Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) served on the joint House and Senate Human Services Committee hearing held in Chicago on December 13. The committee discussed the abuse and neglect which took place at state funded group homes throughout Illinois and heard testimony from Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Director James Dimas regarding what went wrong, the improvements the department has made, and how the state agency plans to make improvements moving forward.

“I expressed my concerns for several years regarding the abuse and neglect with the prior administration and my concerns were left unanswered,” said Rep. Meier. “It’s refreshing the Rauner administration has and continues to listen. I am pleased to know the new administration has made and is currently taking the necessary steps to improve the safety and well-being of Illinois’ most vulnerable.”

The legislative hearing was prompted as a result of the Chicago Tribune publishing a series of articles which identified 1,311 cases of documented harm occurring in state funded group homes for the developmentally disabled since July 2011 and determined at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. The Tribune articles came to light thanks to the Murray Parents Association working with the newspaper to expose the abuse and neglect which took place in group homes throughout the state.
Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) and the Murray Parents Association are heading to Chicago on December 13th for a joint House and Senate Human Services Committee hearing to discuss the abuse and neglect which took place at group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities. The committee scheduled the hearing following two investigative reports published in the Chicago Tribune concerning the abuse and neglect which took place in multiple Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) otherwise called “group homes”.

“At the hearing we will discuss what went wrong and how to improve the safety and care for all individuals living in group homes,” said Rep. Meier. “Nothing can be done to bring back the lives lost or erase the abuse which occurred. However, the State is finally starting to listen by taking the necessary steps to properly care for and protect individuals living in group homes. During these hearings I will question the lack of oversight as well as discuss the need for southern Illinois to have a crisis center in order to help improve the safety and well-being of residents living in group homes.”

The Tribune reported in their story titled SUFFERING IN SECRET: Illinois hides abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities, identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 and determined at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. The Tribune articles came to light thanks to the Murray Parents Association working with the newspaper to expose the abuse and neglect which took place in group homes throughout the State.
Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) wants the public to know that the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center located in Centralia, Illinois is “alive and well”. Murray Center is the only State Operated Developmental Center (SODC) serving central Illinois and parts of southern Illinois. According to State Representative Charlie Meier, “The good news is Murray Center is accepting new residents on an individual basis and has recently welcomed a new resident thanks to a referral by State Representative Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro).”

Earlier this year, Peggy Strong, a retired teacher from Murphysboro visited with State Representative Terri Bryant to discuss her daughter’s special healthcare needs.  Peggy’s daughter suffers from several acute chronical medical diagnoses which collide together according to Peggy, and she was concerned her daughter was not receiving the type of care a CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangement) could provide, which is why Peggy began looking for a new home that could provide the level of care her daughter needs and deserved.

Peggy had a reasonable request for her daughter, she asked Representative Bryant “to help her find a home for that would be safe and comfortable for her daughter”. Without hesitation, Representative Bryant suggested Peggy consider visiting Murray Center and she took that advice, fast forward to today and the rest is history. Peggy found a home that is safe and comfortable for her daughter; her new home is Murray Center.

According to Peggy Strong, “Thank God Murray Center did not close and thank God there is a place like this for my daughter. She is happy, the look on her face says it all. Murray Center has provided my daughter with more freedom. She has been smiling, laughing, and is able to walk when she wants – something most of us take for granted. You can’t do this in a CILA.”
State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) participated in Agriculture Day ceremonies today at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The highlights of Agriculture Day was Governor Bruce Rauner signing into law Rep. Meier’s legislation to recognize Bicentennial Farms and the Governor’s announcement of the newly formed not-for-profit, Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, tasked with raising private funds to make capital improvements at the Springfield and Du Quoin fairgrounds.

Leaders in the agricultural community established the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation to promote, support, assist, and sustain the Springfield and Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. The foundation will be led by a volunteer board representing a diverse cross section of the agriculture industry. Board members will engage with private sector business organizations and individuals to develop strategies to raise private funding, coordinate with the Department of Agriculture to plan projects and determine the Fairgrounds’ needs, and serve as ambassadors for the revitalization and improvement of the Fairgrounds and their agricultural heritage.

“Being a farmer and lawmaker, I understand the positive impact Illinois’ agriculture industry has not only in the State, but throughout the world,” said Rep. Meier. “I strongly support the creation of the privately funded Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation. The State Fairgrounds help promote and preserve Illinois’ rich agricultural history. I am thankful to the volunteers who have chosen to make a commitment to raise private funds to improve and preserve both the Springfield and Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.”
Secretary of State Jesse White announced today that his office has reinstated the mailing of vehicle registration reminder notices to Illinois drivers. To offset the cost of the mailings, White is drafting legislation allowing his office to offer advertising space on the mailings. In addition, White is urging the public to sign-up for email notices to further reduce mailing costs.

The Secretary of State’s office discontinued mailing reminders in October 2015 due to the lack of funding as a direct result of the state budget impasse. The stop-gap budget recently passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor allows White’s office to reinstate the notices.

Vehicle owners can sign up for email notifications by visiting the Secretary of State website, To register for the program, vehicle owners will need their assigned registration ID and PIN, which can be found on their current vehicle registration card. If that information is not available, they can call the Secretary of State public inquiry division at 800-252-8980 to obtain the Registration ID and PIN.
On Thursday June 30th, the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Bruce Rauner approved a bipartisan stopgap budget less than 24 hours before the new fiscal year was set to begin on July 1st. The new law (Public Act 99-0524) totals $50.6 billion for fiscal year 2017, including $8.6 billion in General Revenue Funds, $33.6 billion in other state funds and $8.4 billion in federal funds.

According to State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville), “The bipartisan compromise we approved ensures K-12 schools open this fall and our public universities such as SIUE and our community colleges remain open. Just as important, the stopgap measure ensures critical human services receive the funding they need and more than 800 transportation improvements will remain active throughout the next 12 months.”

The funding plan signed into law Thursday does not rely on a tax hike and fully funds elementary and secondary education for the first time in seven years. The compromise stopgap funds road construction, federal programs, and other non-General Revenue Fund (GRF) programs for both fiscal years 2016 and 2017. It also provides FY17 funding to support 6 months of critical operations for higher education, state-operated facilities including prisons and veterans’ homes, fuel for the State Police to patrol our roads, and other core operations and programs for public safety, health, and welfare. Funds are available under current law for all components of this bridge plan.
The Illinois General Assembly reached a bipartisan agreement on Thursday, May 12 by approving $700 million in stopgap funding for Human Services. The legislation approved will provide much needed funding to keep the state’s social services infrastructure from collapsing.

“After eleven months of gridlock, it’s a breath of fresh air to witness both parties working together for the taxpayers,” said Rep. Meier. “The funding we approved will fund services such as meals for seniors, youth services, children’s health, women’s health screenings, and services for Veterans.”

Senate Bill 2038 has a dedicated funding source, mostly from the Commitment to Human Services Fund that was set up as part of the temporary income tax hike in 2010 and contains unspent money.  The funding will be directed to human services programs that are not covered by consent decrees or existing court orders.

Rep. Meier added, “This is not the be-all-end-all as we still need to reach an agreement to fund all State Operated Developmental Centers (SODCs) which includes Murray Center. We still need to secure funding to keep our prisons open and furthermore we need to complete a budget for last year and the upcoming fiscal year set to begin July 1. With that said, I won’t give up advocating for a balanced budget by the end of session which is scheduled to adjourn on May 31.”
The Illinois General Assembly reached a bipartisan compromise Friday by approving legislation which will send $600 million in stopgap funding for higher education.

“I am thrilled we have reached a bipartisan solution to help keep our community colleges and public universities open this fall. I hope this is a sign of more compromise to come from the legislature. I am keeping my toes and fingers crossed hoping the Senate will approve this stopgap funding today because the Governor said he will sign the bill.”

Senate Bill 2059 Amendment #3 appropriates $600 million from the Educational Assistance Fund (EAF) for Illinois’ public universities, community college system, and MAP grants for college students. The legislation now heads to the Senate for approval before reaching Governor Rauner’s desk.

Rep. Meier added, “Today’s action is only temporary, but necessary to provide assurance for students attending college this fall. We still have more work to do on reaching an agreement on a state budget, however this is a step in the right direction. I won’t give up fighting for more compromise and a balanced state budget.”
The Illinois House of Representatives completed its first week back in session for the week of April 4th. Throughout the week lawmakers scurried to get their legislation approved before the April 7th deadline for potential laws to be voted out of committee.

State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) was successful at getting three legislative proposals he sponsored approved, however Rep. Meier was disappointed with not getting a vote on an additional three pieces of legislation introduced for 2016.

“With only one week to get the legislation I sponsored approved, I didn’t stop and I won’t stop trying to pass the bills which are most important to the constituents I represent,” said Rep. Meier. “The truth is, one Democrat lawmaker from Chicago makes the ultimate decision on which legislative proposals get a chance to be voted on in the Illinois House. I wanted an up or down vote on three bills which are very important to my constituents but unfortunately we were not given the opportunity.”
The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released their recommendation to relocate the NGA in St. Louis.

Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) released the following statement:

“I am shocked and very disappointed to hear the federal government thinks relocating the NGA in St. Louis is the best option. Keeping the intelligence agency in the most violent city in the country according to the FBI does not make sense for a facility that needs a safe and secure location. The location the NGA is considering is far from safe.

I am hopeful the NGA reconsiders before making their final decision by coming to the realization that relocating to Illinois makes the most sense logistically. In real estate they say it’s all about location, location, location and St. Clair County serves as the most logical, safe and best location for the intelligence agency since the land is ready to build on and the proposed site borders Scott Air Force Base. Furthermore, if the federal government really wants to help St. Louis, I wish the government would help the region by putting out the fire burning underground in Bridgeton and help increase police protection in the city."
Illinois State Representatives Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) and State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) today reinforced their willingness to compromise on the issue of Higher Education funding, citing the numerous proposals House Democrats refused to debate prior to breaking for the entire month of March.

According to State Representative Dwight Kay, “There are four proposals to fund higher education and MAP grants, unfortunately the Speaker has not allowed the bills to be voted on in the legislature. This isn’t the time to dig our feet in politically, it’s time for us to come together and reach a compromise on a realistic plan that can fund SIUE, our community colleges, and MAP grants for college students.”

Representatives Kay and Meier listed multiple bills that have been presented including House Bill 4539 which sought to reasonably fund MAP grants, community colleges and four-year universities such as SIUE.  However, unlike the Democrat proposal on MAP funding, SB2043 or the newly proposed $3.7 billion spending plan, HB648, Republicans are calling for a funding stream tied to any proposal that is approved by the legislature.
On Thursday, March 3, the federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Murray Center and all seven State Operated Developmental Centers (SODC) was dismissed after the court ruled positive for current and former residents of Murray Center. The federal court affirmed that residents of state operated developmental centers have the option of choosing a home such as Murray Center or a group home.

According to State Rep. Charlie Meier, “this lawsuit was certainly a victory for the residents and parents of Murray Center and all state operated developmental centers located throughout Illinois. This is what we and the Murray Parents’ Association have been fighting for since the Quinn administration tried to close Murray Center four years ago. We believe strongly that residents and their legal guardians should have an option when choosing their home.”

Four years ago former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced his plans to close the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center located in Centralia. The Governor scheduled its closure for the Spring of 2013. At that time, Murray Center served as the home to over 275 developmentally disabled residents and employed about 550 people.

The announcement caught many of us by surprise. We were disappointed that someone who has never stepped foot in the State Operated Developmental Center (SODC) would put politics ahead of the livelihoods of our most vulnerable citizens. Since the closure announcement was made in 2012, the Murray Parents Association, Rep. John Cavaletto, Senator John O. Jones, myself and hundreds of friends and family of Murray Center never gave up the fight to keep the state developmental center open.

We began our fight to keep Murray Center open by introducing legislation in the General Assembly. Next, the Murray Parents Association filed lawsuits in both state and federal court. In state court, the Murray Parents Association fought for the interests of the wards of the state and their argument was successful. In federal court, the Murray Parents Association fought to keep Murray Center open and received a favorable opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which affirmed “the state must also have a plan for allowing beneficiaries to choose either institutional services or home and community based services.” In essence, allowing legal guardians to choose whether or not to keep their loved ones at Murray Center or a group home. Since 2012, the friends and family of Murray Center never gave up and I am proud to say four years later that Murray Center remains open today.
Belleville News-Democrat Editorial
February 7, 2016

Illinois state Rep. Charlie Meier has the right idea about closing the loophole those three slippery St. Clair County judges are using to avoid a run for retention. The Republican from Okawville’s House Bill 4673 has little hope for success against the three Democratic judges when the bill is judged by the very Democratic state House and Senate, but sometimes jousting with windmills can be a worthy quest just because it spreads the tale.

“The loophole these three judges have chosen to take advantage of certainly questions the integrity of the bench. It reminds me of musical chairs, however the music stops when these three judges say so,” Meier said.

St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic, one of the trio, claims there is no loophole. His assertion is that the Illinois Constitution’s framers intended to create a process that tells judges “either retention or election — you choose, your Honor.”

Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) filed legislation today to make it clear that when a judge is up for election, retention is the only option to remain on the bench. In order for a judge to be retained under current law, a judge must receive approval from 60% of the electorate.

The legislation introduced by Rep. Charlie Meier is in response to the decision made by three St. Clair County judges Baricevic, Haida and LeChien to avoid retention and the requirement to receive 60% voter approval to remain on the bench. Instead, the three judges chose to run for election which only requires approval from over 50% of the voters in the November 2016 election.

“I feel strongly that the Illinois Constitution intended for elected judges seeking re-election to only have the option of retention,” said Rep. Meier. The loophole these three judges have chosen to take advantage of certainly questions the integrity of the bench. It reminds me of musical chairs however the music stops when these three judges say so. I think our judges should be held to a higher standard which is why my bill seeks to codify Illinois law by permanently closing the musical chair loophole. If a judge wants to remain on the bench, then he or she will have to face the voters and receive approval from 60% of them.”
With Illinois’ public universities and community colleges approaching eight months without receiving state funding as result of the ongoing budget stalemate. State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) co-sponsored legislation to fund higher education, including funding for MAP grants.

In addition to legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Meier, on January 27th House and Senate Democrats approved legislation (SB 2043) to support Illinois community colleges and MAP grants, however the bill excluded public universities. Even worse the bill lacked any funding mechanism.

According to Rep. Charlie Meier, “the Democrats proposal for higher education is simply a farce, it was an I.O.U. with no check in the mail. The legislation I co-sponsored will provide funding for higher education, community colleges and grants in which our college students depend on to help make college more affordable.”

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner gave his second annual State of the State today before members of the Illinois General Assembly.

Illinois State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) released the following statement:

“Today the Governor unveiled a plan to turn Illinois’ economy around and make us more competitive with other states.  If we want to properly fund education and services for our most needy citizens we have to get our economy to bounce back.  I’m also looking forward to tackling important issues this session such as property tax relief and eliminating burdensome government mandates. We’ve got a lot of work to do and I’m happy that the Governor has left the door open to work with Democrats to bring about real reforms.”
State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) is encouraging constituents to sign up for email renewal notices for license plate stickers.

With the state still lacking a budget, the Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) has ceased mailing out license plate renewal notices in order to save funds.  Fortunately, the SOS has created an email notification system to alert drivers that their license plate stickers must be renewed.
With only a few days’ notice, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) cancelled House session scheduled the week of January 11, delaying the first session of the New Year until January 27. The session cancellation was disappointing news to State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville).

According to Rep. Meier, “when you have a sick cow you have to treat it, not wait for a couple more weeks. State government is on life support, delaying session another two weeks is not the solution to making state government healthy again.”

The State of Illinois has continued to operate without a state budget since July 1, 2015, which leads Rep. Meier to believe there is no urgency from Chicago Speaker Mike Madigan to reach an agreement with Governor Rauner on a balanced budget.

Rep. Meier added, “It may be a new year, however old school Chicago politics is live and well in the Illinois legislature. Delaying session sends a message that the Speaker is in no rush to pass a balanced budget in 2016. I am ready to go back to work every day this year until we reach an agreement on a budget that is balanced.”