Thursday, January10, 2013
By KEVIN P. CRAVER - firstname.lastname@example.org
SPRINGFIELD – McHenry County as of Wednesday has eight faces representing it in the General Assembly, courtesy of Democratic-dominated post-census redistricting. Whether this will magnify the county’s voice in Springfield or weaken it – Crystal Lake is divided among three House and three Senate districts – will be seen over the next two years.
The 98th General Assembly was sworn in at noon Wednesday, not even a full day after the lame-duck session of the 97th failed to come close to getting a handle on the state’s ballooning $96 billion unfunded pension liability. And besides a bunch of new faces, the new bunch of lawmakers include three – all Chicago Democrats – who are facing criminal charges.
McHenry County’s representation is a mix of old and new faces – all of them familiar. Returning are incumbent Republican Sens. Pam Althoff and Dan Duffy, Republican Rep. Mike Tryon and Democratic Rep. Jack Franks. Two freshmen have roots in county government, as does Tryon, a former McHenry County Board chairman.
Former County Board member Barbara Wheeler took a seat in the House, and former Kane County Board Chairwoman Karen McConnaughay was sworn into the Senate.Republican David McSweeney, who lost a 2006 congressional race to unseat former Democratic U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, was sworn into the House, as was GOP incumbent Tim Schmitz of Batavia, whose district now includes a sliver of south central McHenry County under the new maps.
Wheeler said she is encouraged by the amount of new blood in the House and said it could mean real and lasting solutions to the state’s problems. “What really excites me is there is such a large number of new General Assembly members coming on board, and I believe they’re just as motivated, and willing to be bold and creative,” Wheeler said.
The county’s representatives are unanimous in their desire to fix the pension system, as well as ensure that the “temporary” income-tax increase stays that way despite the state’s deepening fiscal woes. The 2011 increase – 67 percent on individuals and 46 percent on businesses – is scheduled to start phasing out in 2015.
Friday, January 11, 2013
SPRINGFIELD – Crystal Lake resident Barbara Wheeler on Wednesday took the oath of office to become state representative for the newly created 64th Illinois House of Representatives District. Wheeler was sworn in during a ceremony at the University of Illinois, Springfield.
Wheeler, who was uncontested in the November election, says she is humbled at the opportunity to serve the interests of her neighbors and friends in Springfield, according to a press release. “The responsibility of serving as state representative is not something I take lightly,” Wheeler stated in the release.
“I have been honored to serve the people of McHenry County as a County Board Member, now I take the challenge further to serve the interests of McHenry and Lake Counties in Springfield.”
Wheeler has spent her entire adult life in public service, starting as volunteer for the United States Peace Corps. She later served as a school teacher at Wauconda Middle School and was elected to the McHenry County Board in 2002.
As a county board member, Wheeler's top priorities were conservation and fiscal responsibility.
She was awarded the Theta Award from the McHenry County Environmental Society for her conservation agenda. Additionally, the County Board improved the bond rating to Aaa during her tenure. Wheeler stresses that in order to achieve these accomplishments in Illinois, the General Assembly needs to exert legislative courage, according to the release.
“There are major issues facing the State of Illinois,” said Wheeler. “We have an underfunded pension system, an unwanted income tax increase, and billions of dollars in unpaid bills. Solutions to these problems are not easy. We need to be brave. We need to be courageous. We need to stand up for what is right for the people of Illinois and deal with today’s problems now. The people deserve this from their elected leaders.”
Wheeler says her top priorities in Springfield will be fixing the state’s finances while bringing jobs back to McHenry and Lake counties.
The newly redrawn 64th District encompasses portions of several communities including the north side of Crystal Lake, Bull Valley, eastern Woodstock, Prairie Grove, and parts of McHenry and Wonder Lake. The district, spreading northward, also encompasses parts of Wauconda, Volo, Johnsburg, Fox Lake and Spring Grove.