Welcome!

 

I’m State Representative Jack D. Franks, and I want to welcome you to my Web site. I represent the 63rd District of the state of Illinois, which includes the North and Western part of McHenry County.

Since I took office more than a decade ago, the support of you, my constituents, has been invaluable. Together, we have accomplished much. From shining a bright light on corruption and government wrongdoing to voicing insightful ideas for smarter spending, your input has helped make a difference in how your government is run. But, there is still much to be done.

I am fighting to return control of state government to you, the people. We still need serious budget and ethics reforms in Illinois, and we must find a way for government to more efficiently function. In my next term, I will continue fighting for the things you and I both believe in: zero-based budgeting, government transparency, government accountability and more.

It is a privilege to represent the people of McHenry County in the General Assembly, and with your support I hope to keep fighting for your best interests. In this site, you will find information on policy issues, upcoming events and recent news. You can also follow me on Facebook and send us an email. Please let me know your ideas on how we can get Illinois back on track. Democracy works best when citizens participate in the process. I promise I hear you.

 


 

LATEST NEWS

 

 

 

Finke: A break before the real fun starts

April 12, 2014 - PJstar

It’s spring break. Let the party begin. The General Assembly hit a sort of halfway point in the spring session last week. It was the deadline for bills that started in the House to get out of the House and for Senate bills to get out of the Senate. Of course, as anyone who’s been around this place knows, it can be a kind of fuzzy deadline. If there’s something that’s deemed important and has to be done, you can get around the deadline. There aren’t any finished budget bills out there yet, and obviously, the state isn’t going to do without a budget next year. Plus, the Senate extended the deadline for a bunch of its bills, so we don’t know their fate yet. Still, for a lot of things, the deadline is the deadline, and if the issue hasn’t moved yet, it probably never will. So now lawmakers will take the next two weeks off before returning for... READ MORE

Time to testify: Nothing but the truth

April 12, 2014 - Sauk Valley

During a recent committee hearing in the Illinois House of Representatives, this editor testified on behalf of a bill to ensure more open government. The invitation to testify came from Rep. Jeanne Ives, who had learned of this newspaper’s advocacy for the release of public employee contracts before they are approved by local government bodies. We have written before about her legislation, most recently House Bill 4268, which would require such contracts to be made public for 14 days before a vote is taken – and then only after a public hearing is conducted on the agreement. This is the kind of legislation that helps us to identify the people who think government is none of the public’s business. STATE REP. IVES IS a Republican from Wheaton who was elected to the Legislature in November 2012. More than 3 years earlier, this newspaper started its informal campaign to open the approval process for public employee contracts. Our trail of news coverage and editorials... READ MORE

Report suggests a reasonable approach

April 12, 2014 - Sauk Valley

Illinois has long had the most units of government in the nation – 6,963 at last count. Do we need so many taxing districts to provide governmental services across the Land of Lincoln? Supporters and opponents of the status quo can both find something to cheer about in a 90-page report released recently by the Local Government Consolidation Commission, which was created in 2011 by the Illinois General Assembly. Chaired by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, the commission researched the situation and listened to local government officials. The report acknowledges those officials’ concerns that the state not mandate consolidation and elimination of units of government, such as townships, municipalities, fire protection districts, library districts, drainage districts, mosquito abatement districts, and the like. In other words, let the decisions be made locally. The report also points out that “simply reducing the number of local governmental units does not necessarily result in a reduction of costs to the taxpayer,” which is a position long held by those who... READ MORE

Illinois Millionaires Tax Dies, Other Tax Plans Survive

April 11, 2014 - Newsmax

Illinois Democratic lawmakers have — albeit reluctantly — dropped a plan to tax people with seven-figure incomes, yet two other tax plans are very much alive. Illinois taxpayers are looking at either a graduated income tax, which takes more taxes from people who earn more, and a proposal from Gov. Pat Quinn to make permanent the 2011 "temporary" income tax. "It depends on where you sit whether you call (keeping the temporary tax) a tax increase," Carol Portman, executive director of the Taxpayers Federation of Illinois told Illinois Watchdog. "It certainly is an increase over what you were expecting to see." Portman and her group haven't taken a position for or against Quinn's plan, nor has it weighed in on the progressive tax pitched by Democratic state Sen. Don Harmon. "You can have a graduated rate that is not terrible policy. A lot of states have figured out how to do it," Portman said. But Portman did say the apparently dead millionaires tax in Illinois was unusual, as it sets tax rates... READ MORE

Companies threatening to leave IL get $30 million

April 9, 2014 - Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — If a business wants a tax break in Illinois, it should probably threaten to move. Lawmakers looking into the state’s tax breaks and incentives are asking why Illinois is spending almost eight times more on companies threatening to leave than those looking to stay. Wednesday, Illinois’ Department of Economic Opportunity director Adam Pollet said DCEO spent $30 million on EDGE tax credits last year for companies that threatened to leave Illinois without some sort of sweetener. DCEO spent just $4 million on companies that weren’t thinking about leaving. That doesn’t sit well with Democrat Jack Franks. “What are we doing for the small business people who want to stay here in Illinois... READ MORE

Break On Hunting and Fishing License Fees

April 9, 2014 - Alton Daily News

Low-income seniors would get a break on hunting and fishing license fees under a bill recently passed by the Illinois House. Lawmakers approved legislation reducing state hunting and fishing license fees to just one dollar for seniors over age 75 who are part of the state’s benefit access program. The measure is sponsored by representative Jack Franks of Woodstock. The benefit access program is formerly known as the Circuit Breaker program. The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote.... READ MORE

Jack Franks: Quinn’s tax plan sure to hurt Illinois business, jobs outlook

April 7, 2014 - Reboot Illinois

In his recent budget address, instead of focusing on streamlining government and reducing the tax burden on hardworking families and Illinois businesses, Governor Quinn proposed doubling down on the very same policies that helped create the budget mess in which our state is now stuck. Illinois’ stagnant economic recovery can be traced directly to the passage of the 2011 income tax hike: our state’s unemployment rate is nearly 33% higher than the national average; we have the lowest credit rating of any state in the nation; and Illinois’ public-sector pension systems are the worst funded in the United States. While other states have reduced spending and rejected tax increases, the governor’s proposed extension of current income tax rates is simply the wrong policy to address the economic challenges that our state faces. Illinois suffers from a lack of economic activity and this ailment has a simple remedy: get the government out of the way. By leaving more in the pockets of taxpayers, we will purchase more goods... READ MORE

Study: Illinois shouldn’t force consolidation

April 7, 2014 - Canton Daily Ledger

NEWS NOW The Talker: Tim McGraw, Faith Hill sing duet at ACM Awards ... Business update: E-Trade says goodbye baby, hello Kevin Spacey ... Video of the Day: The world’s biggest Tetris game ... The Talker: Tim McGraw, Faith Hill sing duet at ACM Awards ... Business update: E-Trade says goodbye baby, hello Kevin Spacey ... Video of the Day: The world’s biggest Tetris game ... Study: Illinois shouldn’t force consolidation A new report on reducing the state’s proliferation of local governments recommends reducing barriers to consolidation, but not forcing it on local governments. email print 0 By Doug Finke GateHouse Media Illinois Posted Apr. 7, 2014 @ 10:08 am SPRINGFIELD — A new report on reducing the state’s proliferation of local governments recommends reducing barriers to consolidation, but not forcing it on local governments. The Local Government Consolidation Commission finally delivered its report last week, more than 2½ years after the commission was created by the General Assembly... READ MORE

Can lawmakers police themselves in reforming transit?

April 7, 2014 - Daily Herald

It's one thing to welcome transit reforms in the abstract. It's quite another when the people recommending the changes say that you are part of the problem. That's the paradox facing Illinois lawmakers in the wake of some revolutionary ideas on fixing transit in the region. The Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force issued a groundbreaking report last week that suggests merging Metra, Pace and the CTA into one superagency and liquidating the Regional Transportation Authority. Task force members like former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald also stressed that political meddling in mass transit is not only a historical problem; it continues to this day. Transit agencies "have been steeped in a culture of patronage for a significant period of time," the report states. Now it's up to Gov. Pat Quinn and the General Assembly to do something with the recommendations -- or not. Transit expert Joseph Schwieterman is skeptical. "I think legislators are riddled with conflicts of interest due to the history of patronage and politically motivated board appointments," the DePaul University transportation... READ MORE

Report: Don’t force local governments to consolidate

April 5, 2014 - The State Journal-Register

A new report on reducing the state's proliferation of local governments recommends reducing barriers to consolidation, but not forcing it on local governments. The Local Government Consolidation Commission finally delivered its report last week, more than 2½ years after the commission was created by the General Assembly. Comprised of 12 lawmakers and five people representing entities such as townships, municipalities, counties and park districts, the commission was charged with reviewing local government and recommending ways to “reduce the multiplicity of local governments” and eliminate overlapping and duplicative services, among other things. It was the latest in efforts to address the huge number of local governments in Illinois. As the report notes, Illinois has 6,968 units of local government, by far the most in the country. That number is slightly misleading, however. Illinois also is a populous state and ranks only 14th in number of local governments on a per capita basis, according to the report. Still, the number of... READ MORE

Report: Illinois should make government consolidation easier

April 5, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Eliminating barriers to consolidation will be the best way to pare down the state’s almost 7,000 units of local government, a commission created by a local lawmaker has concluded. The 90-page report by the Local Government Consolidation Commission advises that successful efforts to eliminate layers of government must be locally-driven and not mandated by the state. The report submitted to state lawmakers last week also advises that in many cases, consolidation may not guarantee tax relief as much as governments sharing resources. But the best thing Springfield can do is to review its laws to make sure that, at the very least, every type of taxing body in the state has a legal mechanism to dissolve or consolidate that does not contain illogical barriers, the report concludes. “While the Commission recognizes the potential to achieve greater economies of scale and to realize a reduction in costs if local governments work to cooperate and consolidate on a case-by-case basis, this report’s recommendations mainly aim to eliminate barriers to consolidation and resolve certain discrepancies in the Illinois statutes governing... READ MORE

Franks: Better economy a better way forward for Illinois

April 5, 2014 - Northwest Herald

In his recent budget address, instead of focusing on streamlining government and reducing the tax burden on hardworking families and Illinois businesses, Gov. Pat Quinn proposed doubling down on the very same policies that helped create the budget mess in which our state is now stuck. Illinois’ stagnant economic recovery can be traced directly to the passage of the 2011 income tax increase. Our state’s unemployment rate is nearly 33 percent higher than the national average. We have the lowest credit rating of any state in the nation, and Illinois’ public-sector pension systems are the worst funded in the U.S. While other states have reduced spending and rejected tax increases, the governor’s proposed extension of current income tax rates is simply the wrong policy to address the economic challenges that our state faces. Illinois suffers from a lack of economic activity, and this ailment has a simple remedy: get the government out of the way. By leaving more in the pockets of taxpayers, we will purchase more goods and services from businesses that, in response to the increased demand, will hire more workers, who will then pay taxes... READ MORE

One-year township tax freeze passes House

April 4, 2014 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – A one-year freeze on township tax levies has cleared the Illinois House. House Bill 5311, sponsored by Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, passed Thursday on a 66-43 vote. The bill, now headed to the Senate, seeks a 2015 freeze of the general fund levy for townships with fewer than 100,000 people and are subject to the tax cap. All 17 of McHenry County's townships fall into that category. The bill does not freeze township levies for roads or general assistance. McSweeney said he is pleased that the bill to help "address the outrageous increases in property tax bills throughout Illinois" cleared the House. "With Democrats focused on raising income taxes, every bit of tax relief we can provide is crucial. There's a repeated assault happening on the Illinois taxpayer. We're fighting this war on all fronts, and these victories are rare, but imperative." McSweeney referred to the push by Gov. Pat Quinn and leading House and Senate Democrats to make the temporary 67 percent income tax increase that is scheduled to start expiring Jan. 1 permanent. In exchange, Quinn in his budget address last month proposed... READ MORE

450 Metra non-union workers will get raises to slow exodus of bosses

April 3, 2014 - Chicago Sun-Times

Some 450 non-union Metra employees received average raises of 8 percent this month in an attempt to stem an exodus of managers and keep salaries competitive, Metra CEO Don Orseno revealed Thursday. Orseno mentioned the raises in an address to the City Club of Chicago, where he also insisted Metra is pursuing “nuts and bolts” reforms in the wake of “self-inflicted” injuries. Asked later by reporters if raises were a good idea amid the heat placed on Metra by an inspector general investigation and a report by a gubernatorial transit task force, Orseno said “absolutely.’’ An analysis of other transit markets indicated Metra salaries were “sorely behind,’’ Orseno said. Many supervisors went without raises in recent years while union members received pay hikes, he said. Data later provided by Metra showed 403 non-union employees received annual salary hikes totalling $2.879 million that started Tuesday. A dozen employees garnered raises of 25 percent, ranging from a “rules... READ MORE

Beyond the rhetoric

April 3, 2014 - Capitol Fax

One of the first things he’d do as governor, Republican nominee Bruce Rauner said Wednesday, is appoint a task force to study Illinois’ state and local government structure with an eye toward reducing their numbers and size. […] Among his top priorities, Rauner said, is to “form a task force immediately on day one. It’s not going to be long-lived. It’s going to be about a six-month task force composed of county (board) chairmen, mayors, city managers and school superintendents, to form a task force with me and (lieutenant governor nominee) Evelyn Sanguinetti with a goal of meeting to talk about how we bring efficiency through the layers of government throughout the state of Illinois. Today our spending problems and our tax problems are not only at the state levels. They’re at the county level, the school district level and the city and municipal level. […] Asked if he wanted to eliminate 3,000 units of government, he answered, “What we have to look at is, how can we be more competitive and efficient? I can’t name numbers today... READ MORE

Bills to trim Illinois taxing bodies move forward

March 30, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Two bills in the General Assembly aimed at helping pare down the state’s 7,000 units of government are moving forward ahead of a report on how to consolidate them. One bill, House Bill 5785, would give the boards of some of the state’s more obscure taxing districts a legal mechanism by which they could be consolidated or dissolved outright. Another, House Bill 3251, would slap a four-year moratorium on the ability of the General Assembly to pass laws creating any new unit of local government or allowing an existing government to split in two. Both bills are sponsored by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, who is soon expected to release a report, commissioned by another bill, that examines ways to consolidate the state’s myriad units of local government that have become a strain on taxpayers and are difficult to keep accountable... READ MORE

AP Exclusive: State official must repay $7,200

March 28, 2014 - SFGate

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The chief of state parks in Illinois must repay $7,200 of travel reimbursement he wasn't entitled to after inquiries by The Associated Press, the latest in a series of missteps at the Department of Natural Resources since February. Ronald House, the department's director of the office of land management, was reimbursed nearly 80 times for commuting to or from work when state travel rules forbid such reimbursement, according to an AP review of state records. It's another blemish for Natural Resources officials, who initially defended the reimbursements as proper, after a series of recent public relations troubles: a deputy director who attended fishing tournaments while on sick leave and two mining regulators who accepted campaign contributions from a coal-mine operator. Chris Young, spokesman for IDNR Director Marc Miller, initially said the director would not require House, who makes $75,000 annually, to repay the money because it was not his error. But Miller changed his mind this week and asked for reimbursement... READ MORE

Franks Legislation to Enhance Renters’ Rights Passes Committee

March 27, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo, enhancing the right of residential property renters to submit payments as they choose, cleared the House Judiciary Committee this week. "The recent growth in electronic forms of payment has been extraordinary," Franks said. "However, despite all of the benefits, many renters do not make use of these systems and they must not be discriminated against because of this, especially when someone's home is concerned." House Bill 4211 prevents landlords from requiring tenants to submit payments electronically. Additionally, they will be prohibited from charging an additional fee for non-electronic payment, but may offer a discount to tenants who choose to pay electronically. Franks drafted the legislation following several discussions with constituents who felt that new electronic payment requirements introduced by their landlords were unfair. "This legislation simply requires that those residents not be penalized for their economic circumstances or payment... READ MORE

County starts process to find new Metra rep

March 27, 2014 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board has started the process by which it will appoint a successor to Jack Schaffer as the county’s representative on the Metra Board. It put out the call Wednesday for applicants interested in representing the county on the Metra Board, which handles suburban rail, and the Pace Board in charge of Chicago-area bus service. The four-year terms for both expire June 30. County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, said the processes will be open and transparent, similar to the process by which members appointed the county’s new representative to the Regional Transportation Authority Board last year. Candidates will be interviewed in open session by a panel which will make a recommendation for a full County Board vote. Given the publicity Metra has received in recent years – most of it lousy – Hill anticipates receiving a decent number of resumes. “I think we’ll get a good pool of applicants,” Hill said Thursday. Schaffer, a former state senator, said more than a year ago that he does not intend to seek a third term. Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley... READ MORE

Franks Bill to Close Double-Dipper Loophole Passes House

March 25, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo, which closes a loophole that certain officials exploit to pad taxpayer-funded salaries through appointment to transit authority boards of directors, passed the House unanimously on Friday. "After decades of corruption, enough politicians in prison to fill their own cell block, and countless millions of taxpayers' hard-earned money wasted on the same old political games, Illinois can no longer tolerate politicians following the letter of the law, while exploiting loopholes and ignoring the spirit of the law," Franks said. "The people I represent believe public service is about doing what's right and making life better for the people of Illinois, not enriching friends and cronies." House Bill 3659 makes individuals ineligible for appointment to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) board of directors if they concurrently hold a paid office with a unit of local government, excepting school districts. It also amends the Regional Transportation Authority Act to clarify that members of the RTA and Metra Boards may not concurrently be employed by the State or any department or... READ MORE

Franks Measure to Bolster Local Government Consolidation Clears Committee

March 25, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Legislation that will help reduce the number of local and municipal governments in Illinois was passed through the House Counties and Townships Committee today by state Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo. "Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of government with the authority to tax residents, almost 2,000 more than the next closest state," Franks said. "While it is imperative that we continue to work to reduce the size and scope of state government, we can also provide residents with substantial tax relief by identifying opportunities for consolidation and increased efficiency at the local level." House Bill 5785 grants various government entities the authority to annex, consolidate or dissolve following a majority vote of that entity's board. Currently, the units of government subject to this act have no authority to absorb other units of government, combine with them or to discontinue their own operations. This legislation creates further opportunities for residents and local officials to eliminate superfluous bureaucracy, increasing efficiency and helping to lower the tax burden on Illinois residents... READ MORE

State Rep. David Harris fights for Iraqi Jewish archive

March 21, 2014 - JUF News

An Illinois House resolution calling on the U.S. Department of State to reconsider returning Iraqi Jewish archives to Iraq passed unanimously out of the Illinois House Interational Trades & Commerce Committee on Thursday. Suzanne Strassberger, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's Associate Vice President of Government & Community Partnerships and registered lobbyist, signed on in support of House Joint Resolution 68, which was filed by State Representative David Harris in January. Harris filed the Resolution in an attempt “to urge the United States Department of State to renegotiate with the Government of Iraq … to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive collection be kept in a place where its long-term preservation … can be guaranteed.” The State Department recently announced its plan to return the Iraqi Jewish Archive collection, currently on display at the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C., to the Iraqi government this summer, stating the Iraqi people are the rightful owners... READ MORE

Lawmakers take aim at hunting fees for seniors

March 20, 2014 - The Southern Illinoisan

SPRINGFIELD -– Some Illinois seniors could someday hunt and fish for free under legislation endorsed by a House panel on Wednesday. Under the proposal, residents over the age of 75 would be able to obtain sport fishing and hunting licenses free of charge. For most Illinois residents, fishing licenses cost $15 and hunting licenses cost $12.50. Seniors 65 and older currently only have to pay half-price. Mike Stevens, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said the department would have to eliminate two or three employees if it could no longer rely on the revenue from those permit sales. “It will be about $260,000 loss of revenue,” Stevens said. “A loss in revenue to the Fish and Wildlife Fund would be a loss in headcount. It’s not like we can just take this money and absorb it somewhere else. These are people’s salaries. “ State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said he introduced the legislation to help seniors. “(A constituent) explained that being on a fixed income – with the cost of groceries and medical care and everything else... READ MORE

Illinois senior citizens could pay lower fishing, hunting license fees

March 19, 2014 - Quad-City Times

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois seniors someday could hunt and fish for free under legislation endorsed Wednesday by a House panel. Under the proposal, residents over the age of 75 would be able to obtain sport fishing and hunting licenses free of charge. For most Illinois residents, fishing licenses cost $15 and hunting licenses cost $12.50. Seniors 65 and older currently pay half-price. Mike Stevens, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said the department would have to eliminate two or three employees if it could no longer rely on the revenue from those permit sales. "It will be about $260,000 loss of revenue," Stevens said. "A loss in revenue to the Fish and Wildlife Fund would be a loss in headcount. It's not like we can just take this money and absorb it somewhere else. These are people's salaries. " Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said he introduced the legislation to help seniors. "(A constituent) explained that... READ MORE

Our View: Support for college loan study

March 19, 2014 - Northwest Herald

New legislation filed by state Rep. Jack Franks would authorize the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to study a change in the way students pay for their college education. Similar to legislation that has been filed in more than a dozen other states, the study would determine the financial feasibility of a “Pay It Forward” program, in which students attend college for free but pay for it after graduation in the form of a small, fixed percentage of their income. Repayment amounts could change as one’s earnings change. We support the study. Families with children in, approaching or already having graduated college know exactly how expensive higher education is. Most have to take out hefty loans that start coming due shortly after graduation, whether the student has a job or not. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, there are about 37 million student loan borrowers with outstanding student loans today, amounting to between $902 billion and $1 trillion in total outstanding debt burden. The national average... READ MORE

Voters to directly elect County Board chair

March 19, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Voters decided Tuesday that the power to elect the McHenry County Board chairman should rest with the public from now on. By almost 60 percent to 40 percent, voters approved a binding referendum to change the way the board chairman is elected. Starting in 2016, the voters will elect the chairman rather than the 24 board members themselves. Supporters for the change cast 18,722 votes, compared to 14,134 votes opposed, according to unofficial totals. Tuesday’s referendum is the culmination of a years-long political battle over the power and incumbency of the office. The County Board after the 2016 election will be made up of 25 members – the current 24-member board and the chairman. The chairman will not be a voting member, unlike now, and will only cast a vote to break a tie. The job comes with no extra powers except for the authority to call special meetings and the option to propose a redistricting of board districts following each decennial U.S. Census... READ MORE

Quinn gears up for the heavyweight fight

March 17, 2014 - Crain's Chicago Business

As he flies into his re-election campaign, Gov. Pat Quinn is carrying a lot of baggage. With a state economy still struggling to recover from the recession, the third-highest unemployment rate and the worst credit rating in the nation, his Republican opponent will start with an ample supply of talking points. And in the months ahead, the challenges of managing the state will provide even more fodder for attack ads. Mr. Quinn faces a huge governmental and political dilemma, caused by a temporary hike in income tax rates scheduled to roll back at year-end—halfway through the state's next fiscal year—leaving Illinois with a $1.7 billion revenue loss, a drop of nearly 9 percent. While his GOP opponents talk in generalities about cutting taxes and spending, Mr. Quinn must unveil a detailed annual budget proposal next week, requiring him to take a big political risk and call for some extension of tax rates or go against core Democratic voters—and his own values—by proposing drastic and specific... READ MORE

Franks’ bill takes aim at student loan debt

March 16, 2014 - Northwest Herald

A bill making its way through the state legislature potentially could transform the way students pay for college. Introduced by Jack Franks, D-Marengo, HB 5323 authorizes the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to study the feasibility of a “Pay It Forward” program. A “Pay It Forward” initiative would allow students to attend college for free and repay their loan after graduation in the form of a small, fixed percentage of their future disposable income. Similar legislation has been introduced in 17 states with proposals in the works in several others. Repayment can fluctuate as one’s earning potential changes. Under a proposal in Washington state, the repayment period is capped at 25 years. Franks said he was motivated to introduce the bill by his own experience with college-aged sons and amid growing concerns for college affordability and student loan debt. According to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, it costs an average of $11,552 a year in tuition and fees to attend one of the state’s 12 public... READ MORE

Common Sense Predictions, and an `Ike's Law' update

March 14, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

Those who take my political predictions to the bank are wont to come home with empty wallets, but here’s my best-guess list of the winners in 10 key primary races Tuesday. GOP governor: Bruce Rauner GOP U.S. Senate: Doug Truax Illinois House: Ron Sandack, Ed Sullivan, Toni Berrios, Jaimie Andrade, Christian Mitchell and Derrick Smith. Cook County Board, 1st District: Isaac “Ike” Carothers I’ll be very happy to be wrong about some of these picks and to have my faith in voters restored. Is your crystal ball clearer than mine? Click here to vote in the prediction survey, then come back Monday afternoon to see how readers’ prognostications match up with those of editorial writer Kristen McQueary and me on our “Common Sense Caucus” webcast. Leave you individual predictions on all nine races in comments if you want to vie for bragging rights Wednesday morning... READ MORE

Our View: Tryon's bill pushes up transparency

March 14, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Finding data from state government agencies can be a pain. It’s exacerbated when it takes months to even appear. State Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, is taking responsibility to ease that pain with House Bill 1040. The bill moves the responsibility for posting data to the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal to the governor’s office, along with mandating all state departments to come up with a plan to more quickly get data posted and updated. That information includes state employees’ pay, state agency expenses and contracts and local governments’ annual finance reports. The portal was created five years ago through another Tryon bill, after the arrest and impeachment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. “My original version was, when you write a check, it’s put online. When there’s a contract that’s executed, it’s put online. Not in five months, but as soon as possible. I think what’s happening is there has not been consistent posting requirements,” Tryon told... READ MORE

Lawmaker Wants Information On Alternative College Debt Repayment Programs

March 13, 2014 - WNIJ News

The General Assembly is considering a plan to look at alternative student debt repayment programs. Currently, many student loans require payment to begin six months after graduation, regardless of whether or not the graduate is employed. Representative Jack Franks says this model is unfair to those having a tough time finding a good job. The Democrat from Marengo is sponsoring legislation to determine how other states are setting up repayment schedules based on the ability to pay. "I think it'd be much more humane, it'll allow people to go and get higher education without shackling them to this incredible debt that many people just could never dig themselves out of," Franks said. Franks says under this "Pay it Forward" program... READ MORE

Library hosts mini-golf, 'After Dark' event for adults

March 13, 2014 - Plan It Northwest

The goal after dark at the Woodstock Public library is to avoid the books. Or at least try not to hit them with your golf ball. The library will transform March 14 and 15 into an 18-hole miniature golf course traveling all three levels of the building at 414 W. Judd St. To add to the festivities, March 14 also will include an After Dark event for adults to treat themselves to drinks and hors d'oeuvres, whether they choose to golf or not. Yes, basically, it's a bar at the library. "It was so successful last year, we were euphoric," said Gale Hoch, a library board member who helps organize the event. The events aren't new to Woodstock, with the Friends of the Woodstock Public Library hosting the Mini Links for the past six years. The group first added the adult-only After Dark attraction last year. For Woodstock and other libraries throughout the area, it's all about stretching the boundaries beyond the bookshelves. Even when libraries close to the public for the day, many remain open for after hour events, such as movies, speakers, activities, puppet shows, book... READ MORE

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State considers alternative student debt repayments

March 12, 2014 - Peoria Public Radio

The General Assembly is considering a plan to look at alternative student debt repayment programs. Currently, many student loans require payment to begin six months after graduation, regardless of whether or not the graduate is employed. Representative Jack Franks says this model is unfair to those having a tough time finding a good job. The Democrat from Marengo is sponsoring legislation to determine how other states are setting up repayment schedules based on the ability to pay: "I think it'd be much more humane, it'll allow people to go and get higher education without shackling them to this incredible debt that many people just could never dig themselves out of... READ MORE

Colleges, Illinois lawmakers look for ways to cut higher education costs

March 11, 2014 - Rockford Register Star

As the cost of attending an Illinois state university continues to climb, Illinois lawmakers are pushing various pieces of legislation to try and address affordability. One such bill, HB 5323, passed the Illinois House this month by unanimous vote. The bill requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, ISAC, to study the feasibility of “Pay it Forward” programs. Such programs give loans to eligible students and only require the loan to be repaid in proportion to the income of the student borrowers, generally after they find work. “I’m a father of two sons who are going to college,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. “As I started digging into this, I wondered how people could afford it. This is very serious. Student loan debt has ballooned in this country, and I believe it’s the next bubble.” According to ISAC, tuition at public universities more than quadrupled, from... READ MORE

New Plan For Student Loan Repayment

March 11, 2014 - Alton Daily News

A new bill could lead to more affordable alternatives to pay for college. The bill would have the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) look at programs that allow students to attend state universities and community colleges while putting off paying tuition until after graduation. Unlike regular student loans, however, repayment would based on what a student is earning. One of the bill’s sponsors, State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), says now, recent graduates struggle to pay back those loans. “It’s just a crushing burden that students can’t handle when they come out,” Franks said, “and as a result, all of us suffer for it because they’re not buying cars, they’re not buying homes, they’re living at home. It does have a real adverse effect on the economy, as well as on the students’ lives.” Franks says interest would “probably” be added to those loans. The measure was approved 111-0 in the House. Franks expects the bill to be voted on... READ MORE