News

Lawmaker blasts Quinn's Lottery deal—but can it be stopped? Well...

December 10, 2014 - Crain's Chicago Business

A prominent Springfield lawmaker is blasting a deal outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn struck to replace the Illinois Lottery's private manager, saying it makes little sense to fire Northstar Lottery Group and then give its owners "a cherry on the sundae." But Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, concedes he may not be able to do anything about it. And so far, aides to Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner are stopping short of promising action, though they are highly critical. As earlier reported, the Quinn administration announced a settlement yesterday under which Northstar will immediately cease working as the Lottery's manager, but its two major owners, GTech and Scientific Games, are guaranteed to continue lucrative work as lottery vendors on technical matters at least until June 2018. Quinn "still is governor... READ MORE

Gotta change the priorities: Rep Jack Franks on Illinois Watchdog Radio

December 10, 2014 - Illinois Review

From Illlinois' continued payment to connected insiders at the lottery to phony budgets, State Rep Jack Franks talks about fixing Illinois' upside down priorities. Franks was a guest on Illinois Watchdog Radio 12-10-14... READ MORE

Judy Baar Topinka: McHenry County leaders react to death of Illinois comptroller

December 10, 2014 - Northwest Herald

News of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s death was met Wednesday with statewide shock and despair, and the reactions were no different in McHenry County. Related Links From the archives: Judy Baar Topinka, award-winning journalist before being Illinois comptroller Illinois in uncharted waters replacing Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's more colorful moments Judy Baar Topinka: McHenry County leaders react to death of Illinois comptroller Our View: Judy Baar Topinka was devoted to public service in Illinois Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka dies after stroke Topinka, who last month won a second term as the state’s comptroller, died... READ MORE

Illinois Lottery severs ties with private manager

December 9, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

The split between the Illinois Lottery and its private manager, Northstar Lottery Group, is now official after three years of acrimony over lower-than-expected revenues. The termination agreement, signed Tuesday by Gov. Pat Quinn, comes a little more than three months after he directed lottery officials to sever ties with the company after it fell short of promised revenues for the third consecutive year. At the time, the company had posted record profits to the state, but those figures still totaled nearly a half-billion dollars less than what was pledged to cash-strapped Illinois when the company took over the day-to-day operation of the lottery in July 2011.... READ MORE

Marengo, Lake in the Hills surprised by gas station gambling ruling

December 6, 2014 - Northwest Herald

LAKE IN THE HILLS – An Illinois Gaming Board decision that granted a Lake in the Hills gas station permission to use video gaming machines and allow customers to play the electronic slots surprised village officials. fficials were startled to learn that the Gaming Board, in its license approval, considered the gas station – located miles away from the nearest interstate – a truck stop. Marengo officials are also grappling with a proposal from a Shell station that wants to allow customers to consume alcohol on-site. The move would make the gas station eligible for the same video gaming license the state’s gaming authority has awarded to numerous bars and restaurants. “When you think of a truck stop... READ MORE

Our View: No lame-duck session is good news

December 4, 2014 - Northwest Herald

There is good news and bad news regarding state government this week. The bad news, of course, is that our state is still in shambles. The half-hearted pension reform legislators passed is expected to be ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court. The unfunded pension liability now stands at $111 billion. There’s another $6 billion remaining in unpaid bills. The good news? It appears there will be no lame-duck session of the Legislature in January. Or as state Rep. Jack Franks put it: “There will be no shenanigans as there have been in the past.” Those past shenanigans include the January 2011 lame-duck session, when tax rates were raised 67 percent and 46 percent on households and businesses, respectively. The increases were billed by Democratic lawmakers as necessary to stabilize the state’s desperate finances... READ MORE

Illinois lawmakers to adjourn without lame-duck session, minimum wage vote

December 2, 2014 - Northwest Herald

The Illinois House will adjourn Wednesday without taking up a minimum wage vote or most other serious legislation until the swearing-in of the new General Assembly and Governor-elect Bruce Rauner. House Speaker Michael Madigan told fellow Democrats on Tuesday that the 98th General Assembly will adjourn with the end of business, state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said. Lawmakers will next reconvene Jan. 14 with the seating of the 99th General Assembly. This also means that there will be no January lame-duck session in which legislation can get rammed through by outgoing lawmakers, including any extension of the 2011 income tax increase set to substantially expire Jan. 1. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown confirmed the news, and said that while Madigan firmly believes in raising the minimum wage, the number of... READ MORE

Schaumburg: Open your wallet for public documents

November 23, 2014 - Northwest Herald

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, is working hard to get the state’s minimum wage increased during this fall’s veto session in Springfield. It’s the least Springfield can do. After all, you are going to need more money to pay for public documents that belong to you after the state Legislature gets its way. Last spring, state government rammed through legislation that sought to limit the public’s access to public documents through Freedom of Information Act requests. House Bill 3796 lets governments identify certain FOIA requests as “voluminous.” Then, the government unit can delay providing information and charge between $20 and $100 for electronic data. Yes, you could pay $100 for information that already belongs to you. Voluminous is defined in the bill as a request that includes more than... READ MORE

Franks: Wait on Lincoln Library decision

November 20, 2014 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD -- The chair of a state committee says lawmakers should wait for an outside study before considering plans to separate the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from a state agency. Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks leads the State Government Administration Committee. He says it's "prudent" to wait for the report experts will submit in January. House Speaker Michael Madigan brought back a proposal this month to separate the museum from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The Democrat initially proposed the bill following a clash between leaders of the two organizations. It wasn't called by the Senate. His reintroduced bill remains in committee. Experts commissioned by Franks' committee are studying the issue. Franks says things aren't working but he... READ MORE

Jim Dey: Lincoln's library has own fight on secession

November 20, 2014 - The News-Gazette

President Abraham Lincoln waged a costly civil war to prevent secession. Now, nearly 10 years after a presidential library in his honor was opened in Springfield, supporters of this nation's 16th president are waging their own war of secession. Fearing the eventual demise of this valuable historic and tourist resource, they want to sever the bonds of servitude from the library/museum and free it from tyranny represented by its overseer, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Preservation agency chiefs don't see the issue in the same light. Hence, the ongoing political battle under way in the Illinois General Assembly over the library's future. Will it remain under the control of the preservation agency? Or be freed to operate as an independent organization? "I think wholesale change is necessary," said state Rep. Jack Franks, chairman of the House State Government Administration Committee. "But I don't know what it looks... READ MORE

Franks: Hold off on making agency for ALPLM

November 19, 2014 - The State Journal-Register

The Illinois House apparently will wait for the results of a study panel before deciding whether to make the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a stand-alone state agency. Following a hearing of the House State Government Administration Committee on the issue Wednesday, chairman Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said it would be prudent to wait until the report is delivered in mid-January. “I want to hear from experts. Otherwise we’re guessing,” Franks said. “I want to hear what the best practices are with other states and other institutions and learn from them and create possible library and museum we can. Because, right now, it’s clear it isn’t working as it should... READ MORE

Illinois Lincoln Museum Could 'Secede' From Library

November 18, 2014 - WNIJ

A museum devoted to the president who held the union together could itself secede from the Illinois agency that oversees it. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield is one of Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's top attractions. But leaders of the two entities and a supporting foundation have reportedly been at odds--to the point that House Speaker Mike Madigan is proposing to split the museum off on its own. Legislators are scheduled to debate the idea this week, at a committee... READ MORE

From the community: Tax Relief Cannot Wait until Next Year

November 17, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - State Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo, released the following statement calling for critical tax relief proposals to be acted upon by the Illinois General Assembly during Veto Session: "When the legislature returns to Springfield this week, the current state of Illinois' economy makes conducting business as usual simply unacceptable. Our state lags well behind in job creation and economic growth, and our long-term fiscal solvency remains in jeopardy. "The results of the election sent a clear message: the people of Illinois are demanding tax relief. The expiration of Governor Quinn's 2011 income tax hike will be a strong boost to taxpayers' bottom lines, but it alone cannot be expected to cure all. To jumpstart the growth our state needs, an overhaul of our antiquated and inequitable tax system is required, and the legislature should not miss the opportunity to begin this process. "In September, I introduced House Bill... READ MORE

Millionaire tax proposal still a long shot in Illinois

November 10, 2014 - Quad-City Times

SPRINGFIELD — A majority of Illinois voters backed a proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot to raise taxes on millionaires but don't look for the wealthy to be pinching their pennies any time soon. In order for such a tax to become law, the Illinois Constitution would have to be changed. And that can't happen for at least two more years. Last Tuesday, about 64 percent of voters backed House Speaker Michael Madigan's nonbinding "millionaire tax" proposal, which would tack a 3 percent income tax surcharge on taxpayers who make more than $1 million. The money raised, estimated to be $1 billion based on the number of households with incomes topping the $1 million mark, would go to help fund public schools. But Tuesday's vote was only... READ MORE

New Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner administration: Lawmakers, experts weigh in

November 8, 2014 - Northwest Herald

When CEOs want things done, their employees leap into action and get them done. It’s not a management philosophy that works when a Republican CEO is elected governor with a General Assembly dominated by the other party. But Springfield watchers and McHenry County’s state representatives said they are confident that Governor-elect Bruce Rauner will work well with Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to address the significant hurdles facing Illinois. The bottom line is that both sides are going to have to make deals to move initiatives through, said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale... READ MORE

McHenry County Republicans say new leadership fueled local rout

November 7, 2014 - Northwest Herald

The McHenry County Republican Party shared in the national rout the GOP achieved Tuesday night. After eight years with a small Democratic minority, the new County Board that will be seated Dec. 1 will again revert to all Republican rule after GOP newcomers defeated the 24-member board’s two Democratic incumbents and convincingly thumped two other Democratic challengers. And Bill Prim, the McHenry County sheriff’s candidate who narrowly edged out Undersheriff Andrew Zinke in the March primary, received 60 percent of the vote Tuesday to defeat independent candidate Jim Harrison. Republicans nationally took control of the U.S. Senate, increased their hold on the U.S. House, and gained control of several governor’s offices when most polls expected them to lose a few overall. Besides Bruce Rauner’s win in Illinois over Pat Quinn... READ MORE

Democrats Consider Supermajority in Illinois House

November 6, 2014 - Alton Daily News

When the music stopped on Election Night, only one of the 177 seats in the Illinois General Assembly switched parties. That would be the one held by State Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline), who lost to Neil Anderson. The Democrats will hold 71 of the 118 seats in the House and 39 of the 59 in the Senate. State House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) credits talent and hard work. “I think what you have is a bunch of hard-working people who were able to connect well with their constituents,” she says, “and we also have people working with us who have been-there-done-that; (who) know how to put together a campaign (and) know how to make sure that the vote comes out.” As for that 71-member “supermajority” which, if deployed, could override a governor's veto, all you have to do is look to State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) to give the lie to that concept... READ MORE

Lake County Clerk calls Election Day lawsuit ‘extraordinary takeover’

November 5, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

Outgoing Lake County Clerk Willard Helander said Wednesday that an Election Day order forcing five polling places to stay open until 9 p.m. “was an extraordinary takeover of the election.” The extended voting window at grace registration sites came after a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. One of the complaints related to voters who previously requested absentee ballots but then decided to vote in person. Madigan’s second complaint alleges that Helander was denying voters a chance to cast ballots because grace registration and same-day voting didn’t open until 10 a.m. at five county sites, even though the polls were open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Madigan said the grace sites should have been operating those same hours. “The 10 a.m. opening time was in a legal notice that was published 10 to 15 days before the election. This [lawsuit] was a reaction at the end of an Election Day by individuals that need more votes in the bank,” Helander said... READ MORE

Pyke: Is 10-year plan for Metra hikes justified?

October 20, 2014 - Daily Herald

A Metra white paper that makes the case for a fare increase, totaling 68 percent compounded over 10 years, contains some interesting numbers. Although the report features 51 references to capital, 47 mentions of train cars, 34 uses of the word "locomotive" and 47 appearances by the phrase "positive train control," there's just one reference to a proposed 3 percent cost-of-living increase each year for a decade. "We're looking at the riders and meeting their demands to have the best service possible, a safe, efficient, comfortable ride," Executive Director Don Orseno said Friday. Much of the focus as Metra leaders explained their bold financial plan these last few days has been on the tangible things -- $1.2 billion for 367 new train cars, $594.5 million to rebuild 85 locomotives and buy 52 new ones, an estimated $400 million for positive train control... READ MORE

Our View: Jack Franks for 63rd state representative

October 16, 2014 - Northwest Herald

McHENRY – A proposed school funding formula would be devastating to the collar counties and their school districts, one state legislator told local school officials, teachers and residents. The statement was part of a running theme at the Tuesday forum, which was one of several state Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, has put on to raise awareness of Senate Bill 16. The forum featured two school superintendents, a school finance director, a District 47 school board member and several local legislators. The bill, which passed through the Illinois Senate and sits in the House Rules Committee, would shift general state aid away from the suburbs, where property values are high, to poorer, rural districts. That would mean $5.8 million less for Crystal Lake’s District 47, according to updated projections put out by the Illinois State Board of Education based on the most recent version of the bill. A cut of that size would be the equivalent of... READ MORE

Proposed Illinois school funding formula would affect McHenry County, lawmakers and officials warn

October 14, 2014 - Northwest Herald

McHENRY – A proposed school funding formula would be devastating to the collar counties and their school districts, one state legislator told local school officials, teachers and residents. The statement was part of a running theme at the Tuesday forum, which was one of several state Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, has put on to raise awareness of Senate Bill 16. The forum featured two school superintendents, a school finance director, a District 47 school board member and several local legislators. The bill, which passed through the Illinois Senate and sits in the House Rules Committee, would shift general state aid away from the suburbs, where property values are high, to poorer, rural districts. That would mean $5.8 million less for Crystal Lake’s District 47, according to updated... READ MORE

Thursday’s NRI hearing answers few questions

October 9, 2014 - Illinois Watchdog

CHICAGO — As the second day of hearings regarding Gov. Pat Quinn’s scrutinized Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) proceeded before the Legislative Audit Commission, more questions arose as to the whereabouts of a study to determine the criteria for which communities would receive funding from the program. State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, co-chairs the audit commission and said the greatest mystery of the hearings was the inability to locate the study that helped determine which communities and organizations were most in need of funding through the NRI. “There was some analysis somewhere that showed us something, of which none of us remember what it was, how it was based or can produce the document that supposedly exists,” Barickman said. Barickman’s comments were aimed toward former Quinn advisor Jack Lavin, who testified before the commission... READ MORE

Sen. Althoff, area lawmakers and school administrators will host forum on impact of SB 16, bill to redirect school funds in Illinois

October 9, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

A public forum hosted by state Senator Pamela Althoff, (R-McHenry) is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 14, at McHenry West High School Auditorium, 4724 W. Crystal Lake Road in McHenry. Residents are invited to attend the forum to hear about the impact of SB 16 on suburban Illinois schools and property taxpayers. Senator Althoff, local state representatives and school officials will outline the negative implications of the education funding reform legislation contained in SB 16. Speakers are expected to include Senator Althoff, State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles), State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), State Representative Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake), School District 18 Superintendent Jerry Trickett, School District 47 Superintendent Kathy Hinz, School District.. READ MORE

Taxes, economy at issue in Quinn-Rauner debate

October 9, 2014 - Daily Herald

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner continued their monthslong battle over taxes and the economy in their first televised debate, questioning each other's leadership skills and disagreeing sharply on the election's key issues. The two candidates fought for the populist high ground as Rauner talked of lower taxes, Quinn pushed an increase in the minimum wage, and both argued he'd be the man that spends more money on public schools. play video video Full debate Quinn sought to contrast his plans to raise Illinois' minimum wage above $10 per hour against Rauner's personal wealth: "A person taking in $53 million a year, running around Illinois saying eliminate the minimum wage," Quinn said. Rauner, meanwhile, pointed to Quinn's years in office... READ MORE

Civil war - Fight continues over ALPLM

October 9, 2014 - Illinois Times

Dysfunction and acrimony were on full display last week as state lawmakers in Chicago discussed the future of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Officials charged with running the museum threw brickbats at each other during the hearing of the House State Government Administration Committee. ALPLM executive director Eileen Mackevich told lawmakers that she isn’t allowed to make decisions about hiring or spending. She said that she had no meaningful role in hiring either the institution’s chief of staff or deputy director. “Why do we need you?” asked Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, chairman of the committee. “I’m redundant,” admitted Mackevich, who described Amy Martin, head of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency that is the institution’s umbrella agency... READ MORE

Attorney General warns against identity theft at Crystal Lake forum

October 8, 2014 - My Suburban Life

CRYSTAL LAKE – Every year, there are about 200,000 complaints about consumer issues that come into the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Wednesday during a Crystal Lake forum. Attended by more than 40 community leaders, elected officials and law enforcement agents, the roundtable event was intended to address those concerns, such as consumer fraud and identity theft. “Back in 2006, for the first time ever, identity theft was the No. 1 consumer fraud complaint category,” Madigan said, adding it was only displaced to No. 2 after the 2008 recession hoisted issues of mortgage-related scams to the top spot... READ MORE

Lawmakers Debate Overhaul Of Lincoln Library & Museum

October 1, 2013 - CBS2 Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – State lawmakers on Wednesday discussed the future of the Abraham Presidential Library and Museum, amid a proposal by House Speaker Michael Madigan to split it off from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports the House State Government Administration Committee met in Chicago to take up the issue. Madigan has argued IHPA control of the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield has hamstrung the institution. Supporters of the plan to separate ALPLM have said problems with the current governance of the facility have led to squabbles between the museum advisory board and the IHPA board, and significant debt for the private fundraising foundation. State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), who... READ MORE

Official: Donations drying up for Lincoln library

October 1, 2014 - Seattle PI

CHICAGO (AP) — Top officials at the foundation behind the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum said Wednesday that fundraising is drying up because of tensions between the library's executive director and the director of the state agency that oversees it. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation's chair and CEO told a legislative panel in Chicago on Wednesday that they've heard from numerous donors who are holding off until "issues are resolved" — and that this year's fundraising totals are about $1.5 million behind the $4.7 million raised by the foundation in 2013. "Yesterday, these prospective donors said, 'Tell us why we should give to you. There are a lot of places we give, and it seems you're in the midst of a lot of dissention,'" CEO Carla Knorowski said. "This continues almost certainly on a weekly basis." The dip in donations was detailed at the hearing scheduled after outcry over legislation sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan that would... READ MORE

Lawmaker: Management makeover at Lincoln museum still needed

November 26, 2014 - Politics Early & Often

SPRINGFIELD-Oversight of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum -- a politically charged fight that surrounds one of the state’s biggest tourism gems and that's been on legislative hiatus since May -- will resurface next week as a new round of hearings on the issue opens. The House State Government Administration Committee will convene on Wednesday in Chicago to take up a management makeover of the museum that House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, first raised in the closing hours of the spring legislative session. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, chairman of the panel, voted against Madigan’s legislation but now said he wants to explore the issue more deeply and position a restructuring package for a vote next spring under a newly seated General Assembly. Franks said he isn’t sure what that package will... READ MORE

Sheriff to begin testing body cameras in McHenry County

September 21, 2014 - Northwest Herald

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office will be the first agency in the county to experiment with body-worn cameras, a trendy police tool sweeping the nation in the wake of the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri. The Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson and the racially charged protests in the St. Louis suburb that followed have raised questions about police tactics and the police relationship with the public. Where's the story? PointsMentioned Map 11 Points Mentioned Agencies across the country are beginning to test whether body cameras – generally the size of a pager – are the answer. In Illinois alone, police in Chicago, Elgin, Peoria and Springfield have considered body cameras for their officers after Ferguson police began attaching them to their uniforms following Brown’s shooting. Last week, McHenry County Sheriff deputies tried on body-worn cameras for the first time ahead of a 45-day experimental... READ MORE

Committee nixes McHenry County Board restructuring

September 21, 2014 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – A committee sees no need to recommend altering the number of McHenry County Board members and districts after the next U.S. Census. The second meeting of the Reorganization Committee will be its last, as members concluded that the County Board’s structure is adequate, and that talk of changing it is at the very least premature, with the next opportunity to do so seven years and four elections away. Thursday’s meeting comprised just under half of the board. “The majority of members felt that we are in pretty good shape as to where they are ... we’re not hearing an outcry from the public as to, ‘There’s too many board members,’ ” said committee Chairwoman Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake. The opinion of the committee, shared since its inaugural July meeting, was that the entire debate has been politically driven... READ MORE

ALPLM panel to convene peace talks

September 18, 2014 - Illinois Times

Members of an advisory board to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library have agreed to sit on a panel designed to explore governance issues that erupted last spring when the board’s chairman pushed legislation to divorce the institution from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Steven Beckett, a University Illinois law professor who chairs the advisory board, had blasted the IHPA’s proposal for an ad hoc panel to discuss governance. He says that he still wants the ALPLM to become a stand-alone agency, but not everyone on his board agrees. “I have a divided board that wants to keep an open mind,” Beckett said. “I can’t represent to you that it’s peace and harmony. I can represent that we’ll work with IHPA people on ideas and suggestions on how governance can be improved.” Two advisory board members... READ MORE

Critic dubs Metra’s $1.3M tab for Clifford exit ‘indefensible’

September 4, 2014 - Politics Early & Often

Metra’s total tab to bid adieu to former CEO Alex Clifford and deal with the fallout was $1.3 million — just over half of that for outside lawyers and crisis consulting, officials revealed Thursday. One critic called the ultimate tab “indefensible,” but new Metra Board Chairman Martin Oberman said the suburban commuter rail agency has since taken steps to avoid a repeat of the messy episode. The Metra board’s June 21, 2013 decision to pay Clifford up to $871,000 to resign with eight months left on his contract ignited a firestorm of criticism. The fine print showed the golden handshake included retroactive as well as future raises over as long as a 26-month period. Afterwards, six board members... READ MORE

House Republicans blast Quinn's new insurance tax

September 4, 2014 - Crain's Chicago Business

Complaining they were “misled,” Illinois House Republicans are asking Gov. Pat Quinn not to enforce a significant new business tax they helped create a few months ago."There's anger,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said in an interview. “People are upset.” he co-chaired earlier this year on business tax reform issues. “It's going to be very difficult to trust the administration in the future when they seek a technical change.” Spokesmen for the Department of Insurance and the governor did not have an immediate... READ MORE

DNR: Cheaper hunting, fishing licenses unavailable until Oct. 1, says refund will be offered

August 27, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Chuck Lemker of Crystal Lake was looking forward to purchasing hunting and fishing licenses at a reduced price this month. He should have been able to starting Aug. 1 when Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law House Bill 4329, which allows Illinois' senior residents to obtain hunting and fishing licenses at a reduced cost of $1, and various stamps for free. Much to the 81-year-old's dismay, though, the reduced fee was not available when he tried a couple days after Aug. 1 to purchase a license online. “The bottom line is although the bill was signed by the governor Aug. 1, we still don't have an effective law,” Lemker said Tuesday. Although the law is in effect, the system is not yet ready, according to the Department of Natural Resources. “Changes to the system started back in late-April, early-May as soon as it became clear the bill would be passed,” spokesman Chris Young said. “However, there are an awful lot of systems that had to be reprogrammed and tested. … It's just taking a while. Systems have to be... READ MORE

Metra chair: Firm should temporarily act as chief audit officer

August 25, 2014 - Politics Early & Often

After two unsuccessful candidate searches, the Metra board is expected to hire an experienced public sector auditing firm for up to $330,000 to temporarily assume the new “reform” role of chief audit officer and other tasks. A search by Metra’s human resources department, as well as one by professional search firm Krauthamer & Associates, so far has failed to uncover “the right person” for a job board members feel is crucial to Metra’s reform efforts, Metra Board chairman Martin Oberman said Monday. Of the final round of seven or eight candidates interviewed by board members since April, some turned out to be “not interested;” others did not have the right “credentials” or “seasoning,” Oberman said. “I’ve seen the candidates. They are not bad people. They are just not the right person for the job,” Oberman said. “This is a very senior position. You want them to have respect in the organization. You don’t just hire someone with an accounting degree after their name... READ MORE

A tiny step toward smaller government

August 25, 2014 - Herald Review

Gov. Pat Quinn quietly signed a bill last week that takes a small step toward giving taxpayers a chance to reduce the number of local governments in Illinois. A really small step. Almost too small to notice. Quinn signed House Bill 5785, which gives the most obscure units of local government the power to eliminate themselves. We don't want to diminish the efforts of Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, who has worked tirelessly to trim the state's nearly 7,000 units of local government. With these governmental units banding together and using tax dollars to lobby against their elimination, any step is worth noting. The new law would allow the boards of taxing districts such as cemetery, civic center, port, waste disposal, street lighting, water authority and a few other districts to either consolidate into a neighboring district or have their... READ MORE

Metra chair: Firm should temporarily act as chief audit officer

August 25, 2014 - Chicago Sun-Times

After two unsuccessful candidate searches, the Metra board is expected to hire an experienced public sector auditing firm for up to $330,000 to temporarily assume the new “reform” role of chief audit officer and other tasks. A search by Metra’s human resources department, as well as one by professional search firm Krauthamer & Associates, so far has failed to uncover “the right person” for a job board members feel is crucial to Metra’s reform efforts, Metra Board chairman Martin Oberman said Monday. Of the final round of seven or eight candidates interviewed by board members since April, some turned out to be “not interested;” others did not have the right “credentials” or “seasoning,” Oberman said. “I’ve seen the candidates. They are not bad people. They are just not the right person for the job,” Oberman said. “This is a very senior position. You want them to have respect... READ MORE

Local agencies can consolidate if they choose

August 25, 2014 - My Suburban Life

SPRINGFIELD – A new law makes it easier for local government bodies to consolidate or eliminate themselves. Gov. Quinn signed a bill earlier this month that enables local taxing bodies to join rather than continue operating as separate entities. Before the law was passed, local units of government had no authority to absorb, combine or eliminate other units of government. Now, a majority vote from a particular entity’s board will allow for consolidation or discontinuation of various units for the sake of efficiency, fiscal practicality or logistical purposes. State Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Barrington, helped State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston sponsor the bill in the Senate. Duffy said this legislation could help reduce the growing cost of government in the Land of Lincoln. “There’s just too many bodies taking money from people,” Duffy said. “This will at least give local entities the opportunity to reduce the tax burden of the residents of the state.” Biss said local control leads... READ MORE

State portal still doesn’t include local gov’t salaries

August 24, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Tryon agreed that CMS should move to add the local government salary data. He agreed with Franks that CMS has a tendency to inflate costs, and said the cost of creating the portal came in far under its initial estimate when lawmakers were advancing Tryon’s bill. “I think a transparent government is what everybody wants. When you look at the investment that every unit of government has made in [information technology] and computer systems, this should be a relatively easy job for anybody to do,” Tryon said. State law already requires local governments to post online the annual salaries of all employees whose total compensation exceeds $75,000. About this series “No More Excuses” is the Northwest Herald’s ongoing series of stories about the public’s right to know in Illinois. What it means State lawmakers... READ MORE

Tuition-Free College?

August 23, 2014 - Alton Daily News

llinois will look at the possibility of allowing students to go to state colleges tuition-free—at least until they graduate. The newly signed legislation will have the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) study “pay it forward” options for attending college. “What that means is to allow students to go to university tuition-free and then pay back after they’ve got a job and take a portion of their salary to pay it back,” State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) said. Franks says he is concerned about the cost to the state, which is part of the reason why his legislation called for a study before potentially implementing that kind of program. He expects ISAC to issue its recommendations by the beginning of 2015.... READ MORE

State Agency Breaking The Law, Not Being Disciplined

August 22, 2014 - My Suburban Life

SPRINGFIELD - If you disobey the law, you could get in trouble. But, it's a different story for state agencies. Central Management Services was mandated by law in 2012 to expand a state employee database to include city employees. But, they don't have the money to do it. So, they haven't. "I don't believe not having enough money gives you an excuse not to abide by the law" says Emmanuel Woods, an upset taxpayer. In a statement CMS says, "At the time of this bill's hearing, CMS's preliminary estimate of the upfront cost of implementation was $480,000 and ongoing annual costs were $240,000 after year one." Lawmakers like Representative Jack Franks who sponsored the legislation says money was never mentioned during the drafting of the bill. Resident Amber Francis says she too doesn't have a strong budget, but that doesn't stop her from staying within the law. "If I drive my vehicle without having insurance - if I can afford it or not - I still have to scrape together enough money to be able to be within the law... READ MORE

Bill prompted by Woodstock police scandal signed into law

August 20, 2014 - The Woodstock Independent

A bill proposed in the wake of controversy over the alleged conduct of a Woodstock Police Department sergeant was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn Aug. 15. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said the legislation he introduced in February that increases the penalties for “grooming” minors may have helped to prosecute Sgt. Charles “Chip” Amati, who in 2013 was accused of sending a text message to a 12-year-old girl asking her for “sexy pictures.” At the time, prosecutors said that message didn’t constitute criminal behavior. “It was such an outrageous situation where law enforcement felt like their hands were tied by the way the law was written,” Franks said. “It didn’t give them an opportunity to charge or punish him, if those allegations were true.” House Bill 5290, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, stiffens the penalties for grooming minors, a term used to describe the act of connecting with children in order to sexually abuse or exploit them. Under the new... READ MORE

OUR VIEW: What do we want? Less government

August 20, 2014 - The Times

THE ISSUE: Quinn signs government consolidation law OUR VIEW: Citizens need to pick up the cause of smaller government Advocates for political reform in Illinois have long targeted the state's obscenely large number of government bodies as ripe for increased efficiency and, hopefully, reduced taxpayer expense. The state has nearly 7,000 taxing bodies, "by far the highest number per capita in the nation," according to Reboot Illinois. According to Census data, California, with a population exceeding 37 million, has 4,425 government units, or 11.88 per 100,000 people. The No. 2 state, Pennsylvania, has 4,897 government units for its 12.7 million residents, a rate of 38.55 per 100,000. IIllinois' per capita rate is 54.57 per 100,000. Florida manages 1,650 government units for 18.8 million people — a rate of 8.78 per 100,000. But perhaps at long last Illinois' number will begin... READ MORE

Local governments can now consolidate if they so choose

August 19, 2014 - Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — A new law makes it easier for local government bodies to consolidate or eliminate themselves. Monday, Gov. Quinn signed a bill that enables local taxing bodies to join rather than continue operating as separate entities. Before the law was passed this week, local units of government had no authority to absorb, combine or eliminate other units of government. Now, a majority vote from a particular entity’s board will allow for consolidation or discontinuation of various units for the sake of efficiency, fiscal practicality or logistical purposes. State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, was one of two Senate co-sponsors of the legislation. He said local control leads to better results. “I don’t think this bill is a silver bullet for all of our problems,” Biss said. “But it is a good step toward... READ MORE

The most exciting places in Illinois

August 19, 2014 - Reboot Illinois

Although Illinois struggles with a crippling pension crisis and corruption, it’s still an awesome place to live. To highlight the fun side of living in Illinois, real estate blog site Movoto.com made a list of the top 10 most exciting places in Illinois. Movoto made the list by ranking the 100 most populous cities in Illinois, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, on the following criteria: Most nightlife and live music venues per capita Most active life options per capita Fewest fast food venues per capita Highest percentage of non-fast food restaurants Highest percentage of residents ages 18 to 34 Please note these were the same 100 places used to rank the most boring places in Illinois... READ MORE

Quinn signs bill allowing some governments to consolidate

August 18, 2014 - Northwest Herald

A bill that gives some of the state's most esoteric and obscure units of local government the power to eliminate themselves is now law. House Bill 5785, sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, empowers these governments to consolidate or vote themselves out of existence if they so choose. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill on Monday. Franks has called the bill a step in the right direction toward paring down Illinois' almost 7,000 units of government, by far the most of any state. "While it is imperative that we continue to work to reduce the size and scope of state government, we can also provide residents with meaningful tax relief by identifying opportunities for consolidation and increased efficiency at the local level," Franks said in a statement. The new law allows the boards of such eclectic taxing districts as cemetery, civic center, museum, port, waste disposal, street lighting, water authority and other districts to either consolidate into a neighboring district... READ MORE

Gov. Pat Quinn pulls plug on contract with Northstar Lottery Group

August 16, 2014 - Rockford Register Star

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn is pulling the plug on the private manager hired to increase sales of the Illinois Lottery. With Northstar Lottery Group consistently failing to meet the sale goals it promised when it won the contract to manage the lottery, Quinn said it was time to end the arrangement. The story was first reported by Crain’s Chicago Business. “The administration has had serious concerns with Northstar’s performance,” said Quinn spokesman Dave Blanchette in a prepared statement. “The governor demands every state contractor be held accountable for their performance. The governor’s office has directed the lottery to end its relationship with Northstar. The state is in the process of finalizing a path that will allow the lottery to move on, improve profits and increase funding for education and economic development across the state.” Blanchette said he could not... READ MORE

State to dump private Illinois Lottery manager

August 15, 2014 - Crain's Chicago Business

The bumpy marriage between the state and the private company that operates the Illinois Lottery is ending in a divorce. Gov. Pat Quinn's office confirmed to me today that it is ending its contract with Northstar Lottery Group LLC to operate the $2 billion-a-year lottery system, seven years earlier than scheduled. It is not yet certain whether the separation will be voluntary by both parties, but a decision to end the contract has been made. "The governor's office has directed the lottery to end its relationship with Northstar," gubernatorial spokesman Grant Klinzman said in an email that he later verified in a brief phone conversation. "The administration has had serious concerns with Northstar's performance. The governor demands every state contractor be held accountable for their performance." The relationship between Northstar and the Illinois Lottery went south almost immediately after the 10-year contract was... READ MORE

Quinn dismisses lottery management firm

August 15, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

Gov. Pat Quinn has fired the private company that runs the Illinois Lottery after it fell nearly a half-billion dollars short of revenues it promised to raise for the state during the first three years of its 10-year contract. It’s not clear whether the state will negotiate a mutual agreement to separate from Northstar Lottery Group or will simply terminate the contract for consistent profit shortfalls. But a spokesman for the governor said the decision to cut ties was made due to “serious concerns” about the firm’s performance. “The governor’s office has directed the Lottery to end its relationship with Northstar,” Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman said in an email. “The state is in the process of finalizing a path that will allow the Lottery to move on, improve profits and increase funding for education and economic development across the state... READ MORE

OUR VIEW: Who will answer as lottery again falls short?

August 13, 2014 - The Times

THE ISSUE: Lottery firm misses its goals — again OUR VIEW: Quinn must be accountable for this sour deal The deal to privatize the Illinois Lottery looked shaky from the start, and as the years pile up the data only makes it appear worse. The Chicago Tribune reported the gory details on its website Tuesday afternoon: For three years running, Northstar Lottery Group fell short of profit goals. Meanwhile, "its parent companies continue to be paid more each year to provide games and services." To give credit to Northstar, its preliminary year-end data shows a net profit of $738 million for the fiscal year ending June 30. But that's less money than it made in either 2012 or 2013, and it's well short — almost $250 million short — of its 2014 goal. "After three years, Northstar is about $480 million behind what it... READ MORE

State agency is ignoring salary database law

August 13, 2014 - Daily Herald

An Illinois law requiring the state to keep a salary database of most local government employees is being disregarded because no money was ever appropriated to pay for it. Department officials claim they didn't have to create the database because they were not given funding. Some lawmakers say they were never told it would cost anything, maintain there is no additional cost and are upset they were never notified the law was being ignored. "The statute indicates it was 'subject to appropriation,'" said Alka Nayyar, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which was charged with creating the database. "I don't believe the General Assembly appropriated the funds required to implement the additions" to the Illinois... READ MORE

Firm hired to run Illinois Lottery has failed to hit profit goals for 3rd straight year

August 12, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

For the third consecutive year, the private firm hired run the Illinois Lottery has failed to bring in the profits it promised to raise for the state, even as its parent companies continue to be paid more each year to provide games and services. According to a Tribune review of preliminary year-end data, Northstar Lottery Group posted a net profit of $738 million – nearly a quarter billion less than it pledged to bring in for the 2014 fiscal year, which ended June 30. The figure is less than the company raised for the state in the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years after it became the first private company in the nation to take over day-to-day operations of a state lottery. After three years, Northstar is about $480 million behind what it committed to bring into the state’s coffers, prompting one of the company’s harshest critics to renew questions about why Gov. Pat Quinn has not fired the company.... READ MORE

Purple Heart monument to be unveiled Thursday

August 4, 2014 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – After roughly seven months of preparation and planning, a Purple Heart monument signifying McHenry County's appreciation for wounded veterans will be unveiled Thursday. Enabled by a March proclamation declaring McHenry County the first Purple Heart county in Illinois, the two-sided monument will be unveiled at 10 a.m. Thursday – national Purple Heart Day. The event will be held at the monument's location, at the main entrance of the McHenry County Courthouse in Woodstock. Behind the efforts to make the event special is Marine veteran Richard Young and his wife, Monica. Having started the process in January, Monica Young said she expects the event to be memorable. "I have a feeling it's going to be a very tearful day for everyone," she said. An Air Force T-34 flyover will mark the beginning of the ceremony and a Huey helicopter will hover nearby during a salute to the monument... READ MORE

UPDATE: New law today lowers fishing license fees for seniors

August 1, 2014 - McLeansboro Times Leader

CARTERVILLE — Illlinois governor Pat Quinn today visited Crab Orchard Lake in Southern Illinois to sign a law that reduces sport fishing and hunting license fees to $1 for Illinois residents over 75 years of age. Today’s action is part of Quinn’s agenda to help more older adults enjoy recreational opportunities in Illinois, according to a press release issued by his office. “Illinois’ older adults who hunt and fish have supported these natural treasures for a lifetime,” Governor Quinn said. “It is time to honor them for their commitment to Illinois’ hunting and fishing opportunities by making it easier for them to renew their licenses.” House Bill 4329, sponsored by State Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) and State Representative Jack Franks... READ MORE

County Board takes first step in reorganization debate

July 24, 2014 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – The newly created McHenry County Board Reorganization Committee spent portions of its first meeting Thursday looking anything but organized. Debate over its task – examining whether the County Board should have fewer members representing more districts – took all kinds of wild turns, including such esoteric topics as terrorists shooting at power transformers and the Lake in the Hills Fen, as members threw ideas at the wall to see what would stick. In its defense, the nine-member committee was thrown together in haste to determine whether voters should weigh in via advisory referendum, and the deadline to put it on the Nov. 4 ballot is three weeks and one County Board meeting away. But while the committee is moving forward with planning for a possible change to the County Board's structure, it decided that putting an advisory referendum on the November ballot without doing its due diligence would be unwise. And given that the next opportunity to make such changes is seven years away after the... READ MORE

Targeting legislative leaders

July 21, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

While we're waiting for the courts to decide whether the people of Illinois will get to vote on a constitutional amendment to limit the terms of state lawmakers, let's ponder a related question: What if we just term-limited Mike Madigan? A more circumspect version of that question has appeared on the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute's statewide voter poll in three of the last five years. Would you favor or oppose a proposal to limit how long legislators could serve in leadership positions - such as Speaker of the House or President of the Senate - before they stepped down to let other legislators lead... READ MORE

Lotto trouble with this deal

July 21, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

In 20120, Illinois became the first state in the country to turn over the management of its lottery to a private company. Other states soon followed. The expectation was that a firm with broad expertise in lottery sales could attract new players and reap more money. Northstar Lottery Group, signed to a 10-year contract by Gov. Pat Quinn's administration, said it could bring in up to $851.2 million in net revenue the first year and up to $1 billion in the fifth year. At the time, the state-run Illinois Lottery brought in $652 million in net revenue. Sold! Quinn signed the dotted line... READ MORE

Too many governments? Downstate has the biggest share

July 20, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

Few places in Illinois vote more reliably Republican than Iroquois County, home to 1,120 square miles of mostly corn and soybean fields, 28,982 residents and, according to state records, 218 distinct units of government — one for every 133 residents. In Democratic Cook County, population over 5.2 million and often held up as the poster child for government inefficiency, there are 539 governments in operation, one for every 9,723 people, records show. The Land of Lincoln is also, indisputably, the land of sprawling local governments — a nation-leading 6,968 of them, according to oft-quoted U.S. Census Bureau data that appear to significantly lowball the number. State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, the official scorekeeper of such things for Illinois, puts the current tally of local governments at 8,459. That bloat has become a subject of frequent political scorn, in particular of late from Republican governor hopeful Bruce Rauner, who often tells voters that the sheer volume of Illinois governments defies common sense and drives... READ MORE

Bill placing new restrictions on RTA and CTA signed by Quinn

July 17, 2014 - WAND 17

SPRINGFIELD - Legislation barring members of major transit agencies from holding other government offices has been signed by Governor Pat Quinn. The measure was sponsored by Senator Martin Sandoval and Representative Jack Franks, and was passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature this spring. The legislation follows the release of a transit task force report that revealed records of patronage hiring at Metra. The law prohibits members of the Commuter Rail Board, Chicago Transit Agency's board, or Regional Transportation Authority Board from holding any other local or state government job. Offices that do not pay officials more than $15,000 annually will be exempted from the law, as well as positions in the National Guard or the military reserves... READ MORE

Quinn signs law barring double dipping on transit boards

July 17, 2014 - Daily Herald

Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday signed a law barring CTA board members from holding other government work and further clarifying that other transit board members can't, either. The legislation from state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, was initially aimed at Quinn's attempt to appoint a South suburban township supervisor to the CTA board, which would have given him a second public salary. The appointee eventually backed down. Franks says the legislation also further cements the existing RTA and Metra bans on having a second government job. A requirement of being on the Pace board is that the member is a current or former mayor. "We have to stop this these double-dipping insider protection plans," he said. The proposal follows legislation from Franks last year also targeted at ethical issues on transit boards that took away members' future pension and health care benefits. Other ethics... READ MORE

Quinn halts IDOT political hiring

July 5, 2014 - Northwest Herald

CHICAGO – Reacting to persistent problems at a state agency, Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday ordered a moratorium on political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation and directed that executive-level staff in every state agency undergo training about proper hiring practices. The Chicago Democrat's actions, which also included ordering an outside audit of past IDOT hires, come amid questions about whether state jobs were improperly filled based on clout rather than qualifications. The Associated Press obtained copies of memos sent by Quinn's attorney to IDOT leadership and the heads of all agencies, boards and commissions. The action comes on the heels of the resignation of state Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider this week after questions were raised about her stepdaughter... READ MORE

Andy Shaw: Legislative reform scorecard – hits and misses

June 28, 2014 - The State Journal-Register

The Illinois General Assembly’s action — and inaction — resembles a grab bag gift or the prize at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. You never know what you’re going to get or if you’ll like it. So it’s no surprise that when the curtain came down on the spring session in Springfield last month, the audience was left with a few satisfied smiles, a few disappointed frowns and one gasp of exasperation. Lawmakers passed a budget but refused to extend the temporary income tax or cut spending, so the budget is “balanced” with smoke and mirrors and there’s not enough revenue to fund existing programs or pay the bills. They approved a measure that allows Chicago to start tackling its pension crisis but stiffed a similar request from Cook County... READ MORE

Illinois State Crime Commission Names Franks Legislator of the Year

June 24, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

WOODSTOCK, Ill.- In recognition of his tireless efforts on behalf of Illinois taxpayers and families, the Illinois State Crime Commission named state Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo, the 2014 Legislator of the Year at their 18th Annual Awards Dinner on June 18. "Safe neighborhoods and good governance are the cornerstones of a healthy, civil society," Franks said. "With some of the most violent neighborhoods in the country and enough convicted politicians to fill their own cell block, Illinois' recent record on providing these basic necessities is poor to say the least. It is one my top priorities as an elected leader to help change this record for the better." The Illinois State Crime Commission (ISCC) is a not-for-profit advocacy organization that promotes transparent government and supports initiatives to decrease crime and juvenile delinquency by facilitating positive interactions between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. Rep. Franks was named Legislator of the Year in light of recent legislative achievements... READ MORE

Lottery contractor likely $200M short on profits

June 22, 2014 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ private lottery contract has never reached the lofty sales promises it used to win a bid four years ago and is expected to fall more than $200 million short of what it owes the state when the budget year ends June 30. But Northstar Lottery Group says it’s been hamstrung by state officials, with whom they have an already frosty relationship and accuse of throwing up road blocks – from canceling games it wanted to launch to prohibiting the sponsorship of Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival in 2013 because of headliner R.Kelly. Regardless, Northstar’s 10-year contract with the state details that falling short of its goals by 10 percent two years in a row is grounds for ending the partnership, no questions asked. It missed targets by almost 20 percent last year, and is on track to do the same this year. A top lawmaker has said he’s disappointed because a massive construction program was supposed to be funded with money Northstar claimed it could... READ MORE

FRANKS TO HOST ANNUAL SUMMER ICE CREAM SOCIALS

June 19, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

WOODSTOCK, Ill. - Warm summer nights in McHenry County often bring together friends and neighbors for refreshing ice cream and lively conversation. In the spirit of that tradition, state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, will host four Ice Cream Socials in July. The Ice Cream Socials will be held in conjunction with community events across McHenry County. Audience members at the Wonder Lake Ski Show, band concerts in McHenry and Woodstock, and patrons of the annual Fay's BBQ Fundraiser for the M.O.R.E. Center in Marengo will have the opportunity to engage with Rep. Franks while enjoying a free cup of ice cream. Ice Cream Socials will be held: • July 2 at the Woodstock Square in Woodstock at 7:30 p.m., before the band concert; • July 3 at Veterans Memorial Park in McHenry at 7:30 p.m., before the band concert; • July 11... READ MORE

Should Illinois Legislative Leaders Be Subject to Term Limits?

June 16, 2014 - 1440 WROK

A different kind of term limits proposal may be on the ballot in 2015. Legislation being introduced by State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) would allow voters to weigh in on whether legislative leaders should be subject to term limits. Franks believes the legislature will need some convincing to consider that kind of proposal. “The only way to get term limits on leaders is to pass a law to do so, but none are willing, in my opinion, to…allow a bill to come forward,” Franks said. “So my suggestion is to have a referendum so if it’s overwhelming, which I think it will be, that they’ll be much more inclined to have a vote on this.” If lawmakers pass the bill, the nonbinding referendum would be on ballots for the April 2015 municipal elections, which Franks says could use some help to increase voter turnout... READ MORE

Lawmaker Wants Term Limits for Legislators

June 16, 2014 - Alton Daily News

An Illinois Democrat is jumping on board with a Republican idea: imposing term limits for legislators. State Representative Jack Franks filed a measure last week that would place a non-binding question on the ballot during municipal elections next April. If lawmakers approve the bill, voters will be asked if the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, who've both been in the legislature since the 1970's, should be term limited. Franks says he's already received support from fellow Democrats. The measure would also limit majority and minority leaders in both chambers. Other plans floating around Springfield aim to put limits on all lawmakers, not just the leaders... READ MORE

Hits and misses in Springfield’s game

June 15, 2014 - Chicago Sun-Times

The Illinois General Assembly’s action, and inaction, resembles a grab bag gift, or the prize at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box — you never know what you’re going to get or whether you’ll like it. So it’s no surprise that when the curtain came down on the spring session in Springfield last month, the audience was left with a few satisfied smiles, a few disappointed frowns, and one gasp of exasperation. Lawmakers passed a budget, but refused to extend the temporary income tax or cut spending, so the budget’s “balanced” with smoke and mirrors, and there’s not enough revenue to fund existing programs or pay the bills. They approved a measure that lets Chicago start tackling its pension crisis, but stiffed a similar request from Cook County. And high-stakes issues, including gaming expansion and the ultimate fate of the aforementioned income tax, remain on hold until after... READ MORE

After years of waiting, work begins on Highway 14 lane additions

June 13, 2014 - Woodstock Independent

Plans to add lanes to Highway 14 between Woodstock and Crystal Lake picked up steam recently when crews picked up their shovels, ending more than a decade of waiting for the Illinois Department of Transportation project to begin. “This project has been more than 12 years in the making, because it takes time to even become a high enough priority to be listed on the program,” said Woodstock Public Works Director Paul Ruscko, referencing IDOT’s fiscal year 2015-2020 Proposed Multi-Modal Transportation Improvement Program documents. One of six local projects recently awarded state capital funding, the Woodstock Highway 14 project will extend about 3 miles from West Lake Shore Drive to Lucas Road, with a total estimated cost of $25.7 million to add lanes and pay for construction engineering. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said more than $32 million in state capital funding will be allocated toward various... READ MORE

Franks introduces term limits legislation

June 11, 2014 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – An Illinois lawmaker has introduced a proposal to ask voters in 2015 if term limits should be imposed on leaders in the state Legislature. State Rep. Jack Franks filed legislation on Monday that would put a nonbinding question on the statewide municipal election ballot next April. The Marengo Democrat says that the structure of state government needs to be overhauled. Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan recently became the longest-serving official in his leadership position in the nation. Franks' plan is different from another term limits proposal being pushed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. The GOP candidate's effort would put term limits on all legislators. His constitutional amendment would also shrink the size of the Legislature and give the governor more veto power. The bill is HB6281.... READ MORE

Franks asks county for 2 advisory referendums

June 6, 2014 - Northwest Herald

McHenry County Board members’ love-hate relationship with Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks – they love to hate him – may get more intense with his latest initiative. In a letter sent Thursday morning to all 24 board members, Franks asked them to put two nonbinding advisory referendums on the Nov. 4 ballot regarding two of his more high-profile taxpayer initiatives. One would ask voters whether governments should be forbidden from increasing property tax levies if overall assessed value falls. The other asks whether the County Board should shrink to 16 members, each representing their own district instead of the current structure of six, four-member districts. Franks, of Marengo, said both efforts will gauge the public’s interest in issues which he maintains will decrease their property tax burden. He said he sent out the letter after first approaching County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, who Franks said was not amenable to the referendums. “These... READ MORE

Lottery firm again falls short of promised revenue

June 3, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

The private firm managing the Illinois Lottery could fall short of promised revenues for the third straight year, prompting calls to re-evaluate the state's relationship with the company. Northstar Lottery Group is on pace to wind up more than $200 million off target for the fiscal year ending in June, prompting concern among officials who oversee the lottery as well as lawmakers such as state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, one of the chief architects of the move toward private management. "I'm extremely disappointed by the lack of performance," Cullerton said in a written statement. "The whole idea here was that a private manager would be able to deliver substantially better performance for the state." Northstar projected gross sales of $3.5 billion for the 2014 fiscal year and promised net revenues of $980 million. Instead, lottery officials say the company will likely post gross sales of $2.6 billion and revenues of about $760 million. If that happens, Northstar's performance... READ MORE

Cutting question: Time to reduce tax bodies?

May 31, 2014 - Chicago Sun-Times

For those who want less government in Illinois, the times just might be right. More than ever before, local and state government is looking at consolidating services, developing partnerships, sharing resources and even eliminating taxing bodies and tax levies. It’s being done in the name of streamlining government — driven by the recession and demanded by taxpayers sick of living in one of the highest taxed states in the union, with the most individual governmental agencies. “Government consolidation is really important, and trending right now,” says MarySue Barrett, president of the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council. “It’s being looked at by the legislature, planning organizations, academics. It’s more than just a little bubbling here. There’s something to it... READ MORE

Government consolidation bill headed to governor

May 30, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Some of the state's more obscure units of local government, from cemetery districts to water authorities, will have the power to consolidate or dissolve under a bill that cleared the General Assembly. House Bill 5875, sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, gives these governments statutory power to eliminate themselves if they so wish. The bill is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn for approval after it cleared the Senate in a Thursday concurrence vote. The final report of a consolidation commission created and chaired by Franks revealed that many types of government have no statutory power to be consolidated or abolished. He called the bill a small but important step in paring down the state's 7,000 units of government. Giving governments the power to eliminate themselves is a different strategy – past efforts by legislators to force consolidation by fiat have never had the votes to pass. "This really creates the conditions necessary... READ MORE

Illinois bill drops hunting fee to $1 for seniors

May 29, 2012 - FOX NEWS

Published May 29, 2014 Associated Press 104 SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Sportsmen and women older than 75 would pay just $1 for hunting and fishing licenses under legislation the Illinois Senate has approved. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks -- a Marengo Democrat. It must return to the House for approval on Senate changes. Franks says seniors have been paying for licenses their entire lives and the state should make it a priority to ensure everyone can enjoy Illinois' natural settings. The legislation also eliminates the fee to obtain the pheasant, furbearer, habitat and migratory waterfowl stamps and the inland trout and salmon stamps for fishermen. Franks says he heard from a constituent contending that while license fees are reduced for those over age 62, they still are too expensive for some... READ MORE

State lawmakers split as budget deadline looms

May 25, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Local House lawmakers are split over what the final week of the spring session will bring when it comes to approving a 2015 budget. Last week’s session was a roller coaster, even by Illinois General Assembly standards. It started with House lawmakers narrowly approving a budget that counts on the “temporary” 67 percent tax increase being made permanent rather than expiring as long promised. In the middle was House Speaker Michael Madigan conceding that he had nowhere near the 60 votes needed to keep the tax hike, which will significantly decrease Jan. 1, or halfway through the next state fiscal year beginning July 1. And it ended Friday with lawmakers soundly rejecting a “doomsday budget” that slashed education and social service funding to compensate for the lost revenue – a budget that McHenry County’s representatives, Republican and Democrat alike, blasted as a scare tactic meant to push for a tax increase. “It was just political theater. It was a joke. It wasn’t a real budget,” state Rep. David McSweeney... READ MORE

Quinn plans to sign bill spurred by sexting case

May 25, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

Acting to expand the state's law against "grooming" children for sex, Gov. Pat Quinn plans to sign a bill that was prompted by a scandal over a Woodstock police officer who kept his job after sending a sexually charged text to a 12-year-old girl. The bill, which cleared the legislature last week without opposition, would broaden the state law against using an electronic device to lure a child into sex, specifically prohibiting electronic requests to children for photos of their sex organs. Under the expanded definition, grooming would remain a Class 4 felony, generally punishable by one to three years in prison. Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, introduced the legislation after an outcry from Woodstock residents who were angry that Sgt. Charles "Chip" Amati remained on the force and wasn't criminally charged after he asked the girl to "Send me some sexy pictures!"... READ MORE

Quinn wants Illiana project as top state priority

May 23, 2014 - Herald Online

CHICAGO — Gov. Pat Quinn's administration wants lawmakers to make the proposed Illiana Expressway more attractive to private investors by guaranteeing toll revenue shortfalls will be covered by dipping into the state's road fund ahead of other projects. The 47-mile tollway between Indiana and Illinois would be placed at the top of the funding list under draft legislation backed by the Illinois Department of Transportation — only debt service on general obligation bonds would come before it. That's intended to sweeten a potential deal for the $1.5 billion project that some lawmakers and regional planners contend is not a critical need, will spur little economic development and threatens to become a painful financial drain on a state buried in debt. Critics of the proposal also question the legislation's timing — Quinn faces a tough re-election campaign this year against Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner... READ MORE

Tom Cross, Jack Franks: A bipartisan call for a bipartisan budget

May 23, 2014 - The State Journal-Register

Earlier this year, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly endorsed a revenue forecast for Fiscal Year 2015 of $34.495 billion, based on the estimates of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. The figure represented an amount that would allow responsible investments in education, infrastructure and public safety and took into account the expiration of the 2011 income tax hike, as Illinois taxpayers were promised. Unfortunately, in contradiction to the agreement, the Illinois House of Representatives recently approved a budget calling for spending to far exceed available revenue. The House budget authorizes the state to spend $37.35 billion next year, almost 10 percent more than the spending targets set in February. Article VIII, Section 2 of the Illinois Constitution states, “Appropriations for a fiscal... READ MORE

Madigan: Still 'significantly' short on income tax vote

May 20, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn spent more than two hours Monday trying to convince House Democrats to vote to make permanent what was billed as a temporary income tax increase, but Speaker Michael Madigan said support remains “significantly” short. The tense, closed-door meeting sets up the political dynamic for the final two weeks of the spring session: Democrats try to collect 60 votes in the House before the May 31 adjournment to keep the state’s income tax rate at 5 percent, attempt to come up with an alternative, or go home and wait until after the Nov. 4 election to deal with the state’s finances. Madigan filed legislation Monday that would keep the 2011 income tax hike in place and send homeowners a $500 property tax refund. The personal income tax rate is scheduled to fall to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1. The corporate income tax rate would drop from 7 percent to 5.25 percent. The House is the toughest obstacle, with each of the 118 lawmakers facing re-election. Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has predicted he will be able to put on enough votes to pass... READ MORE

Pro-business tax changes vying for Springfield's to-do list

May 20, 2014 - Crain's Chicago Business

After months of discussion, a small package of business-friendly tax reforms is making its way to the finish line in Springfield. While details are still taking shape, lobbyists and one key lawmaker said there is broad support to repeal the Illinois corporate franchise tax and expand a sales tax exemption on equipment purchases for manufacturers, among other ideas. It's too early to say whether the proposals will get pulled along or trampled by the much bigger debate over the extension of the state's income tax rate or proposals by House Speaker Michael Madigan to cut the corporate income... READ MORE

House Budget Update

May 19, 2014 - WICS News Channel 20

The Illinois House of Representatives passed a spending plan last week that was billions more than the state is estimated to generate in revenue. The governor and speaker of the House are both trying to close that gap by extending the temporary income tax, but they're having some problems. Gov. Pat Quinn met with House Democrats this afternoon in an attempt to whip up the votes to extend the temporary income tax. There are enough Democrats in the House to pass the extension of the temporary income tax, but not all of them support it. The House passed dozens of spending bills last week, for a grand total of about $37 billion. Most of the votes barely reached the 60-vote minimum they needed to pass, so there's been a lot of speculation about whether or not the votes will be there to extend the tax, which would be needed to pay for that much spending. To Rep. Jack Franks, one of the Democrats who opposes the tax, it's clear where the count is at. "The governor's short," Franks said. "Otherwise he wouldn't be coming to our caucus to try to convince us to... READ MORE

Illiana Expressway would be state's top road fund priority

May 18, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

The highway Illinois doesn't need will be first in line for state funding — ahead of every other road, bridge and overpass in the pipeline — if lawmakers go along with Gov. Pat Quinn's latest concession to potential bidders for the Illiana Expressway. The Illinois Department of Transportation has already put taxpayers out on a limb by promising that the state, not the private investors who will build and operate the road, will cover the costs if tolls come up short. That pledge was necessary because everyone involved knows the road won't pay for itself for a long time, if ever. Now, Quinn wants state law to spell out that the Illiana is the second priority of the road fund, behind only debt service on existing general obligation bonds. All other projects throughout Illinois would be bumped down. We can understand why that sounds like a fine idea to the south suburban legislators who will push the bill for Quinn. They want to believe jobs and development will sprout alongside a 47-mile tollway through their districts. But Quinn is asking lawmakers throughout the state... READ MORE

Our view: Send message to lawmakers: No more tax hikes

May 18, 2014 - Northwest Herald

If you think you pay too much in taxes to the state of Illinois, it’s time for you to do something about it. If you think the tax-more-and-spend-more policy of Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly is ruining Illinois, it’s time for your voice to be heard. If you’re tired of politicians saying one thing now only to do the exact opposite later, it’s time we all stop putting up with it. Many Democrats in the state House and Senate want to make permanent a 67 percent income tax increase that was promised to be “temporary” when it was foisted on taxpayers by a lame-duck General Assembly in January 2011. With not a single Republican vote, Quinn and the Democratic Legislature essentially reached into our collective wallets and snatched another week’s pay from all working Illinoisans. At the time, Democratic lawmakers said the “temporary” increase was needed during a difficult fiscal time to help pay down the state’s growing pile... READ MORE

Illinois Lawmaker: Fire Private Lottery Management Company

May 15, 2014 - WICS News Channel 20

A state lawmaker is calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to fire the private company that controls the state lottery. Northstar began its private manager agreement with the state in 2011. The company failed to meet its revenue projections the past two years, and Rep. Jack Franks said it's on track to fall short again this year, for a combined total of more than $440 million. The Marengo Democrat said the state is losing out on revenue by Northstar not performing up to expectations, and firing them could help fix the budget. "They didn't make the numbers, so that's $200 million that the taxpayers of Illinois are not getting," Franks said. "That's money that could be going to pay for our social services and paying for our schools and paying for everything else, and perhaps we wouldn't need a tax increase if we actually got the money that was promised under these contracts... READ MORE

State lawmakers rushing to pass unbalanced budget

May 15, 2014 - WLS

(CHICAGO) In Springfield, state lawmakers are trying to pass a budget before the end of the month and they're not balancing the checkbook like you have to do. To avoid having to raise taxes now, Democrats are moving budget bills that exceed the amount of money available to pay for them. Republicans says this is against state law and the constitution. During debate in the house, even maverick Democrat Jack Franks – a business lawyer – said it’s wrong. “If we ran our businesses like the state is doing here, the state would seize us,” Franks said. “They would close us up. This is not sound business practice. ight now, folks, we are on a life raft and we are sinking. Instead of jettisoning things that are not important, we are taking our flat-screen TVs with us.” But the other side says money to pay for... READ MORE

Does Madigan have the votes to make tax hike permanent?

May 14, 2014 - Northwest Herald

On paper, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has a problem marshaling enough votes to break a promise to taxpayers, even if his title is frequently preceded in print by the word “powerful.” An upcoming House vote on a 2015 state budget that counts on the “temporary” 67 percent income tax increase becoming permanent could be a way for Madigan to test where his fellow Democrats stand. But to get the 60 votes needed to make the tax hike permanent before the end of session May 31, Madigan has to convince a number of Democrats to renege on a promise they have publicly vowed to keep – that the historic tax hike will significantly sunset at year’s end. The Democratic Party holds a 71-seat House supermajority, which means Madigan has an 11-vote cushion, given the safe bet that none of the Republican minority will vote in favor. But at... READ MORE

Franks wants state lottery management group fired

May 14, 2014 - Northwest Herald

CRYSTAL LAKE – State Rep. Jack Franks called on Gov. Pat Quinn to fire the state lottery operator after it has failed to reach contractually stipulated goals the first three years of the contract. The Marengo Democrat held a news conference in Springfield on Wednesday to pressure the governor to end the agreement with Northstar Lottery Group, the private company Quinn chose to head the state lottery program. Franks says the lottery operator is costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in management fees while underperforming – costing hundreds of millions of dollars more. Franks also told the Northwest Herald the contract was “almost preordained” to Northstar. “This was his baby, 100 percent,” Franks said. “Now it’s a question of the governor’s inability to govern that he allows this to go on rather than siding with the taxpayers.” Franks’ presentation Wednesday showed Northstar is expected to miss its promised profit target by more than $400 million in the.. READ MORE

Illinois House To Consider Budget Plan That Extends Income Tax Hike

May 14, 2014 - Progress Illinois

Illinois House budget committees on Wednesday are expected to take up a 2015 fiscal plan that relies on extending the state's temporary income tax hike. It is not clear, however, if there is enough support in the House to make the income tax increase permanent. “I don't think they have the votes,” State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) said of House leadership, according to the State Journal-Register. Franks does not support an extension of Illinois' temporary income tax increase. “I've been doing my own polling and talking to members. I think they're short,” he added. In March, Gov. Pat Quinn put forward two budget scenarios for the upcoming fiscal year — one that accounts for an income tax hike extension and one that does not. The fiscal plan under consideration in the House mirrors the governor's "recommended" budget, which calls for the income tax hike to remain in place. “I think it would certainly be the preference of most people I've talked to have the recommended budget,” said... READ MORE

Suburban Democrats undecided on extending income tax hike

May 12, 2014 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD -- With just three weeks before state lawmakers' deadline for approving a budget, most suburban Democrats are still on the fence about whether to vote to renew a temporary state income tax hike or allow it to roll back as scheduled. Allowing the tax rate to drop means much less revenue for state programs, but voting for the higher tax rate is risky for lawmakers who face a November election. The leader of one political action committee already is promising to work against any lawmaker who votes for keeping the higher tax rate. Moving some Democratic "undecideds" into the "yes" column would be crucial for passing an extension of the tax hike. State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, said she wants to see details before committing. "I've yet to see what's in the final package in that regard," Nekritz said. "I'm not prepared to commit until I know what's in that final package." State Rep. Kathleen Willis is "totally on the fence." "I'm totally undecided still. I'm talking to the people in my district to see," the Addison Democrat said. State Rep. Michelle Mussman hasn't made up her mind either but was mindful of... READ MORE

Quinn would make Illiana state's No. 1 transportation priority

May 9, 2014 - Crain's Chicago Business

Gov. Pat Quinn has decided to double down on the proposed Illiana Expressway, floating legislation in Springfield that would make the controversial road the state's No. 1 transportation priority. The administration also wants any disputes with the investor group that would run the tollway sent to an an outside arbitrator rather than the courts. A fact sheet given to lawmakers late yesterday says that proposed amendments to the Illiana Expressway Act would give the project and the private group that would build, operate and maintain the road for the state a direct, priority pipeline to the state's road fund, the source used for almost all highway, bridge and other transportation projects the state funds each year. "Funding of required payments under the (Illiana) Public Private Agreement is a second priority of the road fund, coming only after payment of debt service on state general obligation bonds and prior to all other obligations of the road fund," the fact sheet states. The fact sheet was... READ MORE

Tryon nixes bill for MCCD to raise max tax rate

May 7, 2014 - Northwest Herald

A bill before state lawmakers that would allow the McHenry County Conservation District to raise its maximum tax rate by voter referendum is most likely dead. The bill, co-sponsored by local Republican Sens. Pam Althoff and Karen McConnaughay, cleared the Senate last month on a 46-0 vote. But the chief sponsor in the House, local Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, said he does not intend to call it for a vote in the House. Tryon said Wednesday that he could not in good conscience shepherd a bill through the General Assembly that would result in a property tax increase. If it passes, he said, other governments that have reached their statutory cap like the conservation district has, could follow suit and ask lawmakers for their own levy increases. “While there are a lot of people who feel government by referendum is a good thing, government has to work within the statutory means it has,” Tryon said. “People just can’t pay any more in property taxes... READ MORE

Forcing a diet on morbidly obese Illinois

April 30, 2014 - Southtown Star

The Illinois Legislature’s “diet doctor” is asking his fattest patients to swallow a bitter streamlining pill and, as you might expect, the Rx is meeting a lot of resistance. I’m talking about state Rep. Jack Franks’ attempt to downsize a public sector that’s morbidly obese. Illinois, as I’ve mentioned before, has nearly 7,000 separate units of government — about 2,000 more than any other state and about 3,200 more than any other Midwest state. They include many one-school districts, library districts, fire protection districts, sanitary districts, mosquito abatement districts and Exhibit A of outmoded government, the township, of which there are 1,432 in Illinois. Many reformers, including Franks and the Better Government Association, believe it’s way past time to eliminate some government units and consolidate others to provide more efficient services at a lower cost to taxpayers. That’s eminently logical but extraordinarily difficult, as Franks learned during two challenging years as chairman of the Local Government Consolidation Commission, where the concept of a state-mandated reduction... READ MORE

Illinois graduated income tax push stalls out

April 29, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD — The Democratic push to impose a graduated income tax rate in Illinois fizzled on Tuesday, refocusing the debate on whether the state’s temporary income tax hike should be made permanent. Democratic Sen. Don Harmon had vowed to call the measure for a vote despite warnings from Speaker Michael Madigan last week that there wasn’t enough support in the House. After spending Tuesday trying and failing to collect the votes, Harmon conceded the measure would have to wait for another year. “We have the support we need in the Senate, but we’re still a handful of votes short in the House,” said Harmon, D-Oak Park. “I don’t have an exact count, but we know it’s less than a handful of votes short, but not enough to pass it. I can count on my fingers how many, but it doesn’t get us” enough to approve the measure. The Democratic efforts to breath life into the tax measure played into the hands of Republicans. GOP leaders called out Senate Democrats on Tuesday for defeating a separate voter-friendly proposal to place term limits on statewide officials while... READ MORE

Illinois desperate for an honest tax plan

April 29, 2014 - Politics Early & Often

You might have filed your tax returns a few weeks ago, but Tax Freedom Day was yesterday. Now is when those of us lucky enough to be employed in Illinois have finished making enough money to pay all the tax bills and start working for ourselves. Next year, Tax Freedom Day might be sooner because, by law, the state income tax rate is set to drop to 3.75 percent from 5 percent, but not if several top Democrats can help it. Word is state Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, is planning to seek a vote Tuesday on his proposal to ask voters if they want to change the state constitution to move from a flat to a graduated income tax system, where people pay higher tax rates as their incomes rise. People who make more already pay more, of course, because 5 percent of $200,000 is more than 5 percent of $20,000. Harmon has a separate bill to set rates at three levels. The first $12,500 would be taxed at 2.9 percent, income above that up to $180,000 would be taxed at 4.9 percent, and income greater than $180,000 would be taxed at 6.9 percent. That sounds to me like most of us working Illinoisans would be paying... READ MORE

Last push being made for constitutional amendments

April 28, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Illinois lawmakers have put two questions on the November ballot to amend the state Constitution to increase the rights of voters and crime victims. Two advocacy groups say they have more than enough signatures to put two more proposed amendments on the ballot to decrease the powers of state lawmakers through term limits and redistricting reform. The shortest proposed amendment is one sentence long. The largest weighs in at 1,500 words, or more than one-third the size of the U.S. Constitution. A proposed amendment to tax millionaires at a higher rate to help fund public education ended up on the scrap heap because it did not have the votes to pass in the House. Another proposed amendment to replace the state's flat income tax with a "progressive" tax based on income likely faces a similar fate. A May 4 deadline looms for proposed amendments to the state Constitution. Amendments proposed in the General Assembly require three-fifths majorities of 71 votes in the House and 36 votes in the Senate. Citizen referendums require signatures... READ MORE

With clock ticking, Harmon pushes progressive income tax

April 28, 2014 - Oakpark.com

This week State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) will try to put on the November ballot a constitutional amendment which would allow Illinois to have a graduated income tax. To get on the November ballot the proposed constitutional amendment must pass each house of the Illinois General Assembly with at least a three-fifths majority this week. "It has to pass this week," Harmon said. "We are up against the deadline, but we are deadline driven people." Harmon, the chief Senate sponsor of the so called "Fair Tax" amendment, intends to call for a vote Tuesday in the state Senate on the proposed amendment. If the amendment gets the necessary votes in the Senate the House would take up the issue on Wednesday and vote on Thursday Harmon said. Prospects look promising for the amendment in the Senate which has 40 Democrats, four more than the 36 needed to get the three-fifths vote. But prospects are more iffy in the state House of Representatives where the Democrats have exactly a three-fifths majority. One Democrat, Rep. Jack Franks... READ MORE

Chuck Sweeny: 'Fair Tax' amendment isn't likely without Marengo Democrat

April 28, 2014 - Rockford Register Star

Advocates of higher taxes are making an all-out push this week to get their so-called “Fair Tax Amendment” on the Nov. 4 ballot. They want to replace the state’s constitutionally mandated flat income tax, now at a personal rate of 5 percent, with a graduated income tax. They’re selling it as a way to force “the wealthy” pay their “fair share,” buzz phrases that as yet have no legal definition. The overall purpose is to raise billions in new revenue with no requirement that Illinois’ high property taxes be reduced. And in all probability, if this passes, middle-class taxpayers who are just scraping by will discover that they’re “wealthy.” To get on the fall ballot so voters can decide its ultimate fate, the measure must pass the General Assembly by three-fifths majorities in the House and Senate by Sunday. All Republicans are opposed, but the bill has enough Democratic votes to pass the Senate. In the House, however, Speaker Michael Madigan doesn’t have the votes and might not call it. Unless a Republican commits political suicide by agreeing to... READ MORE

Time to Consolidate Local Governments

April 24, 2014 - Illinois News Network

Illinois lacks an indoor stadium – or a prison – big enough to hold all of its elected officials. For decades, the political power brokers have been infatuated with the state’s legions of governmental entities. At last count, the Illinois Comptroller’s Office said the Land of Lincoln has 8,466 units of local governments. But In fact, Illinois has so many governments that not everyone can agree on just how many there are. The Better Government Association puts the number at about 7,000. And they contend even using that lower number, Illinois has 2,000 — or 40 percent — more units of local government than any other state. There are a lot of reasons not to like all of these layers of local government. This multitude of governmental entities have driven Illinois’ property tax burden to the second highest in the United States. “Illinois has between 850 and 900 school districts. By comparison Florida, a state with a similar population has 100. That means we are paying for... READ MORE

Illinois morbidly obese with thousands of governments

April 20, 2014 - Chicago Sun-Times

The Illinois legislature’s “diet doctor” is asking his fattest patients to swallow a bitter streamlining pill and, as you might expect, the Rx is meeting a lot of resistance. I’m talking about Rep. Jack Franks’ attempt to downsize a public sector that’s morbidly obese. Illinois, as I’ve mentioned before, has nearly 7,000 separate units of government, which is 2,000 — or 40 percent — more than any other state. Many reformers, including Franks and the Better Government Association, argue it’s time to eliminate some units and consolidate others to provide more efficient services at a lower cost to taxpayers. That’s eminently logical but extraordinarily difficult, as Franks learned during two challenging years as chairman of the Local Government Consolidation Commission, where the concept of a state-mandated diet met strong opposition from local governments that claim their offices.. READ MORE

Our View: Eliminating the secrecy of severance

April 17, 2014 - Northwest Herald

When it comes to public money, nothing should be kept a secret. That’s not always the case, obviously, so we applaud state Rep. Renee Kosel and the Illinois House for passing legislation that promotes more transparency in government. House Bill 3664 amends the Illinois Freedom of Information Act to forbid any public body from imposing confidentiality as a condition of receiving any severance agreement funded in part or in whole with public money. There is an exception to protect a trade secret, proprietary information or information that is otherwise exempt from disclosure under FOIA. Kosel, R-New Lenox, filed the bill in response to Metra’s refusal last year to reveal details about the generous severance package – projected up to $718,000 – it gave to former CEO Alex Clifford. Lawmakers in the House last week passed the bill unanimously, 106-0. State Reps. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, were co-sponsors of the bill. This bill is the latest step in shining light for the public on severance agreements and employment contracts for public employees. For years, many public bodies would try... READ MORE

Schools could get vote for elections

April 15, 2014 - Southtown Star

When the Homewood branch of US Bank was robbed on Election Day in November 2010, it forced nearby schools to go on lockdown while police searched for one of the three robbers. No one was allowed to enter or leave the schools for 45 minutes — not even those who came to the schools to vote. The voters inside the schools could not leave, while those who came to vote were told to come back later. That incident prompted state Rep. William Davis, D-East Hazel Crest, to co-sponsor House Bill 4480, which would allow school districts to decline to have their schools used as polls if school officials feel it would interfere with their security measures. Public schools are required to be polling places. Davis acknowledged that schools are a “perfect place” for a poll because they are usually handicapped-accessible, offer plenty of parking and are conveniently located. “But there is a safety concern,” he said. “If schools could opt out, I believe many of them would.” County clerks are keeping their eyes on the bill and another sponsored by state... READ MORE

Our View: Report offers reasonable approach

April 15, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Illinois long has 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 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 support the status quo. Both conclusions appear... READ MORE

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

Transparency bill headed to Quinn

March 8, 2014 - Northwest Herald

A bill to make updates to the state government transparency website happen faster is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn. House Bill 1040, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, moves responsibility for posting data to the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal to the governor’s office itself, and mandates all state departments to develop a plan to more quickly get data posted and updated. The portal, created five years ago through another Tryon bill, includes information such as state employees’ pay, state agency expenses and contracts, and local governments’ annual financial reports. Tryon said he envisioned the website having almost instantaneous updates, but said it has fallen far short – in some cases, up to five months behind. His bill moves responsibility for the portal out of the Department of Central Management Services, which is in charge of state government’s IT needs. “My original version was, when you... READ MORE

Our View: Warm embrace for tax proposal

March 7, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Most attempts from the state Legislature to put property tax controls on local taxing bodies die an untimely death, but that’s no reason to give up. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and others have tried on a large scale to force caps on local tax levies in a down economy to put a stop to the maddening phenomenon of rising property taxes despite falling home values. State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barington Hills, is again attempting to address the matter on a smaller scale, putting a one-year freeze on township property tax levies. The bill has cleared committee, although it’s hard to guess on its chance of success. We support McSweeney’s effort and any legislative effort to curtail property taxes, which hit residents in the collar counties harder than most. It’s a small step, but a step nonetheless... READ MORE

New Plan For Student Loan Repayment

March 6, 2014 - Alton Daily News

Lawmakers are pushing a plan that might help college students get interest free loans for school. Democrat State Representative Jack Franks says students shouldn't have to skip out on getting a degree just because of the rising costs of tuition, coupled with a high debt burden. His proposal would require the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to do a study, to see how the no interest loan program would work in Illinois. The bill has cleared committee and is headed to the House floor for debate, but there re are still quite a few unanswered questions, like how much money the state would lose if it doesn't collect interest on the loans... READ MORE

Franks Bill Studying ‘New Approach’ to Paying for College Passes House

March 6, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- Working families anticipating the high costs of a college education in Illinois will have an interest in legislation passed through the House on Wednesday by state Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo. “The costs of higher education have risen far faster than wages in recent years,” Franks said. “This has put many young people into a ‘catch-22’-type situation, wherein they either assume a large amount of debt to attend a university or their future earning potential is inhibited due to their lack of a college degree.” House Bill 5323 directs the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to study ‘Pay it Forward’-type pilot programs and studies, underway in several states, seeking to implement an alternative model of student payment for higher education. ‘Pay it Forward’ programs allow students to attend community colleges or state universities tuition-free, provided they sign a contract to repay the costs of their education to the state from a portion of their adjusted gross income following... READ MORE

Lawmakers Present Ideas for Attracting New Business to Illinois

February 27, 2014 - WICS News Channel 20

Illinois lawmakers are still working to try to figure out how to create new jobs in Illinois. Today, they heard from business groups about what things bring companies to Illinois, and what pushes them away. Lawmakers know the problem. Illinois is lagging behind much of the rest of the country, with the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation, behind only Nevada and Rhode Island. A joint House committee is tackling the issue. Testimony today included the idea of creating a closing fund, which several other states have, where the governor can literally give cash grants to businesses. Several groups also talked about lower taxes--or at least not switching to a progressive rate. But lawmakers hope this effort leads to legislative action. Talking about tax changes could have a major impact on the budget. "Actually, I think it makes it imperative to do," Rep. Jack Franks (D - Woodstock) said. "The best way to grow revenue is to grow jobs. It's not to raise taxes. If we can create more jobs, we'll have much more revenue coming in as a result." Franks tells us... READ MORE

Sneed: Former Mayor Daley still working on speech issues after health scare

February 27, 2014 - WICS News Channel 20

Illinois lawmakers are still working to try to figure out how to create new jobs in Illinois. Today, they heard from business groups about what things bring companies to Illinois, and what pushes them away. Lawmakers know the problem. Illinois is lagging behind much of the rest of the country, with the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation, behind only Nevada and Rhode Island. A joint House committee is tackling the issue. Testimony today included the idea of creating a closing fund, which several other states have, where the governor can literally give cash grants to businesses. Several groups also talked about lower taxes--or at least not switching to a progressive rate. But lawmakers hope this effort leads to legislative action. Talking about tax changes could have a major impact on the budget. "Actually, I think... READ MORE

Franks and Hoffman Bill Studying ‘New Approach’ to Paying for College Passes Committee

February 27, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- Working families anticipating the high costs of a college education in Illinois will have an interest in new legislation passed through the House Higher Education Committee on Wednesday by state Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo, and state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea. “A well educated workforce, free of the burden of interest-bearing debt, would be a boon to our economy,” Franks said. “The costs of higher education have risen far faster than wages in recent years. This has put many young people into a ‘catch-22’-type situation, wherein they either assume a large amount of debt to attend a university or their future earning potential is inhibited due to their lack of a college degree. I believe this is an unacceptable trade off and that new ideas are clearly called for.” House Bill 5323 directs the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to study ‘Pay it Forward’-type pilot programs and studies, underway in... READ MORE

House approves revenue estimate

February 25, 2014 - Illinois Issues Blog

A revenue projection passed unanimously today by the Illinois House anticipates a $1.5 billion revenue loss for state government next fiscal year. The number approved by the House, $34.495 billion, is based on the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability's (COGFA) estimated state income for the coming year. Lawmakers will have less money to work with as they put together the Fiscal Year 2015 budget because the temporary income tax will begin to sunset during the second half of the fiscal year. In recent years, lawmakers have generally stuck to the spending number approved by the House when creating the budget. The Governor’s Budget Office projects a revenue amount that is larger than the House’s number by $705 million. However, legislators said they are encouraged that Gov. Pat Quinn’s number is close to theirs. “And I want to compliment the governor’s office because their numbers were very similar... READ MORE

Sneed: Former Mayor Daley still working on speech issues after health scare

February 21, 2014 - Chicago Sun-Times

A health update . . . Former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who suffered a strokelike seizure caused by a blockage in his neck, is recovering nicely but is still working on speech issues, a source tells Sneed. Daley, 71, spent more than a week at Northwestern Memorial Hospital early this month after feeling ill during a business trip to Arizona. Is Rahm running? Sneed was a bit startled when Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei quickly tossed Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the presidential candidate category at the end of a “Morning Joe” segment Thursday morning. Huh? Is Rahm going to break a handwritten and signed promise he made to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman in May 2012, which read: “I, Rahm Emanuel, will not run for another office... READ MORE

Franks Encourages Taxpayers to File State Tax Returns for Free

February 20, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

WOODSTOCK, Ill. – In advance of the April 15 filing deadline for 2013 income taxes, state Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo, is encouraging taxpayers to use resources provided by the state to assist with processing returns and tracking refunds. “Tax season can be a time of considerable and understandable irritation,” Franks said. “Paying unnecessary fees to file your taxes should not add to the stress.” Illinois residents and businesses can file their state tax returns online by visiting tax.illinois.gov and following the links that correspond to their filing status. This service is provided free by the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR). After filing, taxpayers can determine the status of their return by visiting myrefund.illinois.comptroller.com and can sign up to receive text message or email notification when their refund has been processed. “Services... READ MORE

Local lawmakers blast proposal to add soda tax

February 20, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Local lawmakers had some harsh words about a proposed bill that would impose a tax on sugary beverages. The bill, introduced in Springfield on Wednesday, calls for a penny-per-ounce excise tax, which would raise an estimated $600 million for prevention and health care, according to the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, called the bill “ridiculous” and an “infringement on people’s personal choices.” “People can make their own lifestyle choices,” Franks said. “It’s a bit insulting. It didn’t seem to work very well for [Mayor] Bloomberg in New York. I don’t think it will turn out any better here... READ MORE

Woodstock officials say they're unable to fire 'sex text' officer

February 9, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager appeared to strain to hold back tears as he used words such as "disgust," "loathsome" and "betrayal" to describe his feelings about the behavior of a police officer who sent a sexually charged text message to a child. Sager said he sympathized with residents who berated city officials over the decision to suspend Sgt. Charles "Chip" Amati for 30 days rather than seek his firing after he invited a 12-year-old girl to send him "sexy pictures" and misused a taxpayer-funded database to research his girlfriend. Nonetheless, on Wednesday, the city announced that it had explored its options and determined what it can do to further punish the sergeant — nothing. By state law, it isn't a small town's elected officials who discipline police but an appointed commission that considers a police... READ MORE

Most Winnebago County governments raised property taxes

February 7, 2014 - My Suburban Life

ROCKFORD - For the fourth straight year, most Winnebago County taxing bodies have asked for more money from a shrinking property tax pot. The value of all property in Winnebago County fell again last year, this time by approximately 7 percent, according to preliminary assessor's figures. Because property taxes depend in part on values, local governments must decide whether to work with less money or raise taxes on people whose homes have depreciated. Most did the latter. Winnebago County has 86 units of government - from schools and cities to parks and preserves - that levy property taxes. Last year, 58 asked for more property tax money, which will affect tax bills coming this spring. Ten left their tax levies unchanged from the previous year. "We are going... READ MORE

Ace Hardware wants to keep employees' state taxes

February 7, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

Two years after Ace Hardware received a 10-year incentive package to keep its headquarters in Oak brook, the company is back asking for a special tax break. The 4,700-store cooperative is seeking legal authority to collect the $12.7 million it was granted in the earlier incentive package but in the form of taxes its employees would pay the state. Ace said its structure as a cooperative doesn't allow it to take advantace of the earlier deal... READ MORE

Are Illinois’ $1.5 billion in tax giveaways working? Who knows?

February 6, 2014 - Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois is two months into an ongoing investigation over whether $1.5 billion in tax breaks and tax incentives are working. The answer is definitively indefinitive: We don’t know. “I have not seen anything that, verifiably, show these things work,” said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, in charge of one of two statehouse committees investigating the incentives. But Illinois’ economic development office insists its numbers show tax incentives do indeed work and produce jobs. The numbers from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity claim tax incentives helped create 4,671 jobs and bring in business investments worth nearly $3.7 billion in 2012. Franks isn’t buying it. “DCEO (argues) somehow... READ MORE

Franks introduces 'grooming' law in light of Amati investigation

February 6, 2014 - Northwest Herald

CRYSTAL LAKE – State Rep. Jack Franks will introduce a new bill to increase penalties against sexual predatory behavior in light of allegations of “grooming” against a Woodstock sergeant in the fall. The Marengo Democrat hopes to make grooming – currently a Class 4 felony – a Class 3 felony when the victim is age 14 or older and a Class 2 felony when victims are younger than age 14. Grooming occurs when a person knowingly uses electronic forms of communication to seduce, solicit, lure or entice a minor to commit a sex offense. Franks pinpointed the controversy surrounding Woodstock Police Sgt. Chip Amati as a reason to bolster the law. Amati reportedly text messaged his ex-girlfriend’s 12-year-old daughter for “sexy pictures.” The Woodstock City Council and city staff announced Wednesday no disciplinary action was legally possible beyond the 30-day suspension Amati is serving... READ MORE

Lawmakers vow not to consider tax incentives until end of spring

February 5, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

House lawmakers on Wednesday pledged not to consider any special tax incentives for companies until the end of the spring session. Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said the de facto moratorium could stretch until May. That’s when hearings on the state tax policy and business incentives are expected to end. The purpose of the hearings is to determine whether changes need to be made in the state’s program of providing tax breaks to companies in exchange for their promises to retaining and creating jobs. The moratorium is an agreement between Franks and Rep. John Bradley, chair of the House Revenue and Finance Committee. Franks and Bradley are leading the hearings. “We decided that if anyone proposes them... READ MORE

House Republicans seek to end lame-duck sessions

February 5, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Illinois lawmakers have a politically enviable tradition when it comes to unpopular decisions – make them in the lame-duck session after the November election. That's how lawmakers three years ago raised the income tax 67 percent on individuals and 46 percent on corporations, with the help of 12 outgoing Democratic lawmakers who provided the bare minimum number of votes needed. Six of them subsequently ended up receiving high-paying government jobs and the lucrative pensions that come with them. With the "temporary" tax increase set to start expiring Jan. 1, and worries that cash-strapped state lawmakers might go back on their word and make it permanent, House Republicans took a largely symbolic shot Tuesday at ending lame-duck sessions. Lawmakers led by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, filed House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 43... READ MORE

Our view: Support for advisory referendum on taxes

February 2, 2014 - Northwest Herald

We usually don’t support placing advisory referendums on the ballot. They can confuse voters and, because they’re nonbinding, the outcome means little, if anything. But if state Rep. Jack Franks’ attempt to get a statewide advisory referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot keeps on the minds of voters and politicians alike the issue of escalating property taxes and the irresponsible governmental bodies that are responsible for it, then we stand firmly behind it. As home prices plummeted in the years after the housing bubble burst, local governments continued to raise their levies, infuriating many taxpayers. For the past few years, Franks, D-Marengo, has tried to pass legislation that would forbid governments from raising their tax levies if their overall assessed value drops from the previous year. Since his colleagues in the General Assembly continuously blocked his efforts, Franks is back this year with House Bill 4273. It seeks to put a nonbinding advisory... READ MORE

Bill allows schools to opt out as polling place

February 1, 2014 - SFGate

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A new bill placed before the Illinois Legislature would let schools opt out of serving as polling places. State Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo filed the legislation with the support of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Topinka calls the bill "common-sense legislation" that puts kids first, adding government buildings, churches or other options should be used as polling places. The bill would let school boards determine if schools could be safely opened to voters. School boards would determine if they could enforce normal safety protocol on Election Day. School board officials would then file a written notice with local election officers if they couldn't. Franks says allowing voters in schools is an unnecessary risk. He says "protecting children... READ MORE

Quinn withholds support, GOP legislative leaders wary of Speaker Madigan’s $1.5 billion business tax-cut plan

January 30, 2014 - Voices, Chicago Sun-Times

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, right, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, left, look on as Gov. Pat Quinn delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House chambers at the state Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Springfield. | Seth Perlman / AP SPRINGFIELD-A day after Republicans slammed Gov. Pat Quinn for Illinois’ jobs climate, House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced legislation Thursday that would cut corporate income tax rates in half to encourage businesses to “grow their work forces with good paying jobs.” Under House Bill 4479, which would retroactively take effect Jan. 1, the corporate income tax would drop from 7 percent to 3.5 percent, resulting in savings to businesses of between $500 million and $700 million between now and June and $1.5 billion by the... READ MORE

Franks bill would eliminate hunting, fishing fees for people older than 75

January 30, 2014 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – State Rep. Jack Franks introduced a bill this week that would eliminate hunting and fishing fees for people older than 75. The bill, which he filed Monday, would waive the required $13.50 yearly fee for a senior's combination hunting/fishing license, which is already reduced from the $26.25 that residents younger than 65 must pay. "By the time you've reached 75, you're entitled to some breaks," Franks said. "You've paid your dues. Enough is enough." Franks, D-Marengo, said eliminating the fee would allow seniors, who are typically on a fixed income, the freedom to enjoy their outdoor activities without worrying about the financial impact. "It's a small issue, but I think it's an important issue," he said. Harvard resident Bill Matteson, 77, proposed the idea to Franks in October and said the bill would be a way to give a break to residents who have spent a lifetime paying the fee... READ MORE

Local reps critical of governor’s address

January 29, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Gov. Pat Quinn painted a rosy picture Wednesday of a state "making a comeback" and laid out proposals to increase the minimum wage and help the state's most vulnerable, but he conspicuously steered clear of mentioning the state income tax increase set to start expiring at year's end. In a 40-minute State of the State address clearly drafted to make his case to voters for his re-election, Quinn asked lawmakers to raise the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour, double the earned income credit for needy families and implement a “birth to five” program expanding prenatal care and early childhood education. Quinn promoted those and other proposals as part of a five-year blueprint for jobs and economic growth, which despite Quinn’s optimistic speech continues to sputter according to numerous indicators... READ MORE

Budget, election to drive Ill. lawmakers' agenda

January 19, 2014 - Chron

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Compared with last year's session, when Illinois lawmakers tackled major issues ranging from pensions to gay marriage to concealed carry, the legislative work that begins later this month likely will be less ambitious but more politically driven because of looming elections. Tax questions are expected to dominate the agenda, including what to do about the pending expiration of the temporary income tax, corporate tax incentives, Chicago pension reform and the possibility of a capital construction bill that could boost Gov. Pat Quinn's re-election bid. "It's going to be popular-vote issues," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said. "The financial issues of the state are finally taking root... READ MORE

Budget, election to drive Ill. lawmakers’ agenda

January 19, 2014 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Compared with last year’s session, when Illinois lawmakers tackled major issues ranging from pensions to gay marriage to concealed carry, the legislative work that begins later this month likely will be less ambitious but more politically driven because of looming elections. Tax questions are expected to dominate the agenda, including what to do about the pending expiration of the temporary income tax, corporate tax incentives, Chicago pension reform and the possibility of a capital construction bill that could boost Gov. Pat Quinn’s re-election bid. “It’s going to be popular-vote issues,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said. “The financial issues of the state are finally taking root.” Control of the governor’s mansion is on the line in the upcoming election, as well as the Democrats’ veto-proof... READ MORE

State lawmakers question corporate tax breaks

January 18, 2014 - Commercial News

CHICAGO — Lawmakers on Friday questioned the effectiveness of the tax breaks Illinois gives companies to keep or create jobs, with one legislator saying there’s little verifiable evidence the incentives work and another calling the current system “insanity.” Illinois businesses benefited from about $1.15 billion in tax incentives in fiscal year 2012, according to an analysis by the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Yet lawmakers noted the state continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Only three states — Nevada, Rhode Island and Michigan — had unemployment rates higher than Illinois’ 8.7 percent as of November. “We have to remember every incentive we give comes at the expense of taxpayers... READ MORE

Hearings on Tax Breaks in Illinois Scheduled

January 17, 2014 - WIFR

CHICAGO (AP) -- State Rep. Jack Franks says a hearing in Chicago on how Illinois provides tax breaks will be the first of several that may lead to a change in the way the state does business. The House State Government Administration and Revenue and Finance committees are scheduled to meet Friday on tax incentives. Illinois provides tax breaks through its EDGE program, but also cuts deals for other perks on occasion with companies that don't pay enough taxes to get credits. Tax breaks and other perks have drawn fire from Franks and others in recent years. Influential House Speaker Mike Madigan recently added his voice to those saying the state needs to consider changes. Franks hopes to complete the hearings by May and start working on legislation... READ MORE

Lawmakers question state's corporate tax breaks

January 17, 2014 - Daily Herald

Lawmakers on Friday questioned the effectiveness of the tax breaks Illinois gives companies to keep or create jobs, with one legislator saying there's little verifiable evidence the incentives work and another calling the current system "insanity." Illinois businesses benefited from about $1.15 billion in tax incentives in fiscal year 2012, according to an analysis by the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Yet lawmakers noted the state continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Only three states — Nevada, Rhode Island and Michigan — had unemployment rates higher than Illinois' 8.7 percent as of November. "We have to remember every incentive we give comes at the expense of taxpayers," said Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat... READ MORE

Illinois lawmakers question whether corporate tax breaks helping create, keep jobs

January 17, 2014 - The Republic

CHICAGO — Lawmakers on Friday questioned the effectiveness of the tax breaks Illinois gives companies to keep or create jobs, with one legislator saying there's little verifiable evidence the incentives work and another calling the current system "insanity." Illinois businesses benefited from about $1.15 billion in tax incentives in fiscal year 2012, according to an analysis by the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Yet lawmakers noted the state continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Only three states — Nevada, Rhode Island and Michigan — had unemployment rates higher than Illinois' 8.7 percent as of November. "We have to remember every incentive we give comes at the expense of taxpayers," said Rep. Jack Franks... READ MORE

Mixed messages abound as Illinois lawmakers weigh corporate tax breaks

January 17, 2014 - Crain's Chicago Business

Illinois' tax and incentive system may well need reforming, key lawmakers and state officials suggested today. But how to do it, and how changes might impact an Illinois economy that's badly underperforming the nation's, is by no means clear. That was the distinctly mixed message today as two Illinois House committees — finance and government administration — held the first of what will likely be a lengthy series of hearings on whether to alter Edge tax credits and other incentives the state has offered big companies like CME Group Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp. to keep or move jobs here but most recently denied Archers Daniels Midland Co. for its new Chicago headquarters. ADM decided to move here anyway but put on hold a related 100-job tech center. Early in the hearing, Government Administration Committee Chairman Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, ripped "crony capitalism," saying many corporate incentives... READ MORE

Look out for lame ducks and a soft sell on a progressive tax

January 16, 2014 - Reboot Illinois

The three members of our town hall meeting panel on Tuesday night in Woodstock were unanimous in what they think will happen to Illinois' income tax next January: It'll be extended. And it'll happen during the post-election, lame-duck General Assembly session in January, just before the victors in November's election are sworn into office. (There are technical and political reasons for this. Technically, a law passed after Jan. 1 can have an immediate effective date with a simple majority. Politically, this is a time when lame duck legislators with nothing to lose can cast unpopular votes without having to worry about voter backlash. And because some of those lame ducks will be looking for a paycheck a few days later, offers of state employment can help persuade them to press the green button when the roll is called... READ MORE

House Republicans: No support for graduated tax

January 15, 2014 - Daily Herald

A group of suburban Republican state lawmakers said Wednesday that no House GOP members will vote for a graduated income tax, a system that taxes people based on how much they earn. At a Chicago news conference, state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills touted his resolution opposing the idea, which has garnered nearly enough support so far in the Illinois House to block a change. Still, Republicans warn that supporters of a graduated tax will be trying to change minds. "This fight's not over yet," McSweeney said. Illinois has a flat income tax for individuals of 5 percent for everyone, no matter how much they make. Tying tax rates to income would require a constitutional amendment. Some Democrats, including state Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, expect to push for a graduated income tax amendment this year as lawmakers try... READ MORE

Here's an income tax rerun we're all going to want to try to avoid

January 15, 2014 - Reboot Illinois

Hold on to your wallets. Illinois lawmakers are coming after them again in a rerun of taxing proportions. So came the prediction from not one, but three lawmakers themselves. Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo, state Sen. Pam Althoff of McHenry and state Rep. Barb Wheeler of Crystal Lake hold synergistic views on the state’s tax future despite different party affiliations. At a town hall forum at Woodstock’s city hall hosted by Reboot Illinois, the three lawmakers predicted an extension of the current “temporary” 5 percent state income tax on individuals would occur in a lame duck session after the November election but before new officeholders are sworn in in January, while Democrats still hold their supermajorities and a grip on the governor's office... READ MORE

House Committees to Investigate Illinois Business Tax Credit Reform

January 15, 2014 - The Illinois Observer

(Chicago) – Top Illinois House panels will hold a joint hearing on Friday to investigate reform of Illinois business tax credits. State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), chairman of the House State Government Administration Committee, and State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), chairman of the House Revenue and Finance Committee will hold a joint hearing to review possible reforms to the state’s Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax incentive program. “The politics of inertia and insider deals is failing us badly,” Franks said. “Our state needs a paradigm shift in how we think about job creation and this hearing is intended to begin the process of crafting policies that work for Illinois.” The joint hearing will hear testimony from... READ MORE

Area lawmakers discuss state income tax at Woodstock town hall meeting

January 14, 2014 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – Facing a room of constituents Tuesday, several area lawmakers criticized the Democratic majority in Springfield for scheming to pass another lame-duck tax increase to fuel their wasteful spending habits. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, warned about 35 McHenry County residents during a town hall meeting inside Woodstock City Hall that lawmakers will again wait until after the November election to address the upcoming expiration of the 2011 temporary income tax hike. He said his Democratic colleagues will “create a crisis” with the state’s massive backlog in payments and unfunded pension obligations to make the 67 percent income tax hike permanent and pave the way to create a progressive tax structure. “A graduated income tax means more tax dollars for the state,” Franks... READ MORE

Illinois lawmakers to discuss future of tax credit program

January 12, 2014 - Chicago Tribune

A month after Illinois lawmakers failed to grant special tax incentives to a handful of companies, House members are to gather Friday in Chicago to discuss the future of the state's main economic development program. Critics of the program point out how companies have qualified for millions of dollars in incentives even as they laid off hundreds of workers or failed to create promised jobs. Concerns also have been raised over the lack of information made public on negotiated deals and how special tax breaks largely go to big companies... READ MORE

Our View: New year's wish list for Springfield

January 8, 2014 - Northwest Herald

An order of protection on a sheet of paper can be quite worthless when you think about it. Just ask the family of Diane Kephart, who obtained an order of protection against her ex-boyfriend after he pinned her down, held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her. A month later, with an order of protection against him, he killed Kephart. Or ask the Crystal Lake woman who was recently held hostage in her mother’s home by an ex-boyfriend despite having an order of protection out against him. Thankfully, she and her mother escaped without harm. Police shot and killed the ex-boyfriend after he shot at officers. Ask the countless others in our communities who have order of protections taken out against an abusive partner only to see them ignored, leaving them fearful for their... READ MORE

Illinois needs diet of lean cuisine

January 5, 2014 - The News-Gazette

Even if Illinois could afford all the local units of government it has — and it can't — it would be foolish to keep them. Hope springs eternal when a new year begins, and nowhere is that optimistic feeling reflected than in the New Year's resolutions people make and then, unfortunately, often forget. But it doesn't have to be that way. Sometimes, change is so important that it becomes a necessity. That's why the State of Illinois has to change. There's no future in committing slow-motion suicide, no matter how hard our elected officials from the top to the bottom of government try to prove there is. That's why Andy Shaw, president of the Chicago-based Better Government Association, is proposing a resolution for the people of Illinois to embrace "Let's tackle morbid government obesity... READ MORE

Our View: New year's wish list for Springfield

January 1, 2014 - Northwest Herald

Welcome to 2014, an election year for statewide offices, including governor, state representatives and one-third of our state senators. Obviously, with it being an election year, it will be less likely for those seeking office to say or do anything that might lose them votes. Which means it could be a long and unproductive 2014 in Springfield. Wait, sounds like 2013. And 2012. Anyway, even against all odds, we have a wish list of things we’d like to see happen in state government this year. • Allow the “temporary” income-tax increase to expire come Jan. 1, 2015. In 2011, a lame-duck General Assembly passed personal and corporate income-tax increases to help pay off a backlog of unpaid bills... READ MORE

Family of murder victim seeks change in domestic violence law

December 28, 2013 - Northwest Herald

The first time he attacked her, Diane Kephart’s ex-boyfriend pinned her down, held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her. She managed to break free from the man. Shaken and scared, the Vernon Hills woman obtained an order of protection and moved in with her parents in Antioch. Just a month later, on March 15, Paul Neff ignored that court order and followed through with the threat he made just one month earlier. According to media reports, Neff, armed with a 6-inch butcher-style knife, paced outside Kephart’s parents’ home. When she left for work, he attacked and killed her as her parents slept. Neff, 57, of Mundelein, later killed himself. Kephart... READ MORE

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Manager doesn't encourage second jobs with city

December 24, 2013 - Evanston Now

Evanston's city manager says he's generally discouraged the idea of retired city workers picking up a second job with the city. That practice has drawn criticism in other communities -- especially when relatively young, high-level public safety workers retire on full pension and then take another job with the town. And two state lawmakers have recently introduced legislation to cut the amount of pension income a retiree could receive while working a second job. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says he doesn't think hiring retirees for a second job in the city where they worked before should be banned, but he couldn't recall any instances of it happening in the more than four years he's been in Evanston... READ MORE

Des Plaines Oasis: End of the road

December 23, 2013 - Daily Herald

Will anyone shed a tear when the Des Plaines Oasis and its assorted pretzel, coffee, burger, pizza and tchotchke shops are bulldozed this spring to make way for new construction? They may not weep, but Bob and Ursela Szumski's travels from Wisconsin to see family on the East Coast won't be the same without a comfort stop before they brave the Chicago traffic. "We will (miss it)," Bob Szumski said, enjoying his coffee as cars whizzed by underneath on the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90). On the way home to Madison, the oasis is a reward after "going through all of the traffic — you can stop and take a deep breath," Ursela said. "Or, if you're going to Chicago, you can go to the bathroom before you hit the Chicago traffic." "The bathroom is... READ MORE

Why Madigan's broadside worries business groups

December 23, 2013 - Crain's Chicago Business

With state taxes likely to be the No. 1 issue in Springfield next year, House Speaker Michael Madigan rattled the state's business community this month when he refused to hold votes on bills to give tax breaks to two corporations threatening to leave Illinois and later denounced the breaks as “tax giveaways for corporate CEOs and millionaire shareholders.” The state is facing a $5 billion loss of revenue in 2015 (out of an operating budget of $64.4 billion) when temporary income tax hikes start to expire. And after the state's Democratic leaders angered their political base by passing a pension reform package that reduced benefits for state workers... READ MORE

Franks: Illinois' property-tax system needs a large dose of fairness

December 22, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Until I learned recently that Benjamin Franklin said “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” I had always assumed that the author of that famous quote was from Illinois. While our nation was reeling between 2008 and 2010 from the worst recession in 80 years, many states decided to cut spending and reduce taxes, keeping more in the bank accounts of families and small businesses. Illinois, on the other hand, raised personal and corporate income-tax rates over the objections of many, including myself, while putting off hard choices about eliminating inefficient programs and reforming our state’s broken public-sector retirement systems... READ MORE

Legislator calls for explanation of RTA boss's resignation

December 20, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

A state legislator on Thursday called for the chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority to explain the circumstances behind the recently announced resignation of the agency's executive director. In a letter to the RTA, state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, asked whether Joseph Costello's resignation was voluntary or forced as a result of recent disciplinary action, and if Costello was being awarded any type of severance package. In response, RTA Chairman John Gates Jr. issued a statement saying Costello "made a personal decision to retire after approximately 19 years of service to the RTA... READ MORE

RTA takes action against 2 top officials after probe

December 18, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

An investigation into allegations against two top officials at the Regional Transportation Authority has prompted the agency to order the two to attend management training programs, the RTA said Wednesday. The two officials identified in a report prepared for the agency last year were Executive Director Joseph Costello and Chief of Staff Jordan Matyas. The report's author, attorney Renee Benjamin, was hired by the RTA after the board's secretary received an anonymous written complaint from some employees June 5, 2012, the agency reported... READ MORE

Retirement should mean retirement in the new year, Franks says

December 18, 2013 - Reboot Illinois

Once more, with feeling: There is plenty more work to do on the pension front. Now we need to address the kinds of pension abuses that drive people nutty. Our friend and colleague Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the Better Government Association, mentioned a few in his column this week. One involves “spiking,” or the practice of granting end-of-career substantial raises to drive up the cost and amount of someone’s soon-to-be pension. When I was at the Daily Herald, we published a series of investigative pieces about how spiking often was done for retiring suburban school district administrators. Several years back, lawmakers tried to... READ MORE

Legislator to target ‘double-dipers’

November 23, 2013 - The Southern Illinoisan

A northern Illinois state legislator is setting his sights on “double-dippers” — people who leave a state job once fully vested in their pensions only to turn around and take another publicly funded job. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, says he has no problem with people who want to keep working. Rather, he objects to former public employees drawing their state pensions and collecting another taxpayer-funded paycheck. “Retirement is for those that retire,” Franks said. “If you want to keep working, don’t retire.” Franks said people often leave a job such as police chief and return a day later as “director of public safety.” He also cited school superintendents who retire from one public school district, draw a pension and go to work in another public district. He also cited as an example state troopers who leave the force at a relatively young age only to take chief’s jobs... READ MORE

Franks proposes gun bill that would end FOID card restriction for young adults

November 23, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Adults between 18 and 21 would no longer need parents’ written permission to possess firearms and ammunition under a local lawmaker’s proposal. House Bill 3762, filed Friday by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, lowers to 18 the age that parental permission is required as a condition for obtaining a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card. Under current law, residents under age 21 must produce a notarized affidavit from a parent or guardian, who cannot themselves be ineligible to have the FOID card required by law to possess firearms and ammunition. Franks said he was surprised when he learned from upset constituents that college-aged adults had the extra requirement. He called the extra burden unnecessary and an impediment to law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights that does nothing to keep criminals from... READ MORE

Public pension and salary ‘double-dippers’ targeted in new bill

November 18, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

This summer, the Metra patronage scandal erupted after an allegation that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan tried getting the rail agency to give a raise to a campaign worker who held a state job. Tempers once again flared after the Sun-Times revealed that the raise request — which Madigan said he later withdrew — came even as that worker, Patrick Ward, was already drawing a public pension roughly equal to his $57,000 annual salary. A new bill in Springfield, however, would ban such practices. The new legislation, dubbed “Retirement Means Retirement Act,” proposed by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, takes aim at so-called... READ MORE

Quinn signs bill spotlighting business tax breaks

November 15, 2013 - WJBC

SPRINGFIELD - A new bill in the Illinois House is aimed at public sector employees who “double dip” on pensions. Currently, pensions for fire and police are fully vested after 30 years. IMFR employee pensions are fully vested after 40 years. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, says it’s common practice for workers to “retire” at that point, then transfer to another government position while collecting a pension. Franks believes it’s a widespread problem across the state. “I think it costs local taxpayers more than state taxpayers,” Franks. “I would assume (the cost) is in the hundreds of millions of dollars every year.” Under his proposal, anyone collecting a public-sector pension while working in a different job that may be eligible for service... READ MORE

Bill Would Address Double-Dipping

November 15, 2013 - Alton Daily News

A new bill in the Illinois House is aimed at public sector employees who “double dip” on pensions. Currently, pensions for state and local government employees are fully vested after 30 years. State Rep. Jack D. Franks (D-Marengo) says it’s common practice for workers to “retire” at that point, then transfer to another government position while collecting a pension. Franks believes it’s a widespread problem across the state. “I think it costs local taxpayers more than state taxpayers,” Franks. “I would assume (the cost) is in the hundreds of millions of dollars every year.” Under his proposal, anyone collecting a public-sector pension while working in a different job that may be eligible for service credit will... READ MORE

Franks: My rationale for voting ‘yes’ on marriage equality

November 13, 2013 - Northwest Herald

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., quoting abolitionist Theodore Parker, said that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” When we consider the history of our great nation, the movement toward equality before the law is a defining characteristic of the American experience. This progression is a natural result of our founding ideals – the fundamental right to democratic representation and equality before the law – which remain the operating principles of our democracy today. We mustn’t overlook, however, that while Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage, was decided in 1967, Alabama did not formally remove from its constitution the text of its ban until 2000. It also is easy to forget that less than one century ago, more... READ MORE

Sneed: State Rep. Jack Franks aims to stop sweetheart loans to profs

November 8, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

Stop the perks! Perk patrol: State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) wants to stop lavish loans to professors on the backs of students in debt. Sneed has learned that Franks is filing legislation Friday that would make it illegal for colleges and universities to give sweetheart loans to their faculties and staff. Kick shot: “These not-for-profit institutions are tax-exempt as well as property tax-exempt — and if they are acting like a for-profit organization by giving out perks to professors, that’s wrong,” Franks told Sneed in June, when he first learned about the practice... READ MORE

Companies can’t lose, but can Illinois taxpayers ever win with incentives?

November 7, 2013 - Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.— Illinois lawmakers are determined to lower the state’s 9.2 percent unemployment rate, even it that means paying big companies to do business. The Illinois Legislature on Wednesday gave first or final approval to three tax incentive packages: Archer Daniels Midland, Illinois’ agribusiness giant, asked a Senate panel for $30 million in tax breaks to move 200 jobs to a new world headquarters in Chicago. The company would also get tax breaks for adding 500 jobs over the next five years to its former home in Decatur. Office Depot, which has merged with Office Max, is asking for $53 million in tax... READ MORE

ADM closer to getting special incentives to keep headquarters in Illinois

November 7, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

State lawmakers Wednesday took a step closer to granting special incentives to companies seeking thousands of dollars per job created or retained in Illinois. Agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. is seeking $5000 per job per year, chemical distributor Univar Inc. almost $3000 and OfficMax, which became Office Depot after its merger this... READ MORE

Lyons: Wait, so this is where we do need government?

November 6, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Pretty sure my marriage institution is intact. How about yours? Any cracks in the foundation? Seemed fine this morning, although I’d better clean the garage before winter comes to keep it that way. Also pretty sure my wife would frown if I referred to our marriage as an “institution,” even if I play the role of asylum resident to some acclaim. Based on our area legislators’ votes, it’s a great week for some and a tough one for others. Jack Franks was the only area legislator to vote for the same-sex marriage bill. Still a close vote, with most Republicans... READ MORE

Illinois lawmakers vote to allow gay marriages

November 5, 2013 - Daily News

Historic votes Tuesday in the Illinois Legislature positioned that state to become the largest in the heartland to legalize gay marriage, following months of arduous lobbying efforts by both sides in President Barack Obama’s home state. Under the measure, which the state House approved 61-54 before sending it on to the Senate for technical changes, gay weddings could be held in Illinois starting in June. The bill heads next to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has pledged to sign it but didn’t immediately indicate when. Fourteen states plus Washington D.C., allow same-sex marriage. Most recently... READ MORE

Petitioners seek to change state tax code

November 5, 2013 - Pantagraph

SPRINGFIELD — A group pushing for a graduated income tax has collected 150,000 signatures from Illinoisans who support the proposal. Members of the A Better Illinois coalition said Monday they hope to continue circulating petitions into next year in hopes the added numbers convince state lawmakers to support an amendment to the state Constitution to replace the Illinois’ current flat income tax rate with a graduated rate similar to the federal system. “The current way of doing business in our state is failing,” said Paul Trimmer, a roofing... READ MORE

Craver: Cullerton won't let (non) crisis go to waste

November 1, 2013 - Northwest Herald

It’s easy to conclude that Democratic Senate President John Cullerton is living in cloud-cuckoo land after he told WGN Radio several weeks ago that the state’s unfunded pension crisis isn’t really a crisis. The ratings agencies that downgrade Illinois so regularly that taxpayers could set their clocks to it might disagree, but I digress. Yes, it looks like Cullerton is divorced from reality in thinking that a $100 billion shortfall – and that’s minimum – is no big deal. But he’s not. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Cullerton doesn’t think it’s a crisis because he’s counting on “fixing” it through... READ MORE

Reagan Revolution Misses Tax Fiefdoms Flourishing in U.S.

October 27, 2013 - Bloomberg

Nothing thrives in Illinois like local government -- almost 7,000 units that tax, spend and drive up debt in a state struggling to pay off vendors and cover almost $100 billion of unfunded pension liabilities. More than any other state, Illinois illustrates how local taxing bodies flourish across the U.S., whether urban or rural, Republican or Democrat. The governments duplicate services and burn tax dollars at the same time states slash money for education and Washington cuts discretionary spending. In Illinois, which has the 11th highest state and local tax burden in... READ MORE

House sustains Quinn’s veto of bill cutting free days at museums: ‘The governor is correct’

October 23, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD - Visitors to museums and aquariums in Chicago and throughout Illinois won a reprieve Wednesday when the state House sustained Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of legislation that would have let the institutions halve the number of days they must offer free admission to users each year. The legislation, sought some of the state’s financially strapped cultural institutions, would have permitted museums and aquariums to cut the number of free days from 52 to 26 each year. Citing concern about the impact on low-income residents who might be priced out of a visit to a museum, Quinn vetoed the measure in August even though it had... READ MORE

Will wonders never cease?

October 23, 2013 - Capitol Fax

As we discussed a few months ago, some truly awful investment and spending decisions made by Chicago’s elite financiers on behalf of some of the city’s museums and cultural institutions have put those institutions in very real financial danger. Also as I told earlier, partly in reaction to this problem, the General Assembly passed a bill with a large bipartisan majority that would allow museums and aquariums to reduce the number of required free admission days by half, from 52 down to 26. Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the legislation… “Many Illinois families can only visit these museums on the 52 days that they are currently open to residents free of charge,” the governor wrote... READ MORE

Legislators will get paid, but they may pay a price

September 29, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

It's too early to say Pat Quinn will be re-elected as governor of Illinois, especially after a week in which he lost his big court fight with the legislature. But consider this: While the governor was losing the legal battle, he was winning the political one. Quinn's a Democrat. The General Assembly is controlled by Chicago Democrats. And for months, he's been making them look like idiots as they've demanded their paychecks even though they haven't dealt with the $100 billion state pension hole that is helping to ruin Illinois' economy... READ MORE

Bill would give Decatur-based ADM tax breaks to keep headquarters in Illinois

September 29, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Four days after Decatur, Ill.-based Archer Daniels Midland Co. went public with its search for a new corporate headquarters, legislation was introduced Friday that includes a package of tax breaks to keep the agricultural giant's home base in Illinois... READ MORE

Our view: Small relief for taxpayers

September 29, 2013 - Northwest Herald

It seems that just about everything in Illinois works against taxpayers. Income taxes were raised just a few years ago. Property taxes are way too high and continue to increase even though property values have decreased significantly since 2009. State government spends our tax dollars as if it were Monopoly money. Taxpayers need a break. While we don’t expecct to see any big breaks given the current leadership in Springfield, small ones are at least a start. That’s why we support a bill filed by state Rep. Jack Franks that would require property assessors to justify any assessment increase greater than 5 percent... READ MORE

Metra chief emphasizes positives — but not tough issues

September 23, 2013 - Voices, Chicago Sun-Times

Two days before he testifies in front of a taskforce with transit agencies in its crosshairs, Metra Interim Executive Director Don Orseno Monday put out a formal statement to riders pushing the message that “Metra is strong and steady.” The statement emphasizes a long list of what Orseno sees as the Metra positives that have been lost amid the sea of Metra criticisms following the Metra board’s controversial June 21 buyout of ex-CEO Alex Clifford. The up to 26-month, $871,000 separation agreement spawned two inspector general investigations and an RTA audit. Orseno’s comments offers little detail on bringing WiFi or Ventra fare card integration to Metra — two issues that Gov. Patrick Quinn called out as... READ MORE

Franks proposes property assessment legislation

September 19, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Hoping to give property taxpayers more of a say in the property-tax appeals process, state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, has introduced a bill he calls a “property taxpayer’s bill of rights.” If passed, the proposed legislation would require property assessors to justify any property assessment increase greater than 5 percent, compared with the previous year’s assessed value, during an appeals process. “Every day I hear from constituents who are concerned that their property taxes continually go up without any connection to what’s going on in the outside world,” Franks said. The proposed change, which was introduced Thursday, puts the burden of proof on the assessor to prove why an increased property value is warranted... READ MORE

Transit task force hit for banning public from ‘working group’ meetings

September 18, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

A gubernatorial task force charged with straightening out the Metra mess and other transit problems found itself facing its own brouhaha Wednesday over whether it should be holding closed-door meetings of its “working groups.’’ A lawmaker and a transit official complained about the closed sessions Wednesday, and at least two attorneys said the meetings — including one chaired by former U.S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald — legally should have been open. A spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn insisted otherwise but by the end of the day promised that all future meetings of the “working groups” of the governor’s Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force will be open to the public and the... READ MORE

House Democrat calls for end of gas tax

September 15, 2013 - PJstar

SPRINGFIELD — State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, is a sponsor of a bill to remove the 6.25 percent sales tax the state collects on most motor fuel sales. “The people I represent are frustrated by high gas prices and high state taxes that add to their burden,” Scherer, whose district includes part of Springfield, said in a statement concerning House Bill 3666. “By cutting some of the taxes that are contributing to our pain at the pump, this bill offers much-needed relief.” The bill would permanently remove the tax, as of July 1, 2014. The 6.25 percent includes 5 percent that goes to the state, 1 percent that goes... READ MORE

McCaleb: Need to kill progressive tax push

September 15, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Illinois state government reminds me of that AT&T commercial where actor Beck Bennett sits on a classroom floor with a group of kids and asks, “Who thinks more is better than less?” You know the one I’m talking about? The kids raise their hands, and the cute little girl in the purple dress and white sweater jumps in with: “More is better than less because, if stuff is not less, if there’s more less stuff then you might want to have some more, and your parents just won’t let you because there’s only a little. But we want more, we want more ...” We want more. We want more. They won’t say it publicly, but behind the scenes, “We want more” is the rallying cry of some powerful state officials and large special interest groups who hope to bring a progressive income-tax rate to... READ MORE

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State Representative Jack Franks: Lawmaker wants to change how gas is taxed

September 10, 2013 - Peoria Public Radio

In Illinois, gasoline is taxed twice, so explains Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marengo. "What we have in Illinois is a tax on a tax. Which is just wrong. Because right now we get charged with the motor fuel tax. But then on top of that, they charge a sales tax." Franks wants to wipe that out that second tax, so drivers would no longer have to pay sales tax on gasoline and other fuels. It's happened before. The state temporarily lifted the sales tax on gasoline more than a decade ago, a move some viewed as a mistake. While it's popular with voters, it would mean less money for Illinois' already stretched budget. But Franks insists it's not an election year gimmick... READ MORE

Renovation making Illinois Capitol shine -- for $50 million

September 6, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

The barricades that have blocked access to the west wing of the Illinois Capitol have started to come down after roughly two years of construction, revealing a host of changes aimed at restoring the 1860s building to its former glory and raising questions about the project's $50 million price tag. Gone is the mezzanine level that once housed dingy offices for dozens of Statehouse reporters, in its place a soaring space with large windows that will be used by the state treasurer and members of the Senate. New light fixtures include massive chandeliers and a pair of lamps in the shape of robe-draped women that flank the grand staircase. They're replicas of the originals that remain at the Iowa Capitol after being deemed "too risque" for Illinois more than a century ago... READ MORE

Town meetings to include Althoff, Franks, Wheeler

September 4, 2013 - Northwest Herald

McHENRY – State Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, will host four town hall meetings in her district in September to give residents the opportunity to meet her and ask questions about the issues affecting them. State Reps. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, and Barbara Wheeler, R-Fox Lake, are scheduled to join her for the meetings, according to a news release from Althoff's office. The meetings and locations are as follows: • Sept. 17: 7 p.m. at Fox Lake Lakefront Building, 71 Nippersink Drive, Fox Lake, with Wheeler... READ MORE

Editorial: What will it take to oust the Metra board holdouts?

September 2, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

The Republican members of the Cook County board are pushing a resolution that would ask three suburban holdouts on the Metra board to resign. Pretty please. It's a nonbinding measure, since the county board members don't have the legal authority to fire the people they appointed. The betting is that the Democratic majority is going to snuff it out, anyway — because the legislature is going to overhaul the whole system soon or because the Metra board needs to keep some experienced people or because, lamest of all, the remaining board members... READ MORE

‘Leading Lawyers’ profiles local attorneys

September 1, 2013 - Northwest Herald

MARENGO – Herb and Jack Franks, of the McHenry County law firm Franks, Gerkin & McKenna, are featured in the August edition of “Leading Lawyers Magazine.” Published quarterly, Leading Lawyers Magazine is a division of the Law Bulletin Publishing Company, which has served the legal and business communities of the Chicago area for more than 150 years. Herb Franks is the managing partner of the firm and specializes in personal injury and workers’ compensation law. Jack Franks, Herb’s son and also a partner, focuses on complex commercial litigation, general business law, injury law and multinational and commercial litigation. Jack Franks is the state representative for the 63rd... READ MORE

Secret Metra memo tarnishes 'good guy' Schaffer

August 29, 2013 - Crain's Chicago Business

The only member of the Metra board to emerge relatively unscathed from the Alex Clifford fracas is suddenly picking up some serious tarnish on his halo. According to a hitherto undisclosed email whose validity I now have confirmed, Metra board member Jack Schaffer — the only member to vote to reject an $871,000 "departure settlement" for ousted CEO and Executive Director Mr. Clifford that some now consider to be hush money — was improperly funneling internal documents to Mr. Clifford, documents that may have helped Mr. Clifford get the money. And the source of this new information: Mr. Clifford, who put it all in writing. Here's the story in a Metra mess that continues to get deeper and more bizarre... READ MORE

Dem defends Metra Board members, predicts ouster move will fail

August 28, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

A Democratic Cook County commissioner Wednesday predicted a proposed resolution asking half the Metra board to resign would fail and said the idea was “terrible public policy” because the “bad apples” on the Metra Board have already bailed out. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin defended three Metra Board members targeted for ouster just as state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) said the refusal of at least two of the trio to resign made them the “poster children for why we need change”... READ MORE

State accused of mismanaging no-bid purchases

August 28, 2013 - Pantagraph

SPRINGFIELD — The Quinn administration set a dubious record in the most recent fiscal year. According to the state’s main purchasing oversight board, officials approved more than $135 million in no-bid emergency purchases during the fiscal year that ended June 30. The figure is more than $34 million higher than the previous fiscal year and a whopping 300 percent higher than what was seen during the final year of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s tenure. The tally is troubling because it could mean taxpayers aren’t getting the best deal when the state goes out to buy items ranging from food to garbage trucks to flashing lights for police cars... READ MORE

Jesse White awards Marengo-Union Library grant for new space

Auugust 27, 2013 - Northwest Herald

MARENGO – Secretary of State Jesse White on Tuesday handed Marengo-Union Library officials a life-sized check for more than $543,000 that will help officials remodel a larger facility off Grant Highway. Standing inside the current library along Marengo's downtown, White commended the local library officials for wanting a better facility that will provide needed services to students, senior citizens and the unemployed who often rely on libraries for resources. "A lot of these communities have a need to expand, to grow, to have a better quality facility," White said. "This community, with its expanding population, wanted a better facility to respond to the people's needs within the community... READ MORE

RTA audit: Insurance could have covered ex-Metra CEO’s threatened lawsuit

August 20, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

The Metra Board’s decision to give ex-CEO Alex Clifford a “generous” farewell handshake to avoid a lawsuit was a bum deal for taxpayers because insurance would have covered most of the cost of any threatened litigation, RTA documents indicated Tuesday. In addition, Metra underestimated the total cost of Clifford’s 26-month “separation agreement” by calculating its maximum payout at $718,000 when it was actually $871,000, RTA officials told the Chicago Sun-Times... READ MORE

Audit: Metra Wrong to Pay Ex-CEO Massive Severance

August 20, 2013 - NBC Chicago

In a blistering report, the Regional Transportation Authority says members of the Metra Board were wrong when they made a decision to pay ousted CEO Alex Clifford a mammoth severance package rather than face him in court. The agency’s audit staff says the Metra deliberative process was "flawed, and their decision to give Mr. Clifford a generous severance package was not financially prudent." The RTA said Metra should have used the proceeds of an insurance... READ MORE

Consolidation law would have little pull in McHenry County

Auugust 17, 2013 - Northwest Herald

A new law that allows the DuPage County Board to ax a handful of its 400 units of government would have less of an impact in McHenry County if its board was likewise empowered. Senate Bill 494, which Gov. Pat Quinn called a pilot program when he signed it Aug. 2, authorizes the DuPage County Board to eliminate 13 units of government that meet a strict set of criteria. If the same law were applied to McHenry County, the County Board realistically could eliminate four of the 140 or so public bodies that can levy property taxes, an analysis of county records shows. They include the Lake in the Hills Sanitary District, the Crystal Lake Rural Fire District and the Greenwood and Hebron drainage districts... READ MORE

Franks bill targeting tax-fraud software signed into law

Auugust 16, 2013 - Northwest Herald

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, issued the following news release Friday: Sale and use of ‘tax-zappers’ now illegal in Illinois WOODSTOCK, Ill. – Legislation introduced by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, cracking down on high-tech sales tax avoidance will be signed into law this afternoon. Franks’ measure takes aim at curtailing the falsification of electronic cash register records to lower a business’ tax liability. “The notion that billions in sales tax revenue is being lost due to businesses cooking their books is unconscionable,” Franks said. “Even though it was already illegal to cheat on taxes, ‘tax-zappers’ created an easy way for an unscrupulous few to cheat that is very hard to track... READ MORE

Our View: Patricia's Law is worthwhile

Auugust 16, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to find holes in state statutes, and Gov. Pat Quinn’s signing of legislation known as Patricia’s Law has helped repair one. Patricia McNamara, 50, of Rockford, was killed in an October 2011 crash when a distracted driver ran a stop sign at Harmony Road and Route 20 near Marengo. McHenry County Sheriff’s Police ticketed driver Kenneth Englert, 55, of Rochelle, for failure to obey a stop sign. Englert told police he was distracted by a cellphone call. McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt sentenced Englert to a $551 fine and court costs and 120 days of court supervision. The offense doesn’t even show up on Englert’s driving record, because a successful court supervision wipes the offender’s... READ MORE

Fitzgerald tapped for transit spot

Auugust 15, 2013 - Northwest Herald

An ongoing patronage investigation at Metra that involved the speaker of the Illinois House and forced the upheaval of multiple transit boards has now compelled the return of the state’s most recognizable corruption-fighter. Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the former federal prosecutor credited with sending two former Illinois governors to prison, has been appointed by Gov. Patrick J. Quinn to a 15-member panel aiming to reform state transit agencies. The governor announced the appointments today, specifying in a statement that the panel will be charged with issuing recommendations on ways to “eliminate waste, fraud and abuse and streamline operations to ensure improved transit service” for Illinois citizens... READ MORE

Lawmaker wants to close 'Zuccarelli loophole'

August 14, 2013 - Crain's Chicago Business

A state lawmaker today filed legislation designed to close a loophole that allowed double-dipping on Chicago-area public transit boards. Under a bill submitted today by Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, township officials cannot also be paid if they serve on the boards of the Regional Transportation Authority, Metra, Chicago Transit Authority or Pace. It already was illegal for someone who works for the federal, state or municipal government to also draw pay for a transit post, but the loophole allowed Gov. Pat Quinn to name political backer and Thornton Township Supervisor Frank Zuccarelli to the CTA board. Mr. Zuccarelli yesterday quit the CTA board, but the appointment had become an issue in the race for governor, with Quinn rival Bill Daley charging that the move was more about politics than providing good transportation... READ MORE

Clifford's ally at Metra is longtime GOP pol

August 14, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Ever since his defiant stand against the confidentiality-clad severance deal for ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford, Metra board member Jack... READ MORE

Metra retirement plans derailed

August 10, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

Three Metra Board members who signed a controversial $718,000 deal to dump Metra’s CEO would have never been around to do so if they had followed an agreement by four lawmakers to retire two years ago. But the agreement fell apart after Mayor Rahm Emanuel refused to let the city’s appointee — Metra Board member Larry Huggins — retire and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle spoke up on Huggins’ behalf, letters obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times indicate.... READ MORE

Lottery manager seeks lower projected profits

August 8, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

The private company running the Illinois Lottery asked to slash its projected profits by more than a half-billion dollars after the lottery rejected a company pitch to introduce a keno-style game, state officials said Wednesday. Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones told the Lottery Control Board that officials from Northstar Lottery Group sent a letter July 29 seeking $556 million in concessions over the next five fiscal years. The request came less than a month after Northstar fell short of the profits it pledged to bring to the state... READ MORE

Our view: Let voters have choice

Auugust 8, 2013 - Northwest Herald

We’ve been critical of the McHenry County Board over the past couple of years for failing to ask voters if they’d prefer to popularly elect the board chairman at the ballot box. Today, we’ll offer some accolades after learning that the board’s Management Services Committee may advance a referendum that would do exactly that. There’s still plenty of work to do before a referendum gets before voters. But the County Board, at least, is moving in the right direction. Under the current process, voters elect their County Board representatives by district – four each in six geographic districts. Every two years, the County Board members themselves elect their chairman. The Northwest Herald and others... READ MORE

Hill to move forward with reappointing Jourdan to RTA

Auugust 7, 2013 - Northwest Herald

McHenry County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill plans to move forward with reappointing Al Jourdan to the Regional Transportation Authority Board, but with an agreement with the longtime GOP insider about a succession plan. Hill, R-Woodstock, said she plans to meet Thursday with Jourdan about reappointment to another five-year term, but with emphasis on training a replacement to succeed him, which she said could be sooner than five years. Jourdan's term expired April 1, but he has continued to serve – a reappointment vote had been postponed because of turmoil at Metra and legislation aimed at eliminating the RTA board altogether... READ MORE

CTA board member profits from double-dip loophole

August 6, 2013 - Crain's Chicago Business

Thanks to an apparent loophole in state law, a south suburban Democratic bigwig will be paid both as a new member of the Chicago Transit Authority board and as a township supervisor — even though others in a similar position have been forced to give up one paycheck or the other. At issue is Gov. Pat Quinn's appointment earlier this summer of Frank Zuccarelli, the Thornton Township supervisor and the township's Democratic committeeman, to a slot on the CTA board. The CTA position will pay him $25,000 a year and... READ MORE

New law helps Illinois prosecutors target child predators

August 5, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Illinois prosecutors pursuing cases of attempted child abduction may now introduce the defendant's past convictions on similar charges as evidence at trial, under a new state law. For most crimes, past convictions are not admissible during trial until a defendant has been convicted and his or her sentence is being considered. But there are exceptions for several sex crimes against youths, including rape, sexual abuse and child pornography. The new law, approved Friday by Gov. Pat Quinn, would add attempted child abduction to that list. The law's supporters say a judge or jury should be aware of a pattern of repeated attempts at child abduction by the defendant, because that might... READ MORE

Metra deals with leadership vacuum

August 3, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Less than 24 hours into his acting chairmanship, Jack Partelow visited Metra headquarters Friday to meet with senior staffers and gauge the mood. Not surprisingly, he found an agency bruised by an ongoing political scandal that has prompted four Metra board resignations, two state ethics investigations and calls for major reforms. "Some people are kind of down because the place is being trashed in a way," Partelow said. "But there's an awful lot of good people there. ... We have to keep the railroad running." But keeping Metra on track is an arduous task these days. The agency — the country's second-largest commuter rail system — finds itself without a clear leader after the ouster of former CEO Alex Clifford in June and Chairman Brad O'Halloran's resignation... READ MORE

String of resignations hasn’t derailed Metra — yet

August 2, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

Down four board members and a CEO, Metra is still functioning — though barely. But that’s assuming no more resignation letters are being inked among the seven remaining members of the board running the suburban rail agency swept up in a patronage scandal. That’s exactly what some elected officials want... READ MORE

RTA board member quits after controversy over state grant

August 1, 2013 - WLS

A South Side reverend, who was ordered in January to pay back a $91,000 state grant after he couldn’t account for how it was spent, resigned Wednesday from the Regional Transportation Authority, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The Rev. Tyrone Crider’s resignation comes about six months after he was reappointed to the RTA board by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Feb. 27. The RTA is the agency that oversees city and suburban transportation, including the scandal-plagued Metra commuter rail system. Preckwinkle was unaware at the time she reappointed him that Crider had been sued by Illinois Attorney General... READ MORE

Metra Board Chairman Resigns Amid Payout, Patronage Scandals

August 1, 2013 - CBS2 Chicago

Metra’s board chairman has resigned in the wake of scandals that include a controversial severance package for the rail system’s former CEO. Brad O’Halloran sent his letter of resignation to Cook County board members Thursday afternoon. He was among board members who OK’d a more than $700,000 contract buyout for former Metra CEO Alex Clifford, who claimed he was pressured to raise the salary of an agency employee who was a political crony of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). O’Halloran is the third Metra board member to resign amid heavy criticism.... READ MORE

Metra chairman resigns amid scandal

August 1, 2013 - WGNTV

The chairman of Metra resigned today over the controversial firing of CEO Alex Clifford. In a letter sent to Cook County commissioners Brad O’Halloran said “It is with mixed feelings I step down. Unfortunately a media and politic frenzy has been stirred up, primarily related to the Alex Clifford separation agreement. I have come to the sad conclusion that, so long as I am Chairman and a member of the board, the truly critical issues facing Metra will be left aside while the focus remains on the next big headline or attention-grabbing quotation.” Clifford was given severance package equal to three years pay. Three Metra... READ MORE

Metra Chairman of the Board Brad O'Halloran has resigned

August 1, 2013 - ABC 7 News

O'Halloran feels that despite what he considers making decisions in the best interest of Metra, he has become a distraction to the agency's business and it is time to step down. O'Halloran was elected Metra chair in November 2012 by the board. He says he acted in a transparent way by asking the agency's inspector general to take the most effective action in the aftermath of buying out Alex Clifford, Metra's executive director, for $718,000 in April... READ MORE

Another transit mess as RTA member resigns under fire

July 31, 2013 - Crain's Chicago Business

After a series of financial scandals, you'd think that the leaders of the Chicago area's public transit agencies would be eager to clean house and avoid more bad publicity. I mean, the papers have been filled all summer with stories about how Metra's ex-CEO and executive director, Alex Clifford, received a $718,000 "departure settlement" after squawking about alleged pressure to hire and promote pals of House Speaker Michael Madigan and other top pols. Other stories... READ MORE

Taxpayers’ legal tab for Metra mess adds up to more than $250K — so far

July 30, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

Metra Board members already have racked up more than a quarter million dollars in legal fees trying to address the mess created by their ex-CEO’s charges that he was subjected to political arm-twisting. Throw in Alex Clifford’s hefty “separation agreement’’ of up to $718,000; the $75,000 in Clifford’s legal fees, which Metra promised to cover, and $18,000 in “crisis-strategy” fees through June 30 and the taxpayer tab is more than $1 million — and... READ MORE

Metra boss got village pay despite ban

July 30, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Metra Chairman Brad O'Halloran received nearly $22,000 for his service as an elected trustee in Orland Park despite a state law banning Metra board members from receiving a paycheck from any other government post, according to records from the southwest suburb. O'Halloran — under fire for his role in a large severance package to ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford — attempted to return the money this month, according to public records obtained Monday by the Tribune. He received pay from both government bodies for 16 months until notifying Orland Park in December to stop paying him his village salary, according to the records and a village spokesman. Related Brad O'Halloran Brad O'Halloran.. READ MORE

Quinn signs bill stripping mass-transit boards of perks

June 24, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Members of the Metra Board will have benefit package issues of their own with a new law stripping them of future pensions and insurance. Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law that takes the benefits away from future appointees of Metra, Pace, the Chicago Transit Authority and the Regional Transportation Authority. The signing Tuesday comes in the wake of the latest scandal at the embattled suburban rail agency. Ousted CEO Alex Clifford, who could receive up to $718,000 from a buyout package approved by the Metra Board, has alleged he was forced out because he would not turn a blind eye to patronage requests, some of which lead... READ MORE

Quinn signs law ending pension, health benefits for future transit boards

July 24, 2013 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD — On the heels of the ongoing Metra scandal, Gov. Pat Quinn Tuesday signed legislation that would take state health insurance and pension benefits away from future members of transit boards. The plan, written by state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo and Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington, takes effect immediately. It affects Metra, the RTA, PACE and the CTA. Franks in particular has long targeted transit boards for cost cuts, saying the part-time jobs shouldn't qualify for full-time benefits. The proposal was approved by... READ MORE

New law bans Metra board pensions, health coverage

July 24, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD — Generous health care and pensions will go by the wayside for future political appointees overseeing the Chicago area's local bus and train service, but the current officeholders will get to keep the benefits until they are reappointed to new terms. The ban on lucrative perks for the next round of board members at scandal-plagued Metra and other transit agencies took effect when Gov. Pat Quinn's signed legislation Tuesday. "Especially considering the recent problems at Metra, Gov. Quinn does not think it's appropriate to be providing gold-plated pensions for these part-time appointed positions... READ MORE

Franks' bill eliminating ex-transit board member benefits now law

July 24, 2013 - Northwest Herald

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation that prevents transit board members from receiving taxpayer-funded health care and pension benefits after they leave the boards. Marengo Democratic Rep. Jack Franks, who introduced the law, said it was ridiculous for board members of Metra, CTA, Pace and RTA to be entitled to "free health care for life" after "going to a meeting or two a month." “If we are going to solve Illinois’ fiscal problems, there can be no more sweetheart deals priced into the budget every year, especially ones that promise a lifetime of benefits to part-time board members,” Franks said. “The taxpayers of this state... READ MORE

Quinn signs bill yanking long-term benefits for Metra, other board members

July 23, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

Fueled by a growing uproar over a Metra patronage mess, Gov. Pat Quinn Tuesday signed into law a bill barring new Metra and other transit board members from receiving taxpayer-funded health care and pension benefits after they leave such boards. “Especially considering the recent problems at Metra, Gov. Quinn does not think it’s appropriate to be providing gold-plated pensions for these part-time, appointed positions,’’ said Brooke Anderson, a Quinn spokeswoman. A lead sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), also called it “ridiculous” that Metra, CTA, Pace and RTA... READ MORE

Odds favor more strife for Illinois Lottery

July 22, 2013 - Crain's Chicago Business

Don't bet on the quick payoff that private management was supposed to bring the Illinois Lottery. Like an experiment with too many variables, it's impossible to determine whether the consortium hired to run the lottery in 2011 overpromised, underdelivered or ran into too much interference from the state, which for better or worse has played a bigger role in the lottery's marketing and day-to-day management than both sides anticipated. And the power struggle between the state and Northstar Lottery Group LLC continues, dampening prospects for a turnaround this year... READ MORE

Illinois State Rep. Jack Franks Talks About His Stand Against Progressive Taxes

July 17, 2013 - The Huffington Post

As the tax debate has gone historically, most Democrats are for a progressive tax structure in Illinois. All Republicans in the Illinois House and Senate are for keeping the flat rate we currently have. Not all Democrats are for a progressive tax, though. State Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, has gone so far as to sign on as a chief co-sponsor of a resolution to oppose a progressive income tax. In an interview with Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek, Franks talks about his opposition, his approach to taxes, generally, the state's spending and budget problems... READ MORE

Do RTA ties to Madigan pose conflict of interest over Metra audit?

July 15, 2013 - Daily Herald

As an oversight board, RTA leaders say it's their job to scrutinize the much-maligned separation agreement Metra offered to ex-CEO Alex Clifford that's led to allegations Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan exerted political pressure at the commuter rail agency. But given that Madigan's son-in-law Jordan Matyas is second-in-command at the RTA, some wonder how independent the audit will be. Matyas, an attorney who joined the agency in 2011, is the RTA's chief of staff. Metra Chairman Brad O'Halloran appeared before the RTA board... READ MORE

Is it time to start over with new Metra board?

July 14, 2013 - Daily Herald

A shake-up is needed on Metra's board of directors, state lawmakers say, as a scandal over political meddling in the agency continues to snowball. "I've seen enough ... it's time to blow up the board at Metra," Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, said Saturday. "It's not just hiring — it's on-time performance, mechanical breakdowns and a bad rollout of the fare increase." Controversy over a separation agreement worth as much as $718,000 with ex-Metra CEO Alex Clifford is escalating after new revelations that he accused the board chairman and a former chairman of ousting him for rejecting political pressure by heavyweights such as Illinois House... READ MORE

Democrat Jack Franks Talks About His Stand Against Progressive Taxes

July 12, 2013 - Reboot Illinois

Illinois' first campaign contribution limits went into effect in 2009. But don't expect them to be in effect for long in the 2014 governor's race if events continue unfolding on their current path. Between personal wealth and super PAC involvement, it's likely that limits on donations will be lifted long before the election... READ MORE

Franks: Quinn’s ploy on pensions shows troubling lack of leadership

July 10, 2013 - Northwest Herald

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, issued the following news release Wednesday: WOODSTOCK,Ill. – State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) issued the following response after Gov. Pat Quinn cut the salaryof lawmakers in an effort to inject himself in pension reform discussions. “Today, Governor Quinn took a page out of his predecessor’s playbook and decided to lead by press conference. Although I do not disagree with his efforts to stop the pay of lawmakers as we work to find a solution on pension reform, it is frustrating that the governor is moreinterested in splashy headlines than actual ideas. “At a time when Illinois’ pension systems have been pushed to the brink of disaster and the people of Illinois need... READ MORE

McCaleb: Is there a silver lining in the latest Metra outrage?

July 7, 2013 - Northwest Herald

I’ll play the optimist today. There actually might be a silver lining in the outrageous severance package given to outgoing Metra CEO Alex Clifford in exchange for his silence. That’s right. Clifford was paid to keep his mouth shut about some kind of shenanigans at Metra. There’s no other way to look at it. What those shenanigans are and how big, we don’t know. Yet. But the “yet” just might be the silver lining part. The going-away-quietly present – which could total almost $750,000 over two years – is so egregious that it’s outraged just about everyone in Illinois but the Metra Board members who gave it to Clifford. The House Mass Transit Committee chaired by state Rep. Deborah Mell has summoned... READ MORE

Lawmakers to look at $740K severance for former Metra CEO

July 4, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

State lawmakers who are demanding that Metra officials explain a $740,000 severance deal for the agency's former CEO and the secrecy cloaking the reasons for his departure have scheduled a hearing on the matter for next week. "Given Metra's already poor track record of managing public money, it is imperative that we learn all that we can about this separation agreement," Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said Wednesday in a news release announcing the hearing. Franks and Rep. Deborah Mell, D-Chicago, head of the House Mass Transit Committee, set the hearing in Chicago for July 11, a day after the agency that oversees Metra... READ MORE

McHenry County Board delays RTA vote

July 2, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

McHenry County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill Tuesday postponed a controversial re-appointment of Republican Party insider Al Jourdan to the Regional Transportation Authority Board. "We need time to facilitate interviews between board members and Mr. Jourdan," Hill said during a county board meeting today in Woodstock. "It's important to get to the truth rather than pay attention to the grandstanding that's going on," added board member Anna May Miller, chairwoman of the board's Transportation Committee. On Monday, Rep. Jack Franks... READ MORE

State pols pressure County Board not to reappoint Jourdan to RTA board

July 1, 2013 - Northwest Herald

The controversial severance package given to Metra's ousted executive director has prompted two lawmakers to urge the McHenry County Board not to reappoint former GOP powerbroker Al Jourdan to the Regional Transportation Authority Board. Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks and Republican Sen. Dan Duffy urged the County Board in a Monday news release to choose someone "independent and reform-minded" instead of Jourdan. The County Board had been scheduled to vote to reappoint Jourdan on Tuesday, but the vote will be postponed for reasons County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill said are unrelated... READ MORE

Ex-Metra chief could get two raises for doing nothing

July 1, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

Former Metra CEO Alex Clifford stands to reap two salary hikes after leaving the suburban rail agency — amounting to what a key lawmaker called “a raise to stay away.’’ It’s yet another bizarre twist to a golden parachute attracting increasing heat. EO Alex Clifford shows off new electrical outlets in the Metra rail cars as part of a rehab program being performed at... READ MORE

CEO severance controversy puts Metra board in harsh spotlight

June 29, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

The controversy over Metra's approval of a $740,000 severance package for its ousted CEO has cast a harsh spotlight on the commuter rail agency's little-known board of directors. It's also revived a decades-old question of why Chicago's transportation agencies have appointed boards in the first place, rather than elected ones, like some other big cities. By state law, the directors of Metra, the CTA, Pace and the Regional Transportation Authority are appointed by public officials — and are commonly referred to as political appointees. This can be good and bad: Proponents say appointees... READ MORE

Legislators slam Metra CEO's exit deal, secrecy

June 26, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

wo state representatives are pressing Metra's board to explain why it approved a severance agreement that could pay the commuter rail agency's departed CEO as much as $740,000. The lawmakers also criticized Metra directors for cloaking details of the negotiations with departed CEO Alex Clifford in secrecy, as first reported Tuesday in the Tribune. Reps. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, said they are calling for a legislative hearing into the matter... READ MORE

Jack Franks furious over former Metra CEO's severance deal

June 25, 2013 - Northwest Herald

State Rep. Jack Franks has joined the growing chorus of Illinois lawmakers who argue that taxpayers should not foot the hefty severance package recently awarded to Metra's former chief executive officer. Metra's board accepted Alex Clifford's resignation Friday and approved $442,000 in severance. It also agreed to pay Clifford's legal fees, moving expenses and health insurance costs, which could push the buyout to more than $750,000. Franks, a Marengo Democrat, told the Northwest Herald that the extra costs in Clifford's severance is an abuse of taxpayer dollars from... READ MORE

Ex-Metra chief's severance deal under scrutiny

June 25, 2013 - Bloomberg Business Week

CHICAGO (AP) — A large severance package for Metra's former CEO is drawing scrutiny from state lawmakers who called it wasteful Tuesday and urged the Chicago-area commuter rail agency not to burden taxpayers with its costs. Metra's board accepted Alex Clifford's resignation last week and approved $442,000 in severance. It also agreed to pay Clifford's legal fees, moving expenses and health insurance costs, which could push the buyout to more than $750,000. State Reps. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, and David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, released a joint statement calling on Metra not to pass along to taxpayers the... READ MORE

Pol on perk patrol

June 20, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

First class male: Watch for State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) to send a letter to every college president making them wish their addresses were unknown. To wit: Franks, chairman of the State Government Administration Committee, wants to know whether their institutions are giving lavish loans to professors and administrators for expenditures like summer homes. “This better not be happening,” said Franks, who is outraged by a recent New York Times story on lavish loans and university compensation given to star professors... READ MORE

Local lawmakers unsure whether committee will produce pension compromise

June 20, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Illinois lawmakers came to a special session on pension reform, they saw, they formed a committee, they collected per diems for their trouble, and they left. The House and Senate on Wednesday approved creating a 10-member committee to attempt to develop a pension fix that reconciles deep differences between reform bills passed by both houses. Gov. Pat Quinn called for the special session after lawmakers adjourned May 31 without approving a plan to address an unfunded pension liability now approaching $100 billion... READ MORE

Franks, Althoff discuss local transportation improvements with IDOT secretary, local officials

June 19, 2013 - Northwest Herald

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, issued the following news release Tuesday: WOODSTOCK, Ill. – State Representative Jack D. Franks, D-Marengo, and state Senator Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, met with Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) secretary Ann Schneider, and local leaders, Monday, to discuss priorities for infrastructure improvement in McHenry County. “The quality of our roads, bridges and other infrastructure is of vital importance to the economic health of our communities,” said Althoff. “First-hand accounts from community leaders are the best way for IDOT officials to determine local infrastructure needs.” The meetingl... READ MORE

Free shred and recycle day

June 18, 2013 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK -- State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, is partnering with Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County and Environmental Defenders of McHenry County to provide local residents with a free paper shredding and recycling event this month. The shred and recycle day will be from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 29 in the parking lot of the Habitat for Humanity Restore and Sears Outlet shopping center, 2205 S. Eastwood Dr., Woodstock. Paper shredding and recycling services are free of charge. Participants are also encouraged to donate new... READ MORE

State Hit With Another Bond Rating Downgrade

June 4, 2013 - WNIJ

Governor Pat Quinn is calling for a meeting today with legislative leaders to discuss Illinois' pension crisis. The move comes after a downgrade of the state's bond rating. Fitch says it lowered Illinois from A to A minus with a negative outlook due to the state's inability to pass a pension overhaul. It provoked a string of press releases. -from Republican Treasurer Dan Rutherford - who just declared his candidacy for governor - calling it disgraceful and irresponsible... READ MORE

Outraged lawmakers call for special session to fix Illinois pension

June 1, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Illinois lawmakers left the state capitol Friday without resolving the state’s $100 billion pension crisis, an elusive legislative priority that had local legislators demanding an immediate special session to address it. Standing on the floor of the Illinois House, Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, called for Gov. Pat Quinn’s resignation if he didn’t show the leadership to order lawmakers to return to Springfield and fix the state’s $100 billion unfunded pension liability. The House and Senate passed competing pension legislation earlier this month, and lawmakers weren’t... READ MORE

Franks lashes out over the lack of pension action

May 31, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, lashes out over the lack of pension action last week in the Illinois House. Aides to Gov. Pat Quinn say he’s unlikely to bring legislators back for a special session unless there’s an agreement... READ MORE

Economic development bill, including Tuscola fertilizer plant, passes

May 30, 2013 - The News Gazette

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers Thursday night approved, 81-35, a multibillion-dollar economic development measure that includes incentives for a urea fertilizer plant proposed to be built on the west side of Tuscola. House opponents called the measure, which includes about a dozen separate components, "a Christmas tree bill," but supporters said it would mean jobs and economic growth throughout the state. Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, criticized the way the bill was... READ MORE

Property owners feeling the squeeze from taxing bodies

May 25, 2013 - Journal Standard

FREEPORT — The Rock City Fire Protection District took advantage of low interest rates to give taxpayers a break this year. “We owed about $500,000 on a new firehouse that we built several years ago,” said Fritz Kuhlmeier, president of Citizens State Bank in Lena and a trustee for the fire district. “We refinanced it last year and our principal and interest payments declined significantly.” Because of that savings, the board of trustees lowered its tax levy from $189,620 in 2011 to $182,460 in 2012 — a decline of 3.8 percent — even though it was one of the... READ MORE

Voting in schools: Safe or not?

May 22, 2013 - My Suburban Life

A lesson in democracy or a security risk? That’s how the debate was framed by officials in La Grange School District 102 who recently voted to push back an Institute Day next year to keep students out of schools for the March 2014 gubernatorial primary election. Legislator considers letting schools opt out Whether schools should serve as polling sites is a question more districts are considering post-Sandy Hook, and the debate has reached Springfield... READ MORE

Area property taxes keep rising while values continue declining

May 18, 2013 - Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD — Most taxing bodies in Boone and Winnebago counties asked for more money from homeowners this year, even as property values continued to slide. The result is higher property taxes for residents across the two counties, with one unusual exception. This year, the majority of Rockford homeowners will see their lowest property tax bills since 2008 because the city’s largest taxing body — the Rockford School District — will collect fewer taxes along with Rock Valley College, Greater Rockford Airport and... READ MORE

Bill stripping mass-transit boards of pensions heads to governor

May 16, 2013 - Northwest Herald

A bill stripping pension and insurance benefits from future appointees to Chicago-area mass-transit boards is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk. House Bill 140, filed by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, takes pension and insurance benefits away from future members of the boards of the Regional Transportation Authority, Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority. It will not affect current appointees, but their pensions will stop accruing and their insurance will cease if they are reappointed after their terms expire... READ MORE

Lawmakers Seek EDGE Credit Limit

May 13, 2013 - Alton Daily News

The question of how much cities and states should do to attract and retain companies is always a good one, and some lawmakers are concerned Illinois is looking foolish too often. An Illinois House hearing examined the tool known as the EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) credit, as State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) has sponsored a bill to put limits on its use. “In 2011, it appears the (Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) gave... READ MORE

Private manager may miss
state lottery profit goals
for 2nd year

May 11, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

The company hired to run the Illinois Lottery after years of flagging sales is on track to fall short of promised revenue goals for the second straight year — this time by about $180 million, according to a Tribune review of the firm's performance through April. "I am not pleased with the fact that the private manager is not going to meet its profit goals," Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones said. "I don't think the Lottery or Northstar is pleased at all." Last year, Northstar Lottery Group promised to bring in net revenue... READ MORE

Illinois considers extending
tax break to small businesses

May 10, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Legislators are considering a bill that would expand the scope of the state's main economic development program to small businesses. House Bill 1336 calls for eliminating a requirement that companies make a capital investment in the state of at least $1 million or $5 million, depending on their size. The bill also caps the amount of tax credits awarded to companies at $100 million a year and creates a nine-member board to oversee the deals, with members appointed by the governor and approved by the... READ MORE

House panel strengthens child-abduction prosecution

May 1, 2013 - The State Journal-Register

Prosecutors can use a person’s past attempts of child abduction as evidence during trial under a proposal passed by a House Judiciary panel Wednesday. Past acts are typically not permitted as evidence in child-abduction cases even though repeated attempts are often precursor crimes to sexual assault of a child, said Mary Boland, sex crime specialist for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. This evidence could be critical in showing a person’s tendency to repeat these acts, Boland said... READ MORE

Increase to tax break for seniors passes in Ill.

April 28, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Older homeowners will get a bigger tax break on their tax bills next year. The Illinois House and Senate overwhelming passed – with just two “no” votes in the House and none in the Senate – a bill that raises the senior citizen homestead exemption from $4,000 to $5,000. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law on Tuesday. The increase amounts to savings of about $100 for a senior citizen with a home valued at $200,000 in Crystal Lake. The change goes into effect immediately in Cook County, but for McHenry County and the rest of the state, the change affects... READ MORE

In Zero Sum Game, Rick Perry Courts Illinois Businesses

April 24, 2013 - In These Times

Texas Gov. Rick Perry rode into Chicago this week in an effort to lasso Illinois-based businesses and herd them to the Lone Star State. At a press conference on Monday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel met the visit with derision. "I hope when he comes he remembers all three of his reasons," joked the mayor, referencing Perry's 2012 debate gaffe, in which the governor couldn't list the three government departments he was planning to axe. Indeed, the efforts by Perry, best known for his wildly unsuccessful 2012 presidential run, are... READ MORE

Our View: Taxpayers lose again

April 17, 2013 - Northwest Herald

It’s not surprising that House lawmakers defeated a bill aimed at preventing property-tax increases in years that property values are depressed. Approving it, after all, would mean doing something that benefits the taxpayers. And taxpayers are rarely a priority when Illinois lawmakers are making decisions... READ MORE

Franks helps seniors

April 17, 2013 - Northwest Herald

To the Editor: I am writing to express my appreciation of state Rep. Jack Franks’ efforts on behalf of McHenry County seniors. Last October, I sent a note to Franks on a copy of a bill I had paid to the State Police for failing to update the vehicle registration on my wife’s Toyota. I admitted that we had forgotten to renew it, but told Franks that I thought $125 was an excessive fine for a simple mistake. I suggested a maximum... READ MORE

Bills aimed at mass transit boards in House, Senate

April 16, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Bills aimed at reforming Chicago-area mass transit boards, and eliminating one outright, are working their way through the General Assembly. House Bill 140, which cleared last Friday on a 106-0 vote, seeks to strip health insurance and pension benefits from future appointees to the Regional Transportation Authority, Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority... READ MORE

Kadner: Springfield doesn’t like common-sense bills

April 15, 2013 - Southtown Star

Scott Reeder As the Transportation Security Administration agent rummaged through my suitcase, she picked up my tube of toothpaste, shook her head and said “no.” The tube went sailing into a wastebasket filled with bottles of suntan lotion, cans of shaving cream and other odds and ends that the TSA considers too dangerous to bring aboard a jetliner. The tube of Colgate was 7.8 ounces rather than the requisite maximum of 3.4 ounces... READ MORE

Schaumburg: The cost for more expensive electricity

April 13, 2013 - Northwest Herald

On March 21, the Illinois House passed a modest pension reform bill. No entity was happier than the state’s two electricity providers. While everybody was excited the House made a small step toward fixing its biggest problem – pensions – they forgot to notice the House also passed a measure on the same day that allows ComEd and Ameren to raise electricity rates over the next decade in exchange for installing a smart-grid... READ MORE

Ill. tax cap bill up for House vote

April 12, 2013 - Northwest Herald

House lawmakers soundly defeated a bill aimed at preventing property-tax increases in years that property values are depressed. The House voted Friday, 43-65, against House Bill 89, sponsored by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. The bill sought to forbid governments subject to the tax cap from collecting inflationary increases in years their overall assessed value decreased, except by voter referendum... READ MORE

House wants to cut perks for CTA board, others

April 12 , 2013 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House passed legislation Friday aimed at eliminating lucrative health care and pension benefits enjoyed by political appointees, including the part-time members of transit boards who oversee city and suburban bus and train service. It was part of a day in which lawmakers took a series of votes that gave them a chance to pad their re-election resumes, a welcome opportunity given that the state's rotten finances and lagging economy haven't... READ MORE

Kadner: Springfield doesn’t like common-sense bills

April 12, 2013 - Southtown Star

There ought to be a law against your property tax bill increasing when the value of your home decreases. And why isn’t it illegal for elected officials to hold more than one office at the same time? State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) has heard voters’ complaints and tried to pass legislation to address those issues. “I got 25 fewer votes on (the property tax bill) this year than I got last year when it passed the House and it was killed in the Senate,” Franks said. “I got my... READ MORE

Benefit cuts for RTA, Pace, Metra board members?

April 12, 2013 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD — Members of the Chicago-area transit boards wouldn't get health care or pension benefits under a plan approved by the Illinois House Friday. Current members of the Regional Transit Authority, Pace, Metra and Chicago Transit Authority boards would get to keep benefits they've already earned. But future members wouldn't be eligible for benefits... READ MORE

Voters can’t try to eliminate DuPage forest board salaries

April 12, 2013 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House today rejected a plan to give voters the option to eliminate the salaries for members of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District board. In an unusually heated debate, state Rep. Deborah Conroy, an Elmhurst Democrat, argued that times are tough and lawmakers who just Thursday voted to cut the state's lieutenant governor's job shouldn't have a problem doing the same for the local board. "This is money that can be saved for... READ MORE

Quinn wants local control on concealed carry gun law

April 9 , 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Gov. Pat Quinn said today that cities and towns across Illinois should have the power to impose their own restrictions on any legislation lawmakers end up approving to allow citizens to carry guns in public. Quinn's comments come as lawmakers face a June 9 deadline to craft a concealed carry bill after a federal appeals court ruled in December that Illinois' longtime ban was unconstitutional. The Democratic governor has long been opposed to letting people carry handguns outside the home, but said the state must begrudgingly comply with the court's order. But Quinn... READ MORE

Jack Franks for Lt. Gov? State rep looking at statewide run -- undecided on gay marriage

April 8, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) confirmed Tuesday that he is setting his sights on a run for higher office, possibly for Lieutenant Governor. "I'm certainly looking at statewide opportunities," Franks told the Chicago Sun-Times today. "I certainly am not interested in running for Lt. Governor with our current governor, I can tell you that." Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon announced in February that she would not run with Pat Quinn in 2014 because she had her eye on another statewide... READ MORE

County rep to stay on RTA for bill battle

April 6, 2013 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – A legislative effort to do away with the Regional Transportation Authority is putting McHenry County’s appointment of its representative on hold. McHenry County Board Chairwoman Tina Hill said Friday that she would allow representative Al Jourdan to stay on, despite the fact that his term expired Monday, while he and the county fight a state bill aimed at merging the RTA with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning... READ MORE

Illinois hits a sorry milestone

March 25, 2013 - Crain's Chicago Business

Sometime this month, Illinois probably exceeded $100 billion in pension debt, a sorry milestone in the state's long slog to fiscal hell. Illinois would be only the second state to reach the 12-digit mark. But California, the previous epic fail, has a much larger tax base and is on the mend. Pension statistics tend to make eyes glaze over, and the $100 billion moment is an unofficial, back-of-the-envelope calculation. But it's an undeniably big and potentially symbolic number as state legislators wrestle with the shortfall in money owed to current and future retired teachers, judges... READ MORE

Franks, Althoff to host Listening Tour stop

March 24, 2013 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, will host another stop on his 2013 Listening Tour of the 63rd District on April 6 at Sullivan’s Foods in Harvard. The event will be held in conjunction with state Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry. It will run from 10 to 11 a.m. at Sullivan’s Foods, 1299 S. Division St... READ MORE

Tax cap reform advances again

March 23, 2013 - Northwest Herald

An effort to limit local government’s power to tax when property values decline again is heading for a vote in the Illinois House. House Bill 89, filed by state Rep. Jack Franks, forbids governments under the tax cap from collecting an automatic increase if their overall assessed value declines, except by voter referendum. It passed the House Revenue and Finance Committee on a 10-0 vote Thursday... READ MORE

Two-thirds of races on April ballot unchallenged

March 23, 2013 - The State Journal-Register

As voters head to the polls across the state for the April 9 elections, they will find that for many offices, the result is a foregone conclusion. That’s because for many elective positions in Illinois — the state with the most local units of government in the nation — there is no competition on the ballot. There are no statewide figures, but a GateHouse Media review of eight counties at various locations in the state... READ MORE

Schools as polling places may become optional

March 19, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, who has two school-aged children, said he doesn't like to see open schools used as polling places. "Schools are supposed to be a sanctuary of safety. I go to visit my schools to give talks. … Every time I go, I have to be signed in, buzzed in, (and) go through a secure entrance. Not when you're voting though. I think it's a risk we need not take," Franks said, who is working on legislation to minimize that risk. The issue of student and staff safety when schools are used as polling places has come... READ MORE

Illinois House approves more concealed-carry restrictions

March 19, 2013 - Chicago Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD-In its fourth week voting on parts of a concealed-carry framework, the Illinois House Tuesday adopted more preliminary measures restricting who could carry a concealed firearm and where it could be done. The first piece of legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), passed by a 67-44 margin and would ban gun owners from "knowingly" bringing firearms into bars or restaurants that... READ MORE

Give Franks credit

March 19, 2013 - Northwest Herald

To the Editor: After reading your editorial, “Everything Else Can Wait,” and Kevin Craver’s article, “Illinois legislators’ hands are not idle,” in March 10’s edition, I was shocked by the revelations of time wasted on peripheral matters in our state House during a time of extraordinary fiscal chaos... READ MORE

Illinois lost millions on lottery privatization, lawmaker says

March 18, 2013 - Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois lottery, one lawmaker says, has filled the state with losers. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, says a $20 million fine for Illinois’ private lottery manager, Northstar Lottery Group, amounts to pennies when compared to what the state gave away. “We’re still not getting the kind of return that we could have if we would have just kept this in-house,” Franks said Monday... READ MORE

McCaleb: Endorsements often bring welcome criticism

March 17, 2013 - Northwest Herald

Ultimately, voters need to make their own informed decisions. In this election, we will be selecting local leaders who have the most immediate impact on our lives. Whether it’s for municipal government, school board or township government, these elected officials will decide how to spend our tax money. It’s a shame that the consolidated municipal election usually has the lightest voter turnout of all elections. But that’s been the case. If you disagree with one or more of our endorsements, please feel free to weigh... READ MORE

Erickson: Fraud, abuse hotline seems to be working

March 17, 2012 - Pantagraph

It’s been just over a year since Illinois launched a new way for citizens to report instances of fraud and abuse in state government. And, according to the folks who run the hotline dedicated to unearthing corruption in state government, the program has yielded 65 reports since it went online in January 2012. A spokesman for Illinois Auditor General William Holland’s office said the fraud hotline has received 36 tips over the phone, while the remaining reports came in via online forms or through other means such as the... READ MORE

Schools’ future as polling places in question

March 12, 2013 - Kane County Chronicle

GENEVA – Public and private schools might be removed as polling places for the 2014 election cycle, if an amendment to a bill in the Illinois House of Representatives is successful. The measure would amend the state election code and change the requirement that school districts have to make public buildings available as polling places on election days Cunningham said Kane County has 17 schools that are polling places, seven of which were open for a recent primary election. He said a police officer with a squad... READ MORE

Franks: Don't delay, act on pensions

March 12, 2013 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) blasted Gov. Pat Quinn’s continued inaction on calling a special session of the state legislature to hash out a solution to Illinois’ fiscal crisis that passes constitutional muster and ensures the long-term fiscal stability of the pension systems. Today, Franks rose on the House floor to highlight the costs of the Governor’s inadequate response to the crisis. “In the twelve days since I proposed convening a special session, we have accumulated $204 million more debt to finance a pension system that we all know is unsustainable,” Franks said... READ MORE

Pols: Remove Polling Places From Schools

March 8, 2013 - SW News Herald

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, state Rep. Jack Franks (D-63rd) and state Sen. Tim Bivins (R-45th) joined the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement leaders on Tuesday in calling for legislation that would remove polling places from public and private schools. Planned legislation amends the state Election Code... READ MORE

Local lawmakers – again – pan Quinn budget address

March 7, 2013 - Northwest Herald

“The most difficult budget Illinois has ever faced,” according to Gov. Pat Quinn, is likely “dead on arrival in the House,” according to a local state representative. McHenry County’s representatives in the General Assembly, as in previous years, did not have a high opinion of the $35.6 billion budget proposal for 2014 that Quinn unveiled Wednesday afternoon... READ MORE

Our View: Support for alternate bonds bill

March 6, 2013 - Northwest Herald

When it comes to finances in Illinois, you can’t be too careful. We’re not, after all, a state known for its fiscal management. Having regulations in place to ensure taxpayer dollars are used well is smart. Which is why we applaud an effort by state Reps. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, and Jack Franks, D-Marengo, to tighten the local debt reform act as it relates to alternate... READ MORE

Topinka Wants to Remove Polling Places from Schools

March 6, 2013 - WSIL 3

JACKSON COUNTY -- The Illinois comptroller says schools are no place for voting, but county clerks across our region often rely on those buildings to house election precincts.Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka proposed a law this week banning schools from being used as polling places. She has the backing of several state legislators and police. Topinka says it's a common... READ MORE

Some In Illinois Want Polling Places Out Of Schools

March 6, 2013 - CBS2 Chicago

SPRINGFIELD, IL (IRN) - You can’t be too safe, say the people who want to take polling places out of Illinois schools. While there’s no Election Day incident similar to Sandy Hook or Columbine, “Schools are sanctuaries for our children, and they are supposed to be, by design, a safe place,” says Illinois State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo). Allowing the general public... READ MORE

IL lawmakers want voters out of school

March 5, 2013 - Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD — This might be the last election where voters in Illinois go to a school to cast a vote. A handful of Illinois lawmakers and Illinois police leaders want to stop using schools as polling places, saying it is just not safe anymore. “I just know in my heart of hearts, that if we continue to allow this, some day we are going to have a version of Sandy Hook,” said Illinois.... READ MORE

Lawmaker Wants To Stop Using Schools As Polling Places

March 5, 2013 - CBS2 Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – A state lawmaker wants Illinois to stop using schools as polling places on Election Day, but the idea doesn’t sit well with local election authorities. WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports hundreds of schools in Illinois are used as polling places, but state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) has introduced legislation to put a stop... READ MORE

Rockford school might not be a polling place for long

March 5, 2013 - WREX 13 Rockford

SPRINGFIELD (WREX) - After a gunman opened fire and killed 26 people in a Connecticut elementary school administrators were given a harsh reminder that some aspects of safety are out of their control. Illinois lawmakers are trying to keep a little bit of that control by changing up Election Day. A bill currently being introduced in the General Assembly could change your local polling place if it's a K-12 school."On Election Day... READ MORE

District 225 reserves on the decline

March 5, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Glenbrook High School District 225 is projecting a dip in its fund balance over the next five years that could slip below the amount the district likes to maintain. The current fund balance — or the reserve — is at about 65 percent of what the district's operating budget will be next year. But the reserve could plunge to about 18 percent of the operating budget by 2018, officials... READ MORE

With proposed bill, reps take on alternate revenue bond ‘abuse’

March 4, 2013 - Northwest Herald

A bipartisan bill introduced in Springfield by local legislators is taking aim at alternate revenue bond “abuses,” but some local leaders and bond experts fear it would add another level of bureaucratic red tape and stall what they see as a relatively everyday procedure. House Bill 983 was introduced last month by state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Lake Barrington, with support from Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo... READ MORE

Local reps pan pension hearing

March 2, 2013 - Daily Herald

McHenry County’s representatives in the Illinois House did not have high praise for Thursday’s attempt at moving pension reform forward. Republicans joined their GOP colleagues in not voting for House Speaker Michael Madigan’s soundly defeated proposals, calling the exercise political gamesmanship... READ MORE

Pension cuts fail badly in test votes in Illinois House

March 1, 2013 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois House Republicans Thursday refused to participate in test votes on severe public pension cuts and Democrats rejected the proposals harshly. Two proposals by House Speaker Michael Madigan to slash retired teachers' and state workers' yearly cost of living pension hikes were defeated by 2-66 and 5-62 votes. Another to raise the retirement age for teachers and state workers... READ MORE

Illinois House Votes Down Madigan Pension Changes

March 1, 2013 - Northwest Herald

A hearing Thursday on the Illinois House floor intended to gauge lawmakers' support for potential pension reforms turned into a tense squabble between Democrats and Republicans, a sign of the escalating frustration at the lack of compromise on the state's most pressing financial problem. House Speaker Michael Madigan called the hearing to get legislators to openly debate and vote on four divisive proposals that could affect some of the state's retirement... READ MORE

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Proposal: Focus only on pensions

March 1, 2013 - Illinois Homepage

SPRINGFIELD -- After three years of work on pension reform with no result, one lawmaker is calling for a change in the process. Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) proposed a full-time committee of the whole devoted to finding a solution to the state's pension crisis. It would require the full house to put all other business aside and only debate pensions until there is... READ MORE

Illinois House to debate harsh pension reform measures

Feb 28, 2013 - Reuters

The Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday was scheduled to debate harsh pension reform measures aimed at restoring the financial health of the nation's worst-funded state pension systems. Powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan scheduled the debate on proposals that would demand bigger pension contributions from workers and raise the retirement age. He also proposed... READ MORE

Illinois Legislators Want Property Tax Freeze

February 27, 2013 - Chicago Magazine

Deal Estate Housing Bulletin Illinois Legislators Want Property Tax Freeze Posted February 27, 2013, at 9:35 a.m. By Dennis Rodkin Illinois lawmakers are dogpiling on a situation that seems paradoxical: property taxes going up when home values are down. As a result, they have introduced five different pieces of legislation calling for property tax freezes. Although not identical, the different measures—House Bills 89, 95, 1499, and 1521 and Senate Bill 1308—all have roughly the same goal: to prohibit school districts... READ MORE

DCEO is Illinois' piggy bank

February 22, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

Illinois may be broke, but it sure finds money when it wants to. Just ask United Neighborhood Organization, a charter schools operator that has pulled down $98 million in state grants (as discussed in the companion editorial). The windfall for UNO has been flowing through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, a state agency with a sketchy track record of monitoring where taxpayer money... READ MORE

The Legislature's 'nickel-and-dime crud'

February 18, 2013 - Crain's Chicago Business

When you're in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging. It's a lesson still lost on many Illinois lawmakers. Earlier this month, the General Assembly took a pork-barrel approach to a must-pass bill to fix some immediate, well-defined problems with the state's legal spending authority for the current year. While the net impact on the state budget wasn't huge, the process rankled many Republicans and even some Democrats... READ MORE

Illinois corporate tax credits swelled to $161 million 2011

February 17, 2013 - Chicago Tribune

When lawmakers raised taxes on Illinois residents and businesses, they also increased corporate income tax breaks for a select group of companies. In 2011, businesses were eligible to claim about $161 million in tax credits — double from the prior year — mostly because of the increase to 5 percent from 3 percent in the state's personal income tax rate... READ MORE

Officials share expectations of General Assembly

January 25, 2013 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – No furniture was broken, punches thrown or authorities called when McHenry County Board members and state Rep. Jack Franks were in the same room Thursday. The County Board committee in charge of its dealings with state and federal lawmakers met with many of its representatives in Springfield to share what it would like to see done by the General ... READ MORE

McHenry County lawmakers stand firm on firearms

December 28, 2012 - Northwest Herald

Horrified as they were by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., it hasn’t changed the stance of state Reps. Mike Tryon and Jack Franks when it comes to gun rights. Just days after a federal appeals court found Illinois’ concealed-carry ban unconstitutional, the school shooting left 20 young children and six educators dead. While Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have... READ MORE

Report on slimming gov’t needs time

December 11, 2012 - Northwest Herald

Among the bills the General Assembly will tackle in the lame-duck session next month will be extending the deadline for a report on how to pare down the state’s almost 7,000 units of government. The Local Government Consolidation Commission created and chaired by state Rep. Jack Franks was supposed to deliver its report by the end of the year. But a bill asks to push back the deadline to Sept. 30 because of a large amount of information and a late start blamed on leaders... READ MORE

Rank-and-file lawmakers submit pension bill

December 6, 2012 - Northwest Herald

A group of frustrated state lawmakers presented their own attempt at fixing the state’s underfunded pension crisis, setting the stage for a possible showdown during the lame-duck session in January. House Pension Committee Chairwoman Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, unveiled the proposal along with more than 20 colleagues on Wednesday, the last day of the... READ MORE

Area lawmakers look for busy session in Springfield

November 27, 2012 - Northwest Herald

McHenry County’s representatives in Springfield anticipate addressing issues such as expansion of gambling and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants during the six-day fall veto session that starts today. But don’t expect an attempt to slay Squeezy the Pension Python by shifting teachers’ pensions to local property taxes until the lame-duck session in January. As for Gov. Pat Quinn’s pension shift plan, local legislators... READ MORE

Indiana ready to follow Illinois in privatizing lottery operation

November 25, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

Stealing a page from Illinois, Indiana will soon become the second state to use a private company to run its lottery. After last year becoming the first state lottery in the nation to use a private manager, Illinois saw record revenues that nonetheless fell short of profits promised by Northstar Lottery Group... READ MORE

Quinn faces key leadership test in coming weeks

November 25, 2012 - The State Journal-Register

Through his own insistence, the next few weeks will offer a critical test of leadership for Gov. Pat Quinn.
He has set an early January deadline for solving the state's pension crisis — a decades-old problem he says he was "put on this earth" to solve. He's facing lawmakers intent on expanded gambling in the state despite his veto... READ MORE

Quinn unleashes ‘Pension Python’

November 20, 2012 - Northwest Herald

Gov. Pat Quinn hopes Squeezy the Pension Python will educate Illinois residents about the need for reform of a badly underfunded pension system. Local lawmakers, however, say the cartoon character is just another distraction by a governor slithering around the problem. “I’d prefer that he’d discuss and offer constitutionally accurate pension reform on the website,” said state... READ MORE

Reaction to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's pension site varies

November 20, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Gov. Pat Quinn's new online campaign to get Illinoisans excited about pension reform quickly inspired mock Web pages and criticism from unions, lawmakers and the Twitterverse. But some social media experts , and a few fellow Democrats, called it an innovative... READ MORE

Quinn's pension marketing push is derided as 'juvenile'

November 18, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

After months of promising a major grass-roots effort to win public support for reforming the state's government worker pension system, Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday unveiled a plan that featured an incomplete online strategy, children wearing red plastic megaphones and an animated "Squeezy the Pension Python" mascot... READ MORE

Route 20 intersection ideas debated in Union

November 14, 2012 - Northwest Herald

UNION – Advocates of a traffic signal at Harmony Road and Route 20 were told it would require more money and property than the traffic circle the state put on hold last summer after nearly 300 residents expressed outrage that they were not consulted about the intersection. More than 200 residents turned out for a public meeting Tuesday at Village Hall Banquets for a comparison between a traffic signal and a roundabout. State transportation officials expect to make... READ MORE

Office of the State's Attorney

 

Illinois Compiled Statutes - County Executive Government

October 16, 2012 - Jana Blake Dickson, Assistant State's Attorney

The following link is to a letter from an Asst. State's Attorney to the McHenry County Administrator's office detailing the powers of the County Executive. READ MORE

Illinois General Assembly

 

Illinois Compiled Statutes - County Executive Government

October 16, 2012 - www.ilga.gov

This is a link to the Illinois Counties Code on the county executive form of government. It outlines the structure and powers of the county executive government, as determined by the State of Illinois. READ MORE

McHenry County Farm Bureau

 

Rep. Jack Franks receives Friend of Agriculture award

October 11, 2012 - McHenry County Farm Bureau

http://mchenrycfb.org/news/rep-jack-franks-receives-friend-agriculture-award. READ MORE

Franks sounds a warning on executive referendum

September 11, 2012 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – If the McHenry County Board goes through with providing information on the upcoming county executive referendum, the state representative who has raised its ire for spearheading the effort feels it’s only fair he write it. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, asked board members in a Thursday letter to be the author of any educational materials the board decides to release on the referendum. The letter, written to Chairman Ken Koehler and copied to all County Board members... READ MORE

Consolidation commission to ask for time

September 2, 2012 - Northwest Herald

A state commission to examine consolidating some of the state’s 7,000 units of government plans to ask for more time to develop its report. The Local Government Consolidation Commission likely will ask during the fall veto session that its Dec. 31 deadline be pushed back. The reasons, chairman Jack Franks said, are the long delay in appointments to the commission and the wealth of information it is taking in now that it is meeting... READ MORE

Franks pleased Caylee’s Law is in place

August 28, 2012 - Northwest Herald

State Rep. Jack Franks said he is happy that Gov. Pat Quinn signed his “Caylee’s Law,” but unhappy that such a law is needed in the first place. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, makes it illegal for a parent, guardian or caretaker of a child younger than 13 to fail to notify law enforcement within 24 hours of a child’s disappearance, if the individuals know or should know the child is in danger. The reporting requirement is reduced to one hour for children age 2 or younger... READ MORE

Illinois State Representative Jack Franks on WLS

August 17, 2012 - WLS 890AM

LISTEN NOW

Judge certifies county executive referendum

August 15, 2012 - Northwest Herald

McHenry County's chief judge certified a binding referendum to ask voters to change county government to an executive form. Judge Michael Sullivan's ruling Wednesday officially puts the referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. Under an executive form of government, voters still elect their county board representatives by district, but also elect an executive at large to run the county's day-to-day operations.... READ MORE

Governor, haul us back to work

July 25, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

Gov. Pat Quinn Needs to keep his word. The governor has to follow through on his promise to keep lawmakers in Springfield until pension reform is completed. Here we are, seven weeks after the end of the Legislature's spring session, and no special session has been called to solve the state's pension reform crisis... READ MORE

Refreshing commitment

July 20, 2012 - Northwest Herald

In your Jan. 12 editorial “Our View: Laws to Help Openness,” the Northwest Herald applauded two bills recently signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn. The first, House Bill 222, requires municipalities, townships and county governments to submit their employees’ salaries into the searchable statewide database called the Transparency and Accountability Portal. The second bill, House Bill 3934, requires the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to publish the terms of incentive agreements from Illinois’ main economic development program online... READ MORE

Franks: Declare McHenry County a drought disaster

July 17, 2012 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – State Rep. Jack Franks is calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to add McHenry County to the list of communities declared drought disasters. More than 1,000 communities in 26 states have been declared natural-disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including some southern Illinois communities. The disaster declaration makes low-interest loans available to farmers to cover crop losses and provides other assistance for those struggling in adverse growing conditions... READ MORE

Our view: Laws to help openness

July 12, 2012 - Northwest Herald

It’s a tried-and-true adage among investigative reporters that when you’re looking for corruption, the key is to follow the money. Two proposals signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn last week will make it easier for taxpayers to do exactly that – search online to see how much companies and individuals benefit from their relationships with government. Those who believe that the free flow of information is essential to good government – as we... READ MORE

Quinn signs transparency bills into law

July 10, 2012 - Northwest Herald

Two new laws will make it easier for Illinois taxpayers to review public-sector salaries and state tax breaks doled out to companies. Both bills, signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, require agencies to put the information online. House Bill 222 requires county, municipal and township governments to submit employee salaries to be added to the state’s searchable Transparency and Accountability Portal. Under House Bill 3934, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity... READ MORE

Quinn signs bill spotlighting business tax breaks

July 7, 2012 - WJBC

CHICAGO – Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation requiring the publicizing of details of corporate tax breaks as soon as they’re completed. The legislation Quinn signed Friday is a watered-down version of a bill sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat and critic of tax breaks. Franks’ original bill included a requirement that a committee of experts would review any tax-break deals, but that provision was deleted to improve its chances. Franks on Friday called the legislation “a good start” to bringing... READ MORE

New Legislation Puts Spotlight On Corporate Tax Breaks

July 7, 2012 - CBS2 Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – Governor Pat Quinn put his signature on a bill that requires the public spotlight on the details of corporate tax breaks as soon as they are completed. The measure, which was watered down before reaching Quinn’s desk, was sponsored by Marengo Democratic Representative Jack Franks... READ MORE

Local public workers salaries could go online soon

July 6, 2012 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD — The salaries of local government workers could soon be posted online through a state transparency website after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the requirement into law Friday. The law, sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo and state Sen. Susan Garrett of Lake Forest, would require counties, townships and municipalities to send information to the state about employees’ names, titles, salaries and other information. That information would then be posted on the same site used to share salaries of state workers... READ MORE

New law to shed more light on state tax credit program

July 6, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

Gov. Pat Quinn approved legislation Friday that will increase the transparency of the state's main economic development program.‬ "Gov. Quinn has long advocated for openness in government, and this law will further increase transparency in state operations," a Quinn spokeswoman said in a statement.‬ ‪The program, known as Economic Development for a Growing Economy... READ MORE

Bills to require more info on state leases expected to resurface

July 3, 2012 - The State Journal-Register

Legislation aimed at disclosing more information about the owners of state-leased buildings and the third-party contractors who manage them is expected to resurface by the legislature’s fall veto session. Two bills sponsored by state Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, sailed through the Senate during the legislative session that ended on June 1, but went nowhere in the House ... READ MORE

Broadcast museum opens with question about $6 million state jobs grant

June 12, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

Two years after a $6 million jobs grant from the state jump-started construction on its new building, the Museum of Broadcast Communications has a lot to show for it: 18,000 square feet of television and radio exhibits, recordings and memorabilia that will open to the public Wednesday. What is less apparent is how many jobs the project can take credit for... READ MORE

Betty White, Hugh Downs attend museum gala

June 12, 2012 - ABC 7 News

More than 400 people are attending a gala in Chicago to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Museum of Broadcast Communications. In addition to getting a sneak peek at the exhibits, the big draw is familiar faces, including Oak Park native Betty White. "I think it's important to know where television came from," said White. Also here is legendary ABC News man Hugh Downs. The 90-year-old Downs, who began his career in Chicago, attended the broadcast... READ MORE

Boone County legislators differ in opinions on lack of pension reform

June 12, 2012 - Belvidere Daily Republican

The 2012 state legislative session ended May 31 without coming to terms with pension reform. And that was a major disappointment for state Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford. “It is truly disappointing that we could not come to a middle ground on finding a solution to the state’s pension crisis,” he said in a statement. “We failed to address the biggest problem this state is facing and are walking down a path where pensions will soon be eating up all the natural revenue growth for the... READ MORE

Our view: Bring more transparency to tax breaks

June 9, 2012 - Northwest Herald

If a business ponders leaving Illinois, state leaders quickly pay attention. When a business says “Jump,” state officials often respond, “How high?” When the “jump” involves hefty tax incentives, the public really ought to be told “how high” they are – right away. Legislation headed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk would require just... READ MORE

Franks to host ice cream socials

June 7, 2012 - Northwest Herald

WOODSTOCK – State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, will host four ice cream socials in June and early July. The events are held in conjunction with community events across the county. Audience members at the Wonder Lake Ski Show, McHenry and Woodstock band concerts, as well as moviegoers at Indian Oaks Park in Marengo, will be able to get a free cup of ice cream and talk about issues that concern them... READ MORE

Lawmakers Pass Bill Demanding Open Books On Corporate Tax Breaks

June 5, 2012 - CBS2 Chicago

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Before adjourning the spring session and leaving Springfield last week, Illinois lawmakers sent Gov. Quinn a bill that would require the state to reveal the details publicly on corporate tax breaks. As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Marsett reports, the bill would require the details to be revealed as soon as they are complete... READ MORE

Legislature OKs ‘Caylee’s Law’

June 5, 2012 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – A bill that criminalizes failing to report a missing child, stemming from the Casey Anthony case, is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk. “Caylee’s Law”, which passed the General Assembly on the last day of the spring session Thursday, makes it illegal for a parent, guardian or caretaker of a child younger than 13 to fail to notify law enforcement within 24 hours of a child’s disappearance... READ MORE

Quinn Says Sears Help is ‘More Than Adequate’ to Keep Headquarters in Illinois

June 1, 2012 - FOX NEWS

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois General Assembly on Thursday sent to Gov. Pat Quinn legislation resulting from the Casey Anthony murder trial. House lawmakers on Thursday unanimously passed a measure requiring parents or guardians of any missing child 13 years old or younger to notify police within 24 hours. Children 2 years old and younger must be reported missing within one hour of their disappearance. Anthony, the Florida mother who was found not guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee... READ MORE

State Lawmakers Fail To Pass Pension Reform Before Deadline

June 1, 2012 - CBS2 Chicago

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn is promising not to give up the fight for pension reform, after lawmakers failed to get a bill passed before the deadline of midnight Thursday night. As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the failure to reform the state’s public pension systems is a huge setback for Quinn, who has been pushing for pension reform... READ MORE

Thursday Deadline Looms Over State Legislators

May 29, 2012 - Northwest Herald

The end of the legislative session on Thursday, May 31 looms for Illinois legislators, but with several large issues still to tackle the General Assembly may have to stay assembled for some overtime. The three big ones for legislators this year are Medicaid, pension reform and a budget. Medicaid reform, at least, made some headway in both chambers over the weekend. The House and the Senate... READ MORE

Transparency bills on the way to governor

May 27, 2012 - Northwest Herald

Two bills aimed at improving Illinois residents’ right to know – both of which were fought by local government lobbyists – are on their way to Gov. Pat Quinn. The General Assembly last week passed a bill requiring adding municipal, county and township employee salaries to the searchable state database and a bill aimed at improving meeting agendas. House Bill 222, filed in January 2011 by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, will put the... READ MORE

Budget showdown looming in Springfield

May 27, 2012 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD — State lawmakers foreshadowed a showdown over the Illinois budget Saturday, starting to advance a schools spending plan that would cut schools more deeply than a Senate proposal. The House and Senate are supposed to agree to a plan by a Thursday deadline, in addition to trying to reform the state’s complex retirement systems. The House’s schools plan would cut how much state money suburban schools get by nearly 4 percent. Suburban schools typically... READ MORE

Business incentives transparency bill goes to Quinn

May 27, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

A bill that would add transparency to the state's main economic development program was approved Friday by the Illinois General Assembly. The program, known as Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, offers tax breaks to companies that create or retain jobs and make investments in the state. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which administers the program, annually releases the names of companies receiving the... READ MORE

State legislators clamp down on student loan defaulters

May 27, 2012 - Chicago Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD-The Illinois House voted Saturday to arm a state agency with new powers to garnishee wages for student loan defaulters despite worries the move will drive more Illinoisans into bankruptcy or foreclosure. By a 63-44 vote, the House sent Gov. Pat Quinn a measure sponsored by Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and sought by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission that would target debtors who are behind in student loan repayments... READ MORE

Lawmakers OK Medicaid cuts

May 25, 2012 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Hundreds of thousands of people would see their health care cut back or even eliminated under legislation approved Thursday by Illinois lawmakers in a desperate attempt to repair the state’s crumbling budget. The Medicaid cuts include ending a prescription drug program for senior citizens, halting two programs that provide health insurance for about 35,000 people, and restricting access to services from heart bypass operations to wheelchair repairs. McHenry County’s representatives were split. Democrat Jack Franks voted no and Republican Mike Tryon... READ MORE

Franks, Tryon praise outgoing U.S. attorney Fitzgerald

May 24, 2012 - Northwest Herald

CHICAGO – In a city and state known for tenacious corruption, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald became known for equal tenacity in going after politicians of every stripe. During more than a decade in Chicago, Fitzgerald put behind bars a former Republican governor and then his Democratic successor. He traveled to Washington to win convictions of a top aide to the vice president of the United States, and back home targeted an international media mogul and aides to one of the nation’s most powerful... READ MORE

Quinn to abolish controversial scholarship program

May 22, 2012 - WBEZ 91.5

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday that he intends to sign a law abolishing a controversial scholarship program that allowed state legislators the ability to grant tuition waivers to students in their districts. “Today is a good day for deserving students in financial need, and a good day for the taxpayers of Illinois," the governor said in a statement. The program was a target for critics of government corruption after the Chicago Sun-Times and the Better Government Association... READ MORE

IL lawmakers vote to end scholarship program

May 21, 2012 - Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House voted Monday to abolish a century-old legislative scholarship program blighted by lawmaker abuse. The bill killing the General Assembly Legislative Scholarship Program, which allowed lawmakers to give full scholarships for state universities to students, as long as the students lived in the awarding lawmaker's district, now awaits Gov. Pat Quinn's signature. “There is no place for a political scholarship program in Illinois. As I have repeatedly advocated — scholarships, paid for by Illinois taxpayers — should be awarded only... READ MORE

House votes to end scholarship perk, Quinn expected to sign bill

May 21, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

The Illinois House today voted to end a century-old legislative scholarship program beset by decades of abuse by politicians who passed out the tuition waivers to relatives and children of cronies and campaign contributors. The 79-32 vote sends the scholarship ban to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he’ll sign it into law. Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, voted for the ban. "We're not here to create fiefdoms,” Franks said... READ MORE

Property tax bills shock residents

May 13, 2012 - Northwest Herald

If you shrieked in horror when you opened up your property tax bill last week, you’re not alone. Far from it. Yet again, tax bills for many went up, despite the fact that home values have plummeted since the housing bubble burst. And yet again, the ironic main culprit is the law enacted 20 years ago to protect us from runaway property tax increases to pay for schools, county and municipal government and other services... READ MORE

Lawmakers scrambling to find funds to cover child care gap

May 5, 2012 - Northwest Herald

The idea of child care facilities going three months without state reimbursement because funding ran out is intolerable to McHenry County’s state legislators. But the $73 million question they and fellow lawmakers have to answer is, where does a broke state government come up with the shortfall? The Illinois Department of Human Services notified child care facilities in a letter earlier this week that there is not enough money to pay subsidies from the... READ MORE

State Contract Called into Question

May 9, 2012 - Illinois Homepage

One lawmaker is calling for a legislative investigation into the bidding process for the Illinois lottery. Northstar won the state bid back in 2010, but Representative Jack Franks says that decision was fixed. The Auditor General released a report confirming there was a conflict of interest in the contract process. Franks says the Governor's Office did nothing to stop it from happening. The Auditor General plans to dig deeper... READ MORE

Intelligence Report: State rep says lottery contract fixed; Quinn defends process

May 04, 2012 - ABC 7 News

May 4, 2012 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- In this Intelligence Report: A top Democratic state representative is calling for hearings on Governor Pat Quinn administration's role in awarding a contract to run the Illinois Lottery. After Chicago privatized parking meters and the Skyway, Illinois sold off the state lottery in 2010 to a private company. State Representative Jack Franks says that deal was fixed, and Franks is calling for a legislative investigation of how Governor... READ MORE

Private firm falling short of goal in first year of running lottery

May 04, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

Illinois' venture as the first state in the nation to hire a private company to run its lottery got off to an uneven start and could end its first year with the firm paying millions of dollars in penalties for underperformance. Northstar Lottery Group — which took charge of daily operations July 1, a few days after the Illinois auditor general blasted the selection process — promised to boost revenue by more than $100 million... READ MORE

Bill seeks to limit use of special prosecutors

April 29, 2012 - Northwest Herald

The land of special prosecutors” isn’t a very flattering slogan for McHenry County. County taxpayers have paid at least $525,000 so far related to the prosecution of State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi that resulted in his acquittal on all charges. A judge on Wednesday rejected an unrelated request to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Sheriff Keith Nygren’s use of a seven-point star for both official and political... READ MORE

Legislation would ban ‘tax zappers’

April 24, 2012 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Legislation barring the use of tax-cheating software has been introduced by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. The purpose of the bill is to crack down on a practice of falsifying cash register electronic records by skimming receipts, thereby lowering sales taxes owed. House Bill 6156 would make the sale or use of tax-cheating software a criminal offense. “The vast majority of Illinois businesses play by the rules and are put at a competitive disadvantage by this unlawful practice,” Franks said... READ MORE

Illinois mulling introduction of state park fees

April 22, 2012 - Daily Register

CLINTON — CLINTON (AP) — Melissa Blasen doesn't think twice about crossing into property owned and managed by the State of Illinois when she heads out for her usual two-mile loop walk. She's been coming to Weldon Springs State Park for years, to exercise or enjoy the outdoors with her two young grandchildren... READ MORE

Quinn plan: Pay more, retire later

April 21, 2012 - Northwest Herald

CHICAGO – Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to shore up a massive pension shortfall is simple: pay more and retire later. For local lawmakers, the devil is in the details. Quinn announced a pension reform plan Friday that would raise the retirement age to 67 for public employees, shift pension obligations back to school districts, and cut cost-of-living increases for retirees. Illinois’ retirement systems are among the country’s most poorly funded and are roughly $85 billion short of what’s needed to pay pensions in the decades to come... READ MORE

Springfield scene includes Wisconsin governor, indicted pol

April 18, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers returned from spring break Tuesday to tackle the serious issues of an unresolved state budget and the rising costs of pensions and health care for the poor, but there were plenty of sideshows to distract them. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican facing a recall vote, criticized Illinois' state of affairs at a business forum only blocks from the Capitol as organized labor staged a rally telling... READ MORE

Indicted state Rep. Smith shows up for House session

April 17, 2012 - Chicago Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD — Defying calls for his resignation, indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith finally showed up for work Tuesday in the Illinois House, where he strode onto the House floor, was greeted by several well-wishers and would say only “no comment” when asked about his legal troubles. His presence surprised House Speaker Michael Madigan’s staffers, who had predicted just an hour before the session opened Tuesday that the West Side Democrat would stay away from Springfield... READ MORE

Indicted Rep. Smith Visits Capitol For First Time Since Arrest

April 17, 2012 - CBS2 Chicago

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – On a day when Pro Football Hall of Famer Richard Dent was honored in the Illinois House, it seems the only person reporters wanted to talk to was indicted Illinois State Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago). Smith attended the Illinois House session in Springfield Tuesday, for the first time since his March arrest alleging he offered to write a letter of recommendation in exchange for a $7,000 bribe... READ MORE

Rep. Derrick Smith back to work in Springfield after bribery charges

April 17, 2012 - ABC 7 News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Illinois Representative Derrick Smith joined his fellow lawmakers at the state capitol in Springfield Tuesday in his first public appearance since the Chicago politician was arrested on bribery charges. Smith, who represents the 10th District, was indicted last week for allegedly accepting $7,000. The indicted lawmaker faces mounting pressure to resign his position because of the bribery charges... READ MORE

Former Bear, Richard Dent, honored by Illinois House

April 16, 2012 - The Republic

CHICAGO — A Chicago Bears defensive end who was named the Most Valuable Player at the 1985 Super Bowl is being honored by the Illinois state House. State Rep. Jack Franks on Tuesday planned to present a resolution recognizing Richard Dent's impact on Chicago sports and community service through the Make a Dent Foundation. The resolution spearheaded by the Marengo Democrat designates August 6, 2012 "Richard Dent Day" in Illinois... READ MORE

Sangamon County efficiency panel to study townships

April 14, 2012 - The State Journal-Register

Would Sangamon County be better off with half as many townships? Does it make sense that some Sangamon County residents pay one of their two annual property tax payments to a township tax collector instead of the Sangamon County treasurer’s office? Should township road commissioners have higher training requirements?... READ MORE

Ill. House OKs spending limits

March 30, 2012 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Virtually every part of state government would be forced to cut spending under a budget outline approved Thursday by the Illinois House, where even supporters called it a “painful, painful” decision. The spending plan calls for cutting the Medicaid health program by $2.7 billion, or about 14 percent of the total. Officials acknowledge that they don’t know how they will reach that target, but it’s likely to involve eliminating services such as dental care or prescription drug coverage for adults... READ MORE

House bill takes aim at unused commissions

March 30, 2012 - PJstar

SPRINGFIELD — State government boards and commissions that no longer meet - or have never met - are a step closer to abolition after an Illinois House vote this week. House Bill 3816, which was sent to the Senate on a 106-8 vote, would dissolve any board or commission if it has not met once in the last two years. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said the idea is to clean up government waste... READ MORE

Disgraced politician’s farewell underwhelms lawmakers from county

March 15, 2012 - Northwest Herald

Outside of his Chicago home, prison-bound Rod Blagojevich rattled off his accomplishments in front of a throng of news media and supporters. But some local lawmakers say the ousted governor’s legacy is not worthy of boasting. Blagojevich, who didn’t answer questions after his remarks, insisted that he always did what he thought was right for Illinois... READ MORE

Township lobbying staff receiving public pensions

March 14, 2012 - Daily Herald

Though it's funded almost entirely by townships out of their tax collections, the lobbying association of the state's townships is not subject to public scrutiny of its finances. Yet, the four-member staff of Township Officials of Illinois receives public pensions — a fact that riles some suburban state and township leaders, and even some on the organization's own board of directors... READ MORE

House votes to ban talking on phone while driving

March 8, 2012 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD — That long suburban commute in your car could soon get a little quieter after Illinois House lawmakers voted Thursday to ban talking on the phone while driving without a hands-free device. Supporters praised the House plan as one that would cut down on distracted drivers, and by extension, dangerous traffic accidents... READ MORE

Illinois lawmakers closing in on a shark fin ban

March 8, 2012 - Chicago Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois lawmakers are closing in on a shark fin ban after the state House easily passed a bill prohibiting the sale and distribution of fins on Thursday. With virtually no floor debate, House Bill 4119 sailed through the chamber by a tally of 81-33. “I think (the vote) was decisive, I would consider that a mandate,” said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D–Chicago), the bill’s chief sponsor. “I’m delighted.”... READ MORE

‘Caylee’s Law’ Would Criminalize Failing To Report A Missing Child

March 8, 2012 - CBS2 Chicago

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — The Illinois House of Representatives has passed a bill that criminalizes failing to report a missing child, in the wake of the fallout from the Caylee Anthony tragedy. As WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman reports, Illinois State Rep. Jack Franks (D- Woodstock) says his bill, Caylee’s Law (HB 3804) aims to close holes in the criminal code... READ MORE

Illinois House approves two versions of 'Caylee's Law'

March 7, 2012 - The State Journal-Register

The Illinois House on Wednesday unanimously passed two versions of Caylee’s Law, which would criminalize the failure to report the death or disappearance of a child. House Bills 3801 and 3804 would require parents, guardians or caretakers to report these instances after a certain period of time. That period of time differs between the two bills... READ MORE

House passes ‘Caylee’s Law’

March 8, 2012 - Northwest Herald

A bill to criminalize failing to report a child missing unanimously passed the Illinois House on Wednesday. House Bill 3804, or “Caylee’s Law,” would make it illegal for a parent, guardian or caretaker of a child younger than 13 to fail to notify law enforcement within 24 hours of a child’s disappearance, if the individual knows or should know the child is in danger. The reporting requirement is one hour for children 2 years old or younger... READ MORE

Illinois House passes two missing-child bills in reaction to Caylee case

March 7, 2012 - STL Today

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. The Illinois House today passed two bills that would charge parents with felonies if they don't report when their children are missing or die. The bills both are in reaction to the Casey Anthony case that shocked the nation last year. Anthony is the Florida mother who allegedly waited a month to inform authorities that her young daughter, Caylee Anthony, was missing. Casey Anthony was ultimately acquitted of murder charges... READ MORE

Law inspired by Anthony case advances despite criticisms

March 7, 2012 - Pantagraph

SPRINGFIELD — Legislation inspired by a Florida jury’s acquittal in July of Casey Anthony advanced in the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, but not without some harsh words about the proposal. One measure, which was approved unanimously in the House on Wednesday, would make it a Class 4 felony if a parent fails to notify officials in a timely manner if their child is missing or dead. In the case of Anthony, she waited a month to notify... READ MORE

McCaleb: Taxing bodies must stop overspending

March 4, 2012 - Northwest Herald

Taxpayers shouldn’t be surprised by the response from local government and school officials to legislation from state Rep. Jack Franks that would prevent taxing bodies such as school districts and municipalities from increasing taxing levies in years when property values decline. The taxing bodies don’t like it. And they’re lobbying hard against it... READ MORE

Wyss: Taxpayers are unlikely to see relief

March 2, 2012 - Northwest Herald

Were you among those who cheered the news of state Rep. Jack Franks’ property tax bill success last week? Franks amended a Senate bill on an unrelated tax issue to include a provision forbidding governments under the tax cap from collecting more in property taxes in years when their total assessments decrease – except by voter referendum... READ MORE

Senate needs to pass zero-cap law

February 29, 2012 - Northwest Herald

If the taxing mechanisms in Illinois were consistent and fair, the property tax zero-cap bill the House passed last week would not be necessary. But government officials viewed basing the biggest chunk of public spending on the local property tax as a perfect idea. It could go wrong only if a taxing district’s property value declined while the rate of inflation flatlined and stayed that way... READ MORE

Quinn lays out closures, budget cuts

February 23, 2012 - Northwest Herald

The governor who extolled an Illinois “moving forward” to state lawmakers three weeks ago told the same audience Wednesday that the state is in deep financial trouble. Saying “our rendezvous with reality has arrived,” Gov. Pat Quinn delivered a sobering 30-minute annual budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly in which he laid out plans to close 14 major state facilities, including two prisons, and close or... READ MORE

In Illinois House, Committee Roles Bring Extra Pay Even for Light Workload

February 23, 2012 - The New York Times

Lawmakers in the Illinois House earned an extra $661,000 last year for serving as committee officers, even though some committees met fewer than five times and a handful met once, a Chicago News Cooperative analysis found... READ MORE

Kadner: Property tax freeze bill sails out of state House

February 21, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

A bill that would freeze property tax levies during years when property values decline overwhelmingly passed the Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday. I first wrote about the proposal, from state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), to freeze property taxes last year. Although that effort failed, Franks vowed the fight wasn’t over. “It passed this year because I didn’t seek any publicity before the vote,” Franks said... READ MORE

Bill takes 2nd stab at reining in tax cap

February 22, 2012 - Northwest Herald

A bill aimed at limiting property tax increases as home values decline passed the Illinois House on a second, stealthier try Tuesday. Senate Bill 2073, which passed on a 74-39 vote, forbids governments under the tax cap from collecting more in property taxes in years that their total assessments decrease, except by voter referendum. The bill, which came to the House in April on an unrelated tax issue, was amended by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo... READ MORE

State House OKs property tax cap for suburban homeowners

February 21, 2012 - Chicago Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD — In a potential election-year gift to homeowners and businesses, the Illinois House Tuesday voted to block suburban governments from increasing property taxes when overall property values decline. By a 74-39 vote, the measure sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) moves to the Senate, where it is expected to encounter stiff resistance from teachers unions, the Illinois Municipal League and other local government advocates... READ MORE

Bill takes 2nd stab at reining in tax cap

February 6, 2012 - Northwest Herald

Two McHenry County state legislators are co-sponsoring a county-specific bill aimed at limiting property tax increases when home values decline. House Bill 4608, filed by Democratic Rep. Jack Franks and Republican Rep. Kent Gaffney, seeks to forbid governments in counties of between 300,000 and 400,000 residents from collecting more in property taxes in years that their total assessed values decrease... READ MORE

Franks: Ask voters if they want to elect chairman

February 3, 2012 - Northwest Herald

State Rep. Jack Franks offered a compromise to McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler’s opposition to a bill making the chairmanship popularly elected: Put the idea to the voters. In a letter dated Monday, Franks, D-Marengo, offered to withdraw the bill if the County Board puts a binding referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot asking voters whether they want to elect the chairman. The position currently is elected by the County Board’s 24 members... READ MORE

Lawmaker: Quinn A ‘Coward’ For His Handling Of DCFS Investigation

January 28, 2012 - CBS2 Chicago

lawmaker is accusing Gov. Quinn of cowardice for the way his administration handled a scandal at the state’s child-welfare agency. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, says Quinn knew in April that Erwin McEwen, then the head of the Department of Children and Family Services, was refusing to cooperate in a state inspector general’s investigation... READ MORE

State investigators say DCFS contract fraud could be worse than known

January 27, 2012 - Chicago Tribune

State ethics investigators say they may never know the full extent of an alleged contracting scheme that they say cost taxpayers at least $18 million and led to last year’s resignation of the head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The comments came during a legislative hearing Friday examining a probe that found numerous violations by George E. Smith, who held various state contracts across a number of agencies, including DCFS... READ MORE

State Rep. Franks blasts Quinn’s office on alleged misconduct by ex-DCFS chief

January 27, 2012 - Northwest Herald

An attorney for Gov. Pat Quinn faced blistering questioning by legislators Friday on why the governor didn’t quickly fire the head of the state’s child-welfare agency last year after a report of fraudulent billing under his watch. At a hearing in Chicago, Rep. Jack Franks called it “cowardice” on the part of Quinn’s office to ask for Erwin McEwen’s resignation from his post as chief of the Department of Children and Family Services rather than fire him. State inspectors had found that a friend of the former director collected millions of dollars for shoddy or non-existent work... READ MORE

Bill aimed at allowing voters to elect County Board chairman

January 10, 2012 - Northwest Herald

A new bill in the House seeks to reverse the McHenry County Board's decision to continue appointing the board chairman themselves. House Bill 3953, filed Friday by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, would require counties with more than 300,000 residents to directly elect the county board chairman. McHenry County has 308,760 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census... READ MORE

State rep wants panel to review tax-break requests

December 22, 2011 - Crain's Chicago Business

A suburban legislator has introduced a bill to sharply cut Gov. Pat Quinn's power to hand out hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax breaks. Under a bill submitted this week by Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, Mr. Quinn no longer would be able to unilaterally approve payroll credits like those... READ MORE

State rep wants panel to review tax-break requests

December 22, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) filed a bill this week that would create a five-member committee to review the contracts between companies seeking tax credits and the state before they are finalized. As it stands, the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity reviews businesses' applications, negotiates and approves the deals... READ MORE

State rep wants panel to review tax-break requests

December 22, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) filed a bill this week that would create a five-member committee to review the contracts between companies seeking tax credits and the state before they are finalized. As it stands, the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity reviews businesses' applications, negotiates and approves the deals... READ MORE

Bill seeks to ban those who owe child support from ballot

December 22, 2011 - Northwest Herald

A bill inspired by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh’s child support issues would forbid people owing more than $10,000 in back child support from running for office in Illinois. House Bill 3932, filed Tuesday by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, would require statements of candidacy to include a statement that the person running for office is not delinquent by $10,000 or more... READ MORE

Sears Considers Leaving Illinois For Better Tax Deal

December 2, 2011 - NPR

Thousands of jobs are on the line in a competition between states over the corporate headquarters of Sears. Several states are offering tax incentive packages to try to lure the company away from Illinois, including one bid from Ohio that's worth up to $400 million... READ MORE

Quinn Says Sears Help is ‘More Than Adequate’ to Keep Headquarters in Illinois

December 2, 2011 - FOX NEWS

Chicago - Governor Quinn said there's no reason to get into a bidding war with the state of Ohio to try to keep Sears Holdings Corp. from leaving Illinois. He said a bill that offers tax breaks to Sears -- and to CME Group -- already passed the state Senate with bi-partisan support... READ MORE

Kadner: Property tax bill defeated but fight isn’t over

November 11, 2011 - Southtown Star

Jack Franks (D-63rd) said Friday he will reintroduce legislation in January to give homeowners relief. His bill to freeze property tax levies in communities where assessed values decline was resoundingly defeated 73 to 34 in the Illinois House last... READ MORE

Legislature can refresh PTELL’s effect

October 28, 2011 - Northwest Herald

The total amount they can collect in property taxes to 5 percent or the rate of inflation whichever is less excluding new growth but given current circumstances that s a facet we can pretty...
READ MORE

Rep. Jack Franks Pushes Property Tax Protection Bill

October 28, 2011 - FOX NEWS 9 pm

It has been a busy week in Springfield as lawmakers tackle everything from gambling to property taxes. Democratic State Rep Jack Franks joined us from Springfield to talk about his proposal to protect homeowners from soaring property taxes...
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Lobbyists fight Franks tax relief bill

October 28, 2011 - Northwest Herald

Local government lobbyists paid by your tax dollars are fighting hard to kill a bill aimed at limiting property tax increases in a declining housing market Interest groups representing...
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Quinn: Law barred me from disclosing DCFS trouble

October 18, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

Gov. Pat Quinn said Tuesday that an ethics law barred him from letting the public know seven weeks ago that he was dumping the director of the state's child-welfare agency over allegations of fraud and mismanagement. He said the law forced him to remain silent about the real reason for getting rid of Director Erwin McEwen until state inspectors finished their probe... READ MORE

Delay of casino gambling bill concerns some lawmakers

October 16, 2011 - Northwest Herald

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Local legislators weigh in on fall veto session

October 10, 2011 - Northwest Herald

The General Assembly has a lot on its agenda when it convenes this month for the fall veto session.
From Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of ComEd rate increases to pay for a “smart grid” to the controversial gambling expansion bill – to say nothing of the $86 billion pension elephant in the chambers – legislators have a lot to address during the six-day session, which starts Oct. 25... READ MORE

Franks to run again for 63rd district

September 15, 2011 - Northwest Herald

There’s a right way to streamline Illinois’ unwieldy government, and there’s a wrong way. The wrong way is the approach apparently embraced by some state leaders: death by a thousand cuts. A few examples of the piecemeal approach: The action: Gov. Pat Quinn signs the state budget, but he cuts $11.3 million to pay regional superintendents’ salaries. The apparent goal: Eliminate regional offices of education... READ MORE

Legislative ethics? They're only suggestions.

August 27, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

"Recently, Randy Erford, the Executive Director of the Legislative Ethics Commission, and I were invited by the National Conference of State Legislatures to speak in Springfield with a visiting delegation of South African legislative leaders on the subject of ethics and ethics reform in Illinois. The NCSL representative informed us that the delegation was especially interested in Illinois... READ MORE

Illinois State Representative Jack Franks joins Don and Roma

July 20, 2011 - WLS 890AM

Illinois Representative Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) joins Don and Roma - 7/20/2011 Download this show Listen Don and Roma talk with Don's favorite Illinois Democrat, State Rep. Jack Franks. Franks talks about businesses that are allowed to hold state taxes from our paychecks--up to 10 years. How does Illinois attract more business without sweetheart deals?

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COLUMN-Paying taxes your employer keeps-David Cay Johnston

July 19, 2011 - Reuters

Painful as it feels to have a lot of hard-earned income taken from your paycheck for taxes, a new Illinois law does something Americans may find surprising. It lets some employers pocket taxes for 10 years. You read that right -- in Illinois the state income taxes withheld from your paycheck may be kept by your employer under a law that took effect in May... READ MORE

Gambling In Illinois

July 13, 2011 - WGN Radio 720

CHI Crime Commission VP Arthur Bilek and IL state reps Lou Lang & Jack Franks debate the expansion of gambling in Chicago and Illinois... LISTEN HERE

Streamline government

July 13, 2011 - Northwest Herald

There’s a right way to streamline Illinois’ unwieldy government, and there’s a wrong way. The wrong way is the approach apparently embraced by some state leaders: death by a thousand cuts. A few examples of the piecemeal approach: The action: Gov. Pat Quinn signs the state budget, but he cuts $11.3 million to pay regional superintendents’ salaries. The apparent goal: Eliminate regional offices of education... READ MORE

Tax cap law needs tweak

July 5, 2011 - Northwest Herald

Many homeowners this spring learned the hard way that Illinois’ “tax cap” law is not really a cap at all. The “tax cap,” or Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, as it officially is known, simply limits the amount that local taxing bodies can increase their tax levies each year to 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. When the rule was implemented in the collar counties, including McHenry County, in 1991, it rescued property owners from steep tax increases as their land grew in value... READ MORE

Bill aims to limit property taxes

June 30, 2011 - Northwest Herald

Many Illinois homeowners were shocked, disgusted, or both, when their 2010 property taxes stayed the same or increased despite sharp declines in their assessments. A bill filed in Springfield seeks to help make the tax cap the friend of the Illinois property owner that it was when values were on the rise. House Bill 3793 would forbid any taxing body whose total assessed value decreases from the previous year, excluding new construction, from collecting an increase... READ MORE

Lawmakers approve $18B spending bill

June 22, 2011 - ABC 7 News

(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) (WLS) -- Illinois lawmakers avoided a possible shutdown of state construction projects by approving an $18 billion spending bill during a special session. Senate President John Cullerton introduced the stripped-down public works bill without explaining how it was different. "I would ask everyone to vote "aye." Be happy to answer any questions," Sen. Cullerton said... WATCH VIDEO AND READ MORE

Jack Franks - Illinois State Representative - joins Don and Roma

June 20, 2011 - WLS 890AM

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Wiggle room in Motorola Mobility's state tax break

June 19, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

The fine print in a contract between Illinois and Motorola Mobility indicates that the smartphone company can maintain a smaller workforce than the one it employs today and still qualify for more than $110 million in financial incentives designed to keep the company's workers in the state... READ MORE

Wrong way to support businesses

June 17, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

As a small-business owner, I know the impact of the corporate tax increase the state imposed. The tax rate of 9.5 percent is the fourth highest in the nation. I voted against that tax hike, along with the 67 percent personal income tax increase, because Illinois needs to stop spending beyond its means and passing the burden along to the taxpayers... READ MORE

Illinois Still Fighting for a Balanced Budget

June 7, 2011 - FOX NEWS Business Network

Click here to watch video

State Rep. Jack Franks on the need for Illinois to cut spending.

Illinois Treasurer Calls to End State Borrowing

May 25, 2011 - FOX NEWS Business Network

Click here to watch video

State Rep. Jack Franks says the state needs to stop borrowing money from the federal government.

Jack Franks - Illinois State Representative - joins Don and Roma

May 25, 2011 - WLS 890AM

Don and Roma talk with Illinois Representative Jack Franks. They talk about the budget battle in Springfield. Why won't Governor Quinn listen to spending cuts? What seems to be the problem in Springfield regarding balancing a budget? Why do we give so much money to private corporations to stay in Illinois? What has Rep. Franks done to try and cut spending... READ MORE

Illinois spending heavily to retain companies

May 17, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

Illinois in 2011 is on pace to provide much more money in financial incentive programs to businesses to retain and add jobs, with the total through early May exceeding $230 million pledged to 27 companies. That is nearly the amount pledged all of last year by Illinois to keep corporations from leaving the state or to attract businesses to relocate or expand here, the Tribune has learned... READ MORE

Legislators hoping Quinn to be more involved in budget

May 8, 2011- Galva News

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn notched a rare legislative victory last week, when his last-minute veto threat apparently played a role in the defeat of a proposal to allow people to carry concealed handguns in Illinois. Otherwise, however, observers say Quinn hasn’t been closely involved with General Assembly deliberations this spring – even on proposals Quinn himself initiated... READ MORE

State recoups $89K of $1 million after Blagojevich ‘mistake’

April 27, 2011 - Chicago Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD — State efforts to recoup $1 million that impeached ex-Gov. Blagojevich said he errantly gave to Loop Lab School yielded Illinois taxpayers a paltry $89,000, Illinois Auditor General William Holland disclosed Thursday... READ MORE

House balks at budget

March 31, 2011 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Leaders of the Illinois House threw cold water on Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget Wednesday by pushing forward with a plan to cut his proposed spending and ignore his call to borrow billions of dollars. Local legislators see this as a step in the right direction, but say a sustainable budget still is a long way off... READ MORE

Illinois House Leaders Ignoring Quinn's Budget Plan

March 30, 2011 - FOX Chicago News

Springfield, Ill. - Illinois House leaders are pushing forward with a budget plan that would ignore many of the governor's spending proposals. The top Democrat and top Republican in the House said Wednesday they have settled on the amount of money available for major categories of state government. Now, House committees will decide which services get a piece of that money and which don't... READ MORE

Franks alleges fiscal abuse on Metra board

March 11, 2011 - Northwest Herald

State Rep. Jack Franks is taking aim at the expenses of the Metra Board’s chairwoman and treasurer in his effort to eliminate and consolidate all four Chicago mass transit boards. At a Thursday news conference in Springfield, Franks accused Chairwoman Carole Doris and Treasurer Jack Schaffer of fiscal improprieties at the expense of taxpayers. Schaffer is McHenry County’s representative on the 11-member board, which Franks said should resign... READ MORE

Franks wants Metra board cleared

March 11, 2011 - Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD — Rep. Jack Franks said Wednesday that all of Metra’s board members should step down, saying they’ve been able to avoid paying certain taxes because of how their jobs are classified. At Springfield news conference, Franks said the board members shouldn’t be considered typical “employees” and therefore shouldn’t get out of paying taxes on their health benefits... READ MORE

Legislator: Metra board wasting money, should resign

March 11, 2011 - Chicago Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD — The head of a House government oversight panel Thursday identified a pattern of “deliberate, deceitful” financial abuses by Metra board members and called for them to resign. State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), chairman of the House State Government Administration Committee, zeroed in on Metra Chairman Carole Doris’ out-of-state travel and the free health care and dual government pensions that the board’s treasurer, former state Sen. Jack Schaffer, collects... READ MORE

Transit board seats give elected officials a second public paycheck

March 6, 2011 - Daily Herald

Nearly two dozen current and former suburban officials already collecting pay or pensions are among those costing taxpayers more than $1 million a year in salaries or health-care benefits for serving on transit boards. A Daily Herald analysis of payroll records from the Regional Transportation Authority, Metra, Pace and Illinois State Toll Highway Authority shows nearly half of the combined members of those appointed boards already draw a salary or pension from holding public office, in many cases from serving as a suburban mayor or village president... READ MORE

Franks is fiscal hawk

February 28, 2011 - Daily Herald

I read the Northwest Herald’s Jan. 22 assessment of the “Granny Tax” recently imposed by our tax hungry state legislature and agree that our state needs to explore other options to address our deficit. So much has gone wrong in Springfield, but our McHenry County legislators have been on the right side of the issues the entire time. Most importantly, State Rep. Jack Franks voted against the income tax, corporate tax and nursing home bed tax hikes... READ MORE

Franks seeks elimination of tollway board pay

January 24, 2011 - Daily Herald

After taking aim at the benefits provided to the appointed boards of public transit agencies, state Rep. Jack Franks is going after the tollway board’s perks now. The Woodstock Democrat introduced legislation that would eliminate salaries, insurance benefits and pensions for the nine-member board of directors appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn... READ MORE

Illinois in a State of Emergency?

January 18, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

State Rep. Jack Franks discusses why he did not vote in favor of a tax increase. VIEW MORE

Tax Increase Bad Law: Jack Franks

January 13, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

Governor Quinn is expected to sign the big tax hike into law as early as Thursday. State Representative Jack Franks of Woodstock joined us from Springfield. He was one of only a handful of Democrats who voted against the increase. VIEW MORE

Goodbye, jobs

January 11, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

At least 1/11/11 will be easy to remember. On that day, with the state of Illinois mired at 48th place nationwide in job creation, Democratic leaders dragged through the lame-duck House a tax plan sure to make many employers do their hiring somewhere else. We'll leave to the Tax Foundation and other data outfits the task of calibrating precisely how much more uncompetitive Illinois becomes if the Senate passes and Gov. Pat Quinn signs this fiasco into law... READ MORE

Franks Bashes Tax Hike

January 11, 2011 - The News - Gazette

SPRINGFIELD – With the help of "yes" votes from at least 10 lawmakers serving their last hours in the Legislature, the Illinois House approved a 66 percent income tax increase Tuesday night. The 60-57 vote came around 8 p.m., with less than 16 hours remaining in the 96th General Assembly. Among area lawmakers, only state Democratic Rep. Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana voted for the tax increase. She had said for months that she would do so... READ MORE

Income Tax Hike

January 9, 2011 - Wand TV

State Rep Jack Franks says lawmakers need to look to the governor’s office for support on the 75 percent income tax increase.

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Jack Franks on Tax Vote

January 9, 2011 - Illinois Statehouse News

State Rep Jack Franks says lawmakers need to look to the governor’s office for support on the 75 percent income tax increase.

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Is Income Tax Hike Dead?

January 9, 2011 - CBS Chicago

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Illinois House leaves town without voting on income-tax hike

January 7, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD --- House lawmakers left town today without voting on a major income-tax increase as doubts emerged about whether there's enough support to pass it. “The votes aren’t here in the House yet,” said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, a House budget expert. “There’s not 60 votes.” House Speaker Michael Madigan has not commented on the proposal yet, but was expected to meet with Gov. Pat Quinn behind closed doors today to fine-tune the plan. The governor also has been asking individual lawmakers into his office to lobby them for support... READ MORE

Legislature approves watchdog over transit agencies

January 6, 2011 - Chicago Tribune

Eight months after longtime Metra boss Phil Pagano committed suicide in the face of possible criminal charges, the General Assembly voted to give the state's top ethics official new watchdog power over Chicago's mass transit agencies. Under a bill approved Thursday, the state's executive inspector general would have wide authority to help guard against corruption, waste and fraud at the Regional Transportation Authority, the CTA, Metra and Pace... READ MORE

Illinois takes steps to stop doctors who sexually abuse patients

November 29, 2010 - Chicago Tribune

Rudy Bermudez was so upset when his fellow members on the Medical Board of California restored the license of a doctor convicted of sexually abusing a patient that when Bermudez was later elected to the state Assembly he penned legislation to revoke the license automatically of every doctor with a sex-crime conviction. As Illinois policymakers begin crafting better ways to stop sexual misconduct by physicians in this state, Bermudez says... READ MORE

Lawmakers target transit agencies

November 27, 2010 - Chicago Tribune

Two state lawmakers are taking aim at top officials at Metra and other transit agencies, seeking to replace all their board members and eliminate their pay and benefits. Separate measures submitted by Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, call for sweeping out all the mass-transit directors as a result of the corruption scandal involving Metra's longtime boss, the late Phil Pagano... READ MORE

Why aren't they gone?

November 22, 2010 - Chicago Tribune

Every time we write about how the Metra rail system was fleeced in broad daylight by an executive director run amok, we hear from angry readers who want to know why Metra's board of directors hasn't been fired. It's a fair question. Here's one answer: The Metra board has almost as many bosses as it has members. The 11 directors are appointed by politicians in eight jurisdictions, a power-sharing compromise that's more about turf protection than joint governance... READ MORE

Franks bill would axe transit salaries

November 19, 2010 - Northwest Herald

Salaries and benefits for members of boards overseeing mass transit and the Illinois Tollway would be abolished under a legislative push by state Rep. Jack Franks. Franks, D-Marengo, has filed bills in the fall veto session aimed at eliminating salaries, health care and pension benefits for members of the operating boards of the Regional Transportation Authority, Metra, Pace, the Chicago Transit Authority and the Illinois Toll Highway Authority... READ MORE

We don't need a lieutenant governor

November 13, 2010 - Daily Herald

It's been almost 22 months since Rod Blagojevich lost his impeachment trial and Pat Quinn replaced him as governor. During that time, the state of Illinois has operated without a lieutenant governor. Has anybody noticed any difference? Has anybody worried about it? Has anyone issued dire warnings that the absence of a lieutenant governor threatens the stability of state government?... READ MORE

Franks wants more transparency at local government level

November 12, 2010 - Northwest Herald

Legislation introduced this week would make local government salary information available at any time to anyone with a computer and Internet access. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, wants to expand the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal, which lists information at the state level including employee pay, agency expenditures, and agency contracts. “We need to become much more transparent in the state of Illinois, and that has been a problem we have had for as long as I can remember,” Franks said... READ MORE

State House District 63: Franks

October 18, 2010 - Daily Herald

If Democrat Jack Franks is known for anything in the legislature and in truth, he is known for a lot it is for his frank willingness to challenge the powers that be whenever he sees something in government he doesn’t like. And the things he doesn’t like backroom deals, bloated pensions, opaque government bureaucracies, tax increases, a cumbersome, misleading budget process and more are things that desperately need to be challenged... READ MORE

State Rep. D-63: Franks

October 7, 2010 - Northwest Herald

Democrats in Springfield largely are responsible for the fiscal mess in which the state of Illinois finds itself. Democrats have controlled the House, Senate and the governor’s office for each of the past eight years. They’ve had the opportunity to fix this state’s many problems, but instead have made them worse. So recommending an incumbent Democrat for state office this year would seem to be recommending more of the same... READ MORE

Change the House

October 1, 2010 - Chicago Tribune

The Tribune offers more endorsements in contested races for the Illinois House. 41st District (west suburbs) — Voters won't go wrong choosing between Republican attorney Chris Nybo, a member of the Elmhurst City Council, and Democrat Brian Stephenson, an attorney from La Grange Park. They agree on many issues, including resistance to an income tax increase. It's great to hear Stephenson talk about abolishing Cook County townships... READ MORE

Recall amendment to state Constitution on Nov. 2 ballot

October 1, 2010 - Northwest Herald

Voters will be asked Nov. 2 whether they want to amend the Illinois Constitution to allow the public to recall future governors. If approved, the amendment would set up a system by which voters could remove the governor from office. Given the fact that two consecutive Illinois governors have been convicted on corruption charges, and that five previous governors have been indicted, supporters say the mechanism is needed to keep the state’s chief executive honest... READ MORE

Ill. voters to decide on recall option for guvs

October 1, 2010 - BND.com

CHICAGO -- Illinois voters may soon get the power to remove a sitting governor from office, thanks in part to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Advocates of voter recall had been trying for years to amend the Illinois Constitution so that people could get rid of unpopular officials. Their efforts went nowhere until Blagojevich was arrested and then impeached by lawmakers. Suddenly, legislators were eager to put a recall amendment on the ballot, so long as it didn't affect them... READ MORE

Voters To Decide On Recall Option For Governors

October 1, 2010 - CBS2 Chicago

Illinois voters may soon get the power to remove a sitting governor from office, thanks in part to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Advocates of voter recall had been trying for years to amend the Illinois Constitution so that people could get rid of unpopular officials. Their efforts went nowhere until Blagojevich was arrested and then impeached by lawmakers... READ MORE

Probe needed in lottery bid

September 24, 2010 - Northwest Herald

The circumstances surrounding the awarding of management of the state lottery to a private firm are, at best, shady. That’s why we join local legislators in asking the state Attorney General’s Office to look into the process. Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn handed Northstar Lottery Group a contract to manage the state’s lottery for the next 10 years. Two companies, Northstar and Camelot Group, were finalists for the contract. Three Northstar subsidiaries already have contracts with the state to run specific lottery operations... READ MORE

Lawmakers question
lottery deal

September 22, 2010 - Northwest Herald

CRYSTAL LAKE – Concerns about the process that awarded management of the Illinois Lottery to a private firm could prompt an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. State Rep. Jack Franks, who has been critical of the privatization, sent a letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan requesting that her office take a closer look at the Illinois Lottery Evaluation Committee and how the contract was awarded... READ MORE

Legislator seeks attorney general probe of lottery deal

September 19, 2010 - THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER

SPRINGFIELD -- A legislator who has been critical of the state’s hiring of a private manager to run the Illinois Lottery wants Attorney General Lisa Madigan to investigate how the choice was made. Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said Friday the way Northstar Lottery Group was selected was too secretive. “For good reason, there is great fear in the state of Illinois that, without transparency, clout-heavy bidders will unfairly win contracts based on their relationships rather than their value to the taxpayers,” Franks wrote in his letter to the attorney general... READ MORE

Lottery workers protected after private managers take over

September 19, 2010 - THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER

Current employees of the Illinois Lottery will have job protections even after a private manager takes over lottery operations next year. The legislation that authorized the state to look for a private manager specified that current workers could not lose their jobs as a result of the takeover. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 150 lottery employees, insisted on the protections... READ MORE

Illinois’ Jobless Picture Improving

September 16, 2010 - Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD – One in ten people in Illinois is still out of work, but the latest numbers show the jobless rate in the state is improving. Unemployment numbers released Thursday show the jobless rate in August slipped to 10.1 percent, down from 10.3 percent in July. In August of 2009, Illinois’ unemployment rate sat at 10.6 percent. Illinois’ unemployment figures are still higher than the national average. Across the country, the jobless rate ticked to 9.6 percent in August... READ MORE

Illinois picks Northstar to run state lottery

September 15, 2010 - The Times

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois is banking its luck on a few businesses to help boost its fortunes with the state lottery. Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday selected the Northstar Lottery Group to enter into a contract with the state to privately manage the lottery In an unprecedented agreement for Illinois. In winning the contract, the Northstar consortium beat out the other finalist, the Camelot Group, which manages the national lottery in the United Kingdom... READ MORE

Quinn's Secret Lottery Deal Must Be Stopped

September 14, 2010 - The Huffington Post

The stars are aligning for another bad deal for Illinois taxpayers, one that will dwarf the mistakes of Chicago's parking meter fiasco. At any moment, Governor Pat Quinn is set to receive a recommendation from his administration's secret Illinois Lottery evaluation committee on who will manage the day-to-day operations of the Illinois Lottery. Governor Quinn is scheduled to make his official decision by Wednesday... READ MORE

FOX Chicago Sunday: State Rep. Jack Franks

August 23, 2010 - WLS Radio's Don and Roma show

When state lawmakers impeached former governor Rod Blagojevich over a year ago, the public had only heard a few of the federal wiretaps. Now that a federal jury deadlocked on most of the charges in the Blagojevich corruption trial, was his impeachment a rush to judgment? State Rep. Jack Franks is here on FOX Chicago Sunday to talk about the impeachment case he led against Rod Blagojevich... READ MORE

State Rep Jack Franks joins Don Wade and Roma

August 23, 2010 - WLS Radio's Don and Roma show

On August 23rd, State Rep Jack Franks joined Don Wade and Roma to discuss the Blagojevich retrial. Is it worth it to use taxpayers' money to pay for Blagojevich's retrial? How long will he have to do for him to be satisfied? Does horse trading happen all the time? How corrupt is Illinois? Are term limits the solution... READ MORE

Jurors were close to convicting Blagojevich

August 18, 2010 - Northwest Herald

CHICAGO (AP) — They were close. After three weeks of respectful but increasingly tense deliberations, 11 jurors were ready to convict Rod Blagojevich of what prosecutors called a "political corruption crime spree" that would have sent yet another former Illinois governor to prison. Not close enough... READ MORE

The Blagojevich verdict:
Stay tuned

August 18, 2010 - Daily Herald

It must be said at the outset that one important statement underlies all reflections on the Rod Blagojevich trial. The former Illinois governor is a felon. It is true that the single charge that Blagojevich's jury could reach agreement on was one of the least significant of the 24 he faced, but it is not insignificant... READ MORE

Prosecutors plan to retry Illinois' Blagojevich

August 18, 2010 - USA Today

After the former Illinois governor was found guilty Tuesday of just one of 24 felony corruption counts — lying to the FBI — federal prosecutor Reid Schar said it is "absolutely our intent" to retry the 23 charges on which the judge declared a mistrial. "We could be here tomorrow," Schar said. U.S. District Judge James Zagel set an Aug. 26 hearing to decide timing of the retrial... READ MORE

Officials agree verdict a sad day for Illinois

August 17, 2010 - Aledo Times Record

Gov. Pat Quinn famously defended Blagojevich during the 2006 election season, calling him honest. “You can be misled, and that can happen in life to anyone,” Quinn said at a Statehouse news conference. “I think it’s very disappointing to hear in the testimony of the trial the things that the former governor said – I was unaware of and I certainly was shocked by – and I think that’s why I led the effort for recall in 2007 and into 2008.” Voters this fall will be able to adopt a constitutional amendment allowing for the recall of Illinois governors...READ MORE

Social service agencies plead for state gov’t help

August 6, 2010 - Northwest Herald

McHENRY – Area human services providers told state legislators Thursday that they need to know how much money to expect from the state so the agencies can better plan on how to provide their services. The Human Services Advocates of McHenry County is a collection of human services agency board members who meet to discuss issues and how to educate the public and elected officials of the agencies’ needs... READ MORE

Illinois Should Better Manage the Lottery, Not Waste the Bucks

August 2, 2010 - The Huffington Post

Our state recently put the wheels in motion to hire a private management firm to run the Illinois lottery for the next decade. No other state has ever tried to privatize any portion of their lottery. There is a simple explanation for this; taxpayers lose out under a privatization plan. The rationale behind privatization is to make Illinois' lottery operate like a cutting-edge business... READ MORE

What does the future hold for school funding, unions?

August 2, 2010 - Northwest Herald

The state of Illinois owes school districts about $1.3 billion. The number of schools on the state financial watch list jumped to 29 in fiscal year 2010 from 22 in fiscal year 2009. Meanwhile, Alden-Hebron District 19 spent $10,669 to educate a student in 2008-09; down the road in Harvard District 50, officials spent $7,172 a student. The funding system isn’t working. Everyone can at least agree on that... READ MORE

Rep. Franks Talks About Employer Credit Check Bill

July 30, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

A proposed law in Illinois could give those with bad credit a much needed second chance. State Rep. Jack Franks discussed what's in his bill and what it means to anybody looking for a job.

Bill Would Ban Employer Credit Checks

July 30, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

Chicago - There may be new hope for those with bad credit who are looking for a job. Many people can't get employed -- not because they don't have decent credentials -- but because they don't have decent credit. Now, a proposed law in Illinois could give them a much needed second chance.

Franks on the FOX Business Network

July 29, 2010 - FOX NEWS 9 pm

Jack will be FOX Chicago's 9 pm News tonight to talk about his Employee Credit Privacy Act.

Franks on the FOX Business Network

July 26, 2010 - FOX NEWS Business Network

Click here to watch video

Watch for State Rep. Jack Franks on the FOX Business Network Monday, July 26, around 9:40 am (central time). Rep. Franks talks with Stuart Varney about the economic state of Illinois and the possible privatization of the Illinois lottery.

Franks does what's right for residents

July 11, 2010 - Daily Herald

Your June 5 editorial highlighted the fact that the only McHenry County legislator to support a sales tax holiday in Illinois was state Rep. Jack Franks. All the other area legislators voted against cutting taxes to stimulate the economy and give consumers a much-needed break. Rep. Franks has been working to get this law passed for years. The sales tax holiday will allow everyone to pay reduced taxes on clothing and school items from Friday, Aug. 6, to Sunday, Aug. 15... READ MORE

Credibility sunk by big raises for Quinn's staff

July 9, 2010 - Pantagraph

Gov. Pat Quinn talks a good game about the need for “shared sacrifice” to address the state’s woeful budget situation. But the raises Quinn gave to 35 of his staffers in the past 15 months calls into question what kind of “sacrifice” is being shared. The average increase was 11.4 percent — coming at a time when people in the private sector are taking pay cuts or being laid off, teachers are losing their jobs, bills are not being paid and on it goes... READ MORE

More Quinn logic that escapes us

July 9, 2010 - Daily Herald

We give Gov. Pat Quinn a hard time quite often, and we recognize that. Thing is, he makes it so easy. Here's another editorial idea he served up to us, big and delicious: At the same time he's been traveling Illinois bemoaning the state's huge debt, he's been giving raises that average 11.4 percent to 35 members of his staff, according to an Associated Press analysis reported Tuesday... READ MORE

Quinn's Lack of Leadership Continues to Hurt the People of Illinois

July 8, 2010 - The Huffington Post - by Jack Franks

July 1, Governor Pat Quinn proudly proclaimed that he made tough budget choices to move our state forward. Fresh from issuing $509 million in cuts made with his newly enhanced executive power, another $891 million held in reserve and an executive order aimed at cutting state employee expenses, Quinn acted as if he had stood the hard line on spending. But, like most vague declarations, the devil is in the details. Quinn failed to tell the public that his more than $1 billion in cuts was mostly smoke and mirrors. In reality, Quinn cut very little from the budget, which still carries a $13 billion deficit... READ MORE

Quinn’s staff gets big raises

July 7, 2010 - USA Today & Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Pat Quinn handed out raises – some of more than 20 percent – to members of his staff while proclaiming a message of “shared sacrifice” and planning spending cuts of $1.4 billion because the state is awash in debt. The Democrat gave 43 salary increases averaging 11.4 percent to 35 staffers in the past 15 months, according to an Associated Press analysis of records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act... READ MORE

What's up (or down) with state spending

July 5, 2010 - Chicago Tribune

Gov. Pat Quinn crafted this year's state budget with nearly unfettered power to spend taxpayer money and cut programs as he saw fit. The unprecedented authority led Quinn and his aides to spend weeks deciding what to slice and what to spare, knowing that each move will be examined carefully under the magnifying glass of the governor campaign... READ MORE

Gov. Quinn: Veto the Budget, Bring General Assembly Back to Springfield

June 10, 2010 - The Huffington Post - by Jack Franks

I called on Governor Pat Quinn this week to veto the budget plan provided by the General Assembly and bring the legislature back to Springfield immediately to fulfill our constitutional obligation to pass a responsible, balanced budget. Just a few weeks ago, the General Assembly provided the Governor with a budget that is unbalanced and unconstitutional... READ MORE

Recall will be on Nov. Ballot

June 7, 2010 - Northwest Herald

SPRINGFIELD – After November, voters might be able to oust the governor. The power of recall will be the first state constitutional amendment on the Illinois ballot since 1998. If approved, the recall provision would be similar to the process used in California, said state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo. He began pushing for the amendment in 2008 after abuse-of-power allegations against then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich... READ MORE

In Blagojevich Corruption Trial, a Political Window

June 2, 2010 - The New York Times

CHICAGO — As jury selection in the corruption trial of Rod R. Blagojevich begins on Thursday, people here are less curious about what they may learn about the impeached former Illinois governor than they are about who else will be tainted in the proceedings .The trial may finally open a window into Mr. Blagojevich’s interactions with other politicians and political strategists, business and union leaders and others... READ MORE

House OKs Borrowing to Cover State Pensions

May 26, 2010 - The State Journal-Register

Pension borrowing — a major (and controversial) component of a state budget plan — finally won approval in the Illinois House on Tuesday after a series of rejections. The House voted 71-44 to borrow up to $4 billion to cover next year’s payments to the five state-funded pension systems. The bill needed a super-majority of 71 votes to pass, and two Republicans — Bill Black of Danville and Robert Biggins of Elmhurst — provided the needed margin... READ MORE

Illinois Lawmakers Adopt Plan to Borrow To Pay For Pensions

May 26, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

Springfield, Ill. - The Illinois House has approved key pieces of a Democratic budget plan that attempts to address the state's massive budget deficit. One measure would borrow $3.7 billion to make the state's annual contribution to government pension systems. Another would give Gov. Pat Quinn broad power to decide where to cut spending. Quinn would also be allowed to borrow from special government funds... READ MORE

Jack Franks: Remove Member Initiatives in Budget

May 25, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

Lawmakers in Springfield have a $13 billion budget hole to fill, and there's been a lot of debate over what to do. Representative Jack Franks says he has suggested ways to cut spending, but he says Governor Quinn never considered them. He joined us by phone. READ MORE

Illinois Senate Passes Budget Plan After Midnight

MAY 7, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

Chicago - There may be new powers for the governor as the Illinois Senate worked past midnight Thursday to approve a $57 billion spending plan without a major tax increase. House Democrats will meet with Governor Quinn Friday before considering the budget. READ MORE

Gov. Quinn:No Borrowing Without $2 in Cuts for Each $1 Borrowed

APRIL 29th, 2010

I want you to imagine for a minute that your family is facing a monumental fiscal crisis. Bill collectors are hounding you, you're facing foreclosure on your home and your children's tuition is due. Just before the moment of reckoning, in the mail you receive an offer to loan you all the money you need to pay your bills, keep your house and pay your children's tuition. With few other options, you cautiously accept the offer. One year later... READ MORE

Want to solve the budget crisis? Say no to spending

APRIL 22th, 2010 - Chicago Tribune

I sit in the Illinois House week after week, listening to debate, moving bills, and I think: We are out of control. We have a $13 billion budget deficit, the worst in memory. We run the government by shooting from the hip: borrowing money and not paying our bills. We are in trouble. And we won't get out of trouble unless Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois legislators have the courage to put a stop to the unchecked spending that got us where we are today. We have a disaster. It is man-made.
READ MORE

FOX Chicago Sunday: Jack Franks

MARCH 29th, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

The Illinois legislature moved swiftly last week to pass sweeping reforms to the State's pension system. It's a move expected to save as much as a hundred billion dollars years down the road, but little upfront.

State representative Jack Franks joins us from Springfield for this week’s Fox Chicago Sunday.

Franks: Evaluate Every Line Item

MARCH 18th, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

Some state lawmakers are not happy with the governor's budget that includes cuts to education and human services. They also say that the governor should take a closer look at wasteful spending before raising taxes.

State Representative Jack Franks joined us from Springfield.

 

Jack Franks: Remove Member Initiatives in Budget

May 25, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

Lawmakers in Springfield have a $13 billion budget hole to fill, and there's been a lot of debate over what to do. Representative Jack Franks says he has suggested ways to cut spending, but he says Governor Quinn never considered them. He joined us by phone. READ MORE

Franks: Evaluate Every Line Item

MARCH 18th, 2010 - FOX Chicago News

Some state lawmakers are not happy with the governor's budget that includes cuts to education and human services. They also say that the governor should take a closer look at wasteful spending before raising taxes.

State Representative Jack Franks joined us from Springfield.