REAL ID compliance; reducing red tape

Illinois moves closer to REAL ID compliance
Illinois is among more than a dozen states considered out of compliance with the 2005 federal law requiring a state ID card (such as a driver’s license) to be seen as adequate identification for federal security purposes, such as entering a military base or boarding an airplane. Under the federal law, an applicant for a drivers’ license is required to present documentation to verify their legal status in the U.S. In addition, the license must be produced in a secure facility and comply with federal rules meant to reduce or eliminate counterfeiting.

The goal is to bring all 50 states’ licenses to a level of security similar to those imposed upon applicants for a U.S. passport. After a transition period, the federal government began imposing penalties on residents of states not in line with the act. Last spring, the General Assembly enacted new legislation meant to bring Illinois into compliance. Now, the Illinois Secretary of State is no longer allowed to print out and distribute drivers’ licenses. Secretary of State employees who have undergone criminal background checks are allowed to collect information from an Illinois resident. The employee then uses a secure line to send digital information to a protected facility where the license is created and mailed to the applicant. The new licenses are similar to the old ones in some ways and different in others, such as having new features that are hard to counterfeit.

With these changes, Illinois is now considered to be 84% in compliance with the REAL ID Act.  This status will be valid until next October. During that time, Illinois licenses and ID cards will be adequate to enter federally-secured areas. The Department of Homeland Security is warning states that they must take further actions by spring in order to move closer toward compliance with the law. Residents of states ruled noncompliant could face identification-related sanctions next year.

New Council to review and reduce excessive state regulations
Governor Rauner issued an Executive Order on October 17 which creates the Illinois Competitiveness Council, a panel charged with reviewing state rules and regulations to find excessive regulations that can be reduced or eliminated. The council will identify the regulations and seek to make the changes through the normal Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) process.

The Governor’s office estimates that a reduction in these rules and regulations will help small businesses and save Illinoisans more than $250 million over ten years. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation says that their agency oversees more than a million active licenses, certifications and permits in over 200 different categories, many of which require various fees and other administrative expenses. Nearly fifty of these licenses require paying a fee of more than $500.

This executive order comes on the heels of legislation passed into law last year which required state agencies to initiate a five-year review of its rules and regulations, specifically considering the affect these regulations have on small businesses. The council is encouraging Illinoisans who have suggestions and comments to submit their feedback at www.illinois.gov/cut.

The council will have a deadline of May 1 to produce its report.

Study finds 47% of Illinoisans thinking about leaving the state
A recent study reported that 47% of Illinois respondents said they were thinking about moving out of the state. The most common reason given (by 27% of total respondents) was “taxes.” Weather, government, and the job/education picture were among the other reasons. More than 80% of all respondents, including those not considering leaving, said they believe the state is “headed in the wrong direction.” The study questioned residents who were registered voters within Illinois and was conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Illinois has already lost more than 1.3 million people between 1995 and 2014. This number reflects more moving out than moving in during the twenty-year period. Many of those who remain but are now thinking about departing, are tied to the state by owning a house or having a job here; and the knowledge that it will not be easy to leave. According to the polling team, only 20% of respondents expect to leave Illinois within the next year.

This is just another warning that state government needs to end the political games and come together on solving the problems Illinois faces.

UIUC is the nation’s 7th-largest public university
With an enrollment of 44,880-students, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is now the seventh-largest public university in the nation. The figure is based on the number of students enrolled and taking classes this fall. As demand has grown for the school’s STEM-oriented curriculum, UIUC has become a highly sought after place of study for students from around the world. This year, 7,600 freshmen enrolled at UIUC for the fall.

The university has several plans for expansion, including online education and graduate schools.  The new Carle Illinois College of Medicine will train future physicians at remote locations affiliated with the current UIUC campus.

Did You Know?
The Illinois House of Representatives has 118 members and the Senate has 59. Each of the 59 Senate districts is divided into two equally-populated House districts. The district of our Senator, Jason Barickman, is split between the half which I represent and half which is represented by Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington. Under the 1970 Constitution, there were no House districts: each Senate district elected three different representatives to the House, a total of 177 House members. The current system of 118 single-member House districts was enacted by the so-called “Cutback Amendment” to the Illinois Constitution in 1980.