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Assistant House Minority Leader Norine K. Hammond (R-Macomb) has signed on as Co-Sponsor of House Resolution 766, a resolution that voices opposition to taxing Illinois drivers per mile traveled. HR 766 was filed at the beginning of the regular Legislative Session in anticipation of new legislation that attempts to do just that.

In 2016, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) proposed the new tax on miles traveled on public, non-tolled Illinois roads using GPS tracking technology and a Chicago Daily Herald article stated that the sponsor of the new tax wanted Illinois to be the first state in the union to make the changes statewide and that the concept is inevitable.

“The vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax would be particularly burdensome to downstate Illinoisans. We cover more miles here because our communities are rural. Whether it’s to work, school, or visiting family we log a lot of miles daily and that will cost us more than those in the city,” said Representative Hammond. She added, “It’s simply unfair.” 

One previously proposed plan, which would impose a fee of 1.5¢ per mile driven, would report miles traveled on public, non-tolled Illinois roads by using GPS tracking technology in a smartphone app or a tracking device similar to the I-Pass (or EZ-Pass). With this tracking, individuals would be monitored to calculate how many miles were driven in Illinois each month. Another plan would impose a fee of 1.5¢ per mile driven, based on monthly odometer readings instead of GPS tracking technology, and another would plan would be a flat rate plan of an annual fee of $450. 

Illinoisans currently pay over 34 cents per gallon in state and federal taxes for gasoline.

Governor Bruce Rauner declared a harvest emergency, for the second year in a row, to help level the playing field between Illinois farmers and crop haulers and those in neighboring states. Assistant House Minority Leader Norine Hammond applauded the action which creates a no fee permit for increased gross axle weight limits for agricultural commodities haulers.
Representative Hammond said, “The Governor’s action will allow for a more successful harvesting season, I am pleased that he, once again, made this declaration to assist our leading industry- agriculture.” She added that this action bridges the gap between the 2018 harvest season and a new law, House Bill 5749- that she was a Chief Co-Sponsor of, which takes effect next year.  

The emergency declaration is in effect from Monday, Sept. 10, to Dec. 31, 2018, and enables crop haulers to seek free Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) permits to exceed legal maximum gross vehicle and gross axle weight limits or the vehicle’s registered gross weight, whichever is less, by no more than 10 percent on state and federal highways under IDOT’s jurisdiction, except interstates. (Federal requirements prohibit inclusion of interstates.)
 
“We appreciate Gov. Rauner declaring an emergency situation for the 2018 harvest season, especially in light of the declining incomes and market turmoil which farmers are currently facing,” said Richard Guebert Jr., president, Illinois Farm Bureau. “This declaration opens the door for increased efficiencies for farmers and truck drivers hauling agricultural commodities and will help offset any uncontrollable effects of weather and commodity markets, allowing farmers the freedom to move what is projected to be a record-breaking crop.”
 
Permits will be issued at no charge, but applicants must obtain a route authorization number every two weeks. The harvest emergency permit and other information on the permitting process can be obtained through IDOT’s automated permitting web application at https://webapps.dot.illinois.gov/ITAP.
Representative Hammond is seen here at the presentation with local members from L-R: Joe Tolly (Fulton Co. Farm Bureau Board Member), Colby Hunt (McDonough Co. Farm Bureau President), Terry Boydstun (Knox Co. Farm Bureau Board Director), Jared Kunkle (Warren-Henderson Farm Bureau President), and Kelly Westlake (Schuyler Co. Farm Bureau Manager).
Assistant House Minority Leader Norine Hammond has received the "Friend of Agriculture" award from the Illinois Farm Bureau for her continued support of farmers, a safe food system, and a strong agricultural business environment. The award is given annually to legislators based on their voting record in the General Assembly, which shows their understand of the far-reaching benefits of Illinois' agricultural products and the important role farmers play in providing quality food, fiber, and fuel.

Representative Hammond received the award on Tuesday at the Old Dairy Restaurant in Macomb. Members of ACTIVATOR, the political arm of the Illinois Farm Bureau, were in attendance and presented the legislator with a miniature replica of a grain harvester in appreciation for her advocacy on behalf of their organization. 

“I consider it one of the highest honors as a legislator to have the respect of farmers,” Rep. Hammond said shortly before the award was presented. She added, "Agriculture is the state’s #1 industry and when it grows, we all benefit."

Illinois is home to 72,200 farms, each averaging about 358 acres in size, which span nearly 27 million acres across the state. They generate more than $19 billion for Illinois’ economy annually.

 

“An initiative of our Higher Education Working Group, this pilot program is another way to encourage those furthering their education to stay here in Illinois attending our public universities,” said Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb.

“In this program, participating universities will match the amount of funds received by the state with their institutional financial aid.”

Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Norine K. Hammond, creating a merit-based scholarship program for Illinois students and a task force to help share college and career interest data between high schools and higher education institutions. Both initiatives are products of the Higher Education Working Group focused on making the state’s colleges and universities more affordable and accessible for Illinois students.

“Our future as a state is dependent upon people wanting to live, work and attend school here in Illinois,” Rauner said. “We want to create a place where our young people want to learn and put what they have learned into practice through careers that enrich our economy and make Illinois a better place to live.”

From 1991 to 2014, enrollment at Illinois public universities and community colleges declined by 50,000 students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. From 2011 to 2016, undergraduate enrollment at Illinois public universities fell 5,127 students, a decline of more than 8 percent.
 
Senate Bill 2927 creates the AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program, a merit-based scholarship for Illinois students who attend college in-state.   

“We’ve enacted $25 million in state funds from the FY19 budget for the program that will then be matched by universities for a total scholarship pool of at least $50 million in merit-based aid,” Rauner said.

The funds will be disbursed by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to Illinois’ public universities in proportion to their enrollment of undergraduate, in-state students.

Many students in Illinois have family incomes that fall above the threshold necessary to be eligible for MAP and Pell grants, but still cannot afford the full sticker price for in-state institutions.

“An initiative of our Higher Education Working Group, this pilot program is another way to encourage those furthering their education to stay here in Illinois attending our public universities,” said Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb. “In this program, participating universities will match the amount of funds received by the state with their institutional financial aid.”


Institutions will have discretion over the metrics used to award merit-based scholarships to students to meet the individual needs of their campus populations.

“The AIM High grant program is one of several new initiatives designed to slow the out-migration of Illinois students,” said Illinois Board of Higher Education Executive Director Al Bowman. “It makes sense, given competition from out-of-state schools, to offer additional merit-based scholarships so that more families see our universities as affordable. This will also help us attract some of the state’s high school graduates who are contemplating not going to college at all because of cost.”

No mechanism is currently in place to easily share information about students’ college or career interests between high schools and higher education systems in Illinois.

House Bill 4781 creates a task force to study how students’ college or career interest data can be collected and shared between high schools and higher education institutions.

“Our state has long been the second largest exporter of high school students in the country, and when Illinois high school students leave us for college, they seldom return,” said Rep. Dan Brady, R-Normal, the legislation’s chief House sponsor. “This is an important improvement that will bring together educational institutions and interest groups to determine how Illinois can better share information on students’ needs and goals so we can keep our brightest here.”
This data will also allow colleges and universities to enhance their programs and services to support the specific needs of their incoming student cohort through more targeted degree advising and counseling for students.

The task force is required to submit the findings of the study to the General Assembly on or before Jan. 30, 2019, and will be dissolved following the submittal.

Both bills are products of the bipartisan Higher Education Working Group, whose work includes legislation signed by Rauner earlier this month that gives priority to returning MAP grant students and streamlines licensing for teachers.
Mobile office hours are held so that constituent can sit down and have a face-to-face discussion about their issues. They are also held for those for those who are unable to make it to the Macomb Office because of health issues or lack of transportation.

Our office looks forward to hearing from constituents who need assistance or have questions about state government. All are invited but if a constituent would like to ensure an individual meeting time with the Representative’s staff member they are asked to call her district office in Macomb at (309) 836-2707. Appointments are encouraged but not required.
 
MOBILE OFFICE HOURS SCHEDULE
 
Monday, August 27th   
  • 9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. in Abingdon at City Hall, 114 E. Meek St.
  • 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in Galesburg at City Hall, 55 W. Tompkins St.

 Tuesday, August 28th  
  •  9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. in Beardstown at City Hall, 105 W. 3rd St.
  • 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in Virginia at the Cass Co. Courthouse, 100 E. Springfield St. 
 
Wednesday, August 29th  
  •  9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. in Havana at the City Center, 326 W. Market St.
  • 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in Mason City at City Hall, 145 S. Main St.
 
Thursday, August 30th   
  • 9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. in Rushville at the Schuyler Co. Courthouse, 102 S. Congress St.
  • 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in Mt. Sterling at the Brown Co. Library, 143 W. Main St.

 

Assistant House Minority Leader Norine Hammond joined colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers, in voting YES on an FY 19 State Budget that is balanced and relies on “no new taxes”.

“When this process started, we pushed hard for three goals: a balanced budget, a full-year budget, and no tax increases,” said Rep. Hammond.  “This budget funds many of our priorities and provides critical stability to State Government which suffered under a nearly two-year budget impasse in recent past.”

The FY 19 State Budget fully funds the new bipartisan K-12 education funding formula to local schools, funds the MAP grant program as well as providing a four-year commitment for MAP recipients, creates a new merit-based scholarship program to keep students in Illinois (a proposal that came out the Higher Education Working Group, on which Rep. Hammond served), provides a 2% operations funding increase for universities and community colleges (including Western Illinois University), and includes more than $400 million for the Department of Corrections unpaid vendor bills from FY 17 and FY 18.

“Last year, I crossed the aisle to end the gridlock and pass a state budget after a two-year budget impasse,” said Rep. Hammond.  “This year, I was pleased to see the byproduct of the trust built last year was an agreed budget negotiation process that yielded a far more bipartisan rollcall.  This budget provides the stability needed by so many of our stakeholders, as well as implementing programs that will help us keep our best and brightest in Illinois to grow our way out of this mess.”

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Senator Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) and Assistant House Minority Leader Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) passed Illinois Farm Bureau-backed legislation to address a constituent issue related to spousal transfers of wooded acreage qualified under the “transition percentage” assessment program.

“This legislation clearly defines for County Assessors how the wooded acreage is to be addressed for tax purposes.  This issue was brought to us by a constituent who was assessed at a higher rate by the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) after transferring qualified acreage to a spouse.  The bill allows a spousal transfer exception, which would prevent IDOR from going after other unknowing constituents in this manner,” said Rep. Norine Hammond.

“When wooded acreage is transferred from spouse to spouse, the couple should not be penalized with a higher property assessment,” said Sen. Jil Tracy.  “The county should recognize that transferring property to one’s spouse is not equivalent to selling or transferring to an outside individual.  I’m glad our constituent brought this issue of oversight in the law to our attention.”

Senate Bill 2274 passed the Illinois House on Tuesday and passed the Illinois Senate on April 11.  It will now go the Governor for consideration. 

“Senator Tracy and I are very attuned to issues brought forward by our constituents that may require legislative changes.  We are confident that this legislation will help wooded acreage owners who may find themselves in a similar situation,” Hammond continued.

The Illinois Farm Bureau supported Senate Bill 2274 and joined in seeking additional clarity on this policy issue. 
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