Sen. Holmes in RockfordElgin Courier-News - May 5, 2015 | Original article

By Mike Dahaney

Losing a tax credit program that funds projects in six Illinois river towns, including Aurora and Elgin, would hinder further redevelopment in those cities, local officials told state lawmakers Monday.

The message delivered during a lunchtime hearing of the State Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee in Rockford specifically related to the Hobbs Building and vacant St. Charles Hospital in Aurora and Elgin's Tower Building.

"This is an extremely important topic for the Aurora area," said Democrat State Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora, who chairs the committee. "It's something we've utilized and need to utilize."

The session was hosted by Democrat State Sen. Steve Stadelman of Rockford and run by Holmes with Democrat State Rep. Litesa Wallace of Rockford also sitting in on the proceedings.

"It's a matter of timing and momentum," Elgin Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal told the lawmakers.

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Category: Latest

Reboot Illinois - April 27, 2015 | Original story

by Madeleine Doubek

Something is wrong in Illinois when you have a fiscal crisis you go a long way toward solving by “sweeping” $1.3 billion out of nearly 800 different state funds, seemingly in the time it takes to click your heels together and say, “Sweep away.”

That’s just about what happened at the end of March, minus the heel clicking. Then, after lawmakers flipped out when they thought they’d solved their immediate crisis only to find out key programs for the poor, sick and disabled were enduring $26 million in cuts, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget office suggested another sweep might ease the pain.

I don’t know about you, but on those rare days when I sweep at my house, I’m lucky to find a penny, not millions or billions. I knew we had a bunch of funds from specialty license plates and for charitable causes, but I’d never paid much attention, so I did some asking.

Illinois has nearly 800 different funds. They include the general revenue fund, the big one we all tend to focus on this time of year. They also include some others like a road fund and a motor fuel fund. And then there are, quite literally, hundreds of others like: Illinois State Police Memorial Park, Illinois Veterans Rehabilitation, Illinois Police K-9 Memorial, State Boating Act, State Parks, Wildlife & Fish, Salmon, Military Affairs Trust, Lobbyist Registration Administration and Agriculture Premium.

Then there’s the Federal Mass Transit Trust, Share the Road, National Flood Insurance Program, Land Reclamation, Federal Energy, Cycle Rider Safety Training and Farmers Market Tech Improvement.

I randomly just picked a few spots from a column of 792 sent to me by Comptroller Leslie Munger’s office. Omitting the general revenue fund, the biggie that funds state operations each year, all these funds late last week had $9.67 billion in them.

That’s a whole lot of our money we never hear much about.  The good news? Last week, the Illinois Senate approved a bill, SB1404, that attempts to make sure these funds get audited every year. Another, SB 1405, seeks to see if some of these funds can be consolidated.

The bills probably aren’t perfect. I think it’s a bit rich that they create yet another special board to work on shrinking the number of funds over the next several years. And it sounds like the bills keep the audits exempt from FOIA disclosure. Isn’t the problem here that the funds are managed in the dark? Well, yes.

Still, state Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat who sponsored the bills, said it’s a start at making the funds “a little more manageable and … a little more transparent for everybody.”

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Category: Latest

Senator Linda HolmesSPRINGFIELD — Working alongside Attorney General Lisa Madigan to crack down on unlicensed employment agencies, State Sen. Linda Holmes advanced a plan out of the Illinois Senate Wednesday.

“There are employers out there flouting the law, exploiting some of the most vulnerable workers in some of the lowest-paid jobs,” Holmes said. “I’m gratified to work with Attorney General Madigan to toughen enforcement and protect jobseekers. I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this important legislation.”

The legislation seeks to address regulations that have not seen substantive updates in decades and that currently provide inadequate tools for the Attorney General’s Office to enforce compliance.

Workers who have been placed by such unregulated agencies have alleged numerous instances of abuse they have suffered at the hands of employers, including being made to work 6-day work weeks of 12-hour shifts to pay off referral fees, being referred to jobs that pay below the minimum wage, being housed in crowded and substandard conditions and being denied medical treatment for on-the-job injuries.

“My office initiated this legislation after uncovering instances of low-income and immigrant workers being subject to dangerous and often illegal working conditions. They were placed in those conditions by employment agencies that were frequently operating without licenses,” Madigan said. “This bill will strengthen our laws so that we can stop licensed and unlicensed employment agencies from taking unfair advantage of Illinois workers.”

In addition to providing civil penalties for such violations, Holmes’ proposal directs the Department of Labor to create and maintain a database of employment agencies with suspended or revoked licenses, requires employment agencies to keep records of their placements longer and provides whistleblower protection to employees who report misconduct.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1859. It proceeds to the House for consideration.

Category: New Releases

Sen. Holmes on the Senate FloorSPRINGFIELD — Collaborating with Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger to enforce greater fiscal discipline and seek out efficiencies and transparency in state funding, State Sen. Linda Holmes sponsored two proposals that passed the Illinois Senate today.

“I was happy to work with Comptroller Munger on these two common sense proposals,” Holmes said. “As we work together to address the state’s fiscal difficulties, I’m looking forward to further bipartisan work.”

Senate Bill 1404 further clarifies a law meant to bring the accounting practices of all state agencies into line with one another. A 2011 report by the Auditor General’s Office discovered that the state had been using more than 260 different accounting systems, many described as “antiquated.” The proposal clarifies the auditing practices of state agencies that don’t have their own internal auditor.

Originally introduced by Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka before being taken up again by Munger, Senate Bill 1405 creates a task force with the aim of studying state funds and searching for funds that can be consolidated or otherwise eliminated. Doing so would potentially promote greater efficiency and transparency in state operations. Currently, the state maintains over 900 funds. In contrast, the State of Wisconsin maintains about 60 funds, Comptroller Munger said.

“Illinois has more funds than any other state by far, which makes it incredibly difficult to see how state money is spent,” Munger said. “There is no reason to have a Fish and Wildlife Fund and a separate Salmon Fund. Isn’t salmon a fish?”

“I thank Sen. Holmes for her leadership on these two important bills in the Senate that will go a long way toward improving efficiencies and increasing transparency in state spending,” Munger added.

“Our first responsibility to the people of Illinois is good stewardship of state government,” Holmes said. “With these initiatives, we’re working toward being more watchful and less wasteful.”

The two pieces of legislation proceed to the House for consideration.

Category: New Releases

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