Conservation Committee. The Spokesman role serves as the top spot for a republican member serving on the important house committee. Rep. Meier replaced retired State Representative Don Moffitt who was appointed assistant director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture effective January 17th.

“I look forward to representing the agriculture and conservation community while serving as spokesman of the committee,” said Rep. Meier. “I grew up on my family farm which is over 112 years old - parts of my family have farmed in America for 200 years. I till the same land my great grandparents tilled years ago. To this day, my family farm is very diverse, we produce corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, and raise beef cattle. It is very important to me to ensure Illinois Ag continues to be a leading producer of corn, soybeans and swine.”

According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, marketing of Illinois' agricultural commodities generates more than $19 billion annually. Illinois' 74,300 farms cover nearly 27 million acres - about 75 percent of the state's total land area. Furthermore, Illinois ranks third nationally in the export of agricultural commodities with $8.2 billion worth of goods shipped to other countries.
On Thursday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion in St. Clair County court to stop the Comptroller from sending paychecks to all state employees effective February 28, 2017.

Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) today released the following statement:

“This is just another political stunt by a Madigan from Chicago. If she really wants to help the legislature pass a budget, then I ask her to please call Speaker Madigan and ask him to sit down and negotiate a balanced budget with both Republicans and Democrats. The state does not have a budget because Speaker Madigan has not shown the willingness to negotiate.

“Lisa Madigan’s attempt to prevent all state employees from receiving a paycheck is foolish and irresponsible. We all want to pass a state budget, but shutting government down and putting lives at risk is not the way we reach an agreement towards a balanced budget.”