Strike Vote. Olympics. Chocolate.

 AFSCME Strike Authorization Vote
With the news this week that AFSCME members have voted to authorize a strike, it is more important now than ever before for both sides to return to the negotiating table as quickly as possible to come to an agreed solution to the employee contract. I have been urging both the Administration and the union to return to the table for the past year and believe that is still the best way to end this standoff.

An employee strike would be detrimental to our local economy, to families across the 99th district, and taxpayers throughout the state who rely on services. It is my hope that this vote does not result in an actual strike and both sides can return to the negotiating table to come to a finalized contract for state employees.

“Grand Bargain” Update
Talks are continuing in the Senate on the so-called “grand bargain” budget package and we may see votes on some of the components in that chamber as early as next week. The package has continued to evolve over the past few weeks, and contains provisions ranging from tax and fee increases, spending limitations, tax credit changes, and fee reductions.

While I can’t be sure what specifics will survive voting in the Senate and advance to the House, I am very encouraged that negotiations are continuing to move forward.

New Higher Education Student Advisory Group
I had a great meeting this week with my newest advisory group, the 99th District Higher Education
Advisory Group comprised of local college students from UIS and Lincoln Land Community College. We discussed a number of key issues of concern to them, including their desire to work with local businesses to increase internship opportunities in our area. We plan to keep the discussion going throughout the spring on this and other student priorities. Members of the advisory group are Austin Mehemt, Lea Tholen, Tyler Beirler, Kaelan Smith, Catherine Wittler, Brandon Lewis, and Gabby Jones.

Congratulations Olympic Champion Ryan Held
I was very pleased Thursday to lead the House in congratulating Springfield native Ryan Held on winning the Gold Medal for Team USA in the Men's 4x100 relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio!  Ryan swam the third leg for the U.S. Men's 4x100 freestyle relay, holding onto the lead handed to him by teammate Michael Phelps before giving way for Nathan Adrian.

Ryan is a 2014 graduate of Sacred Heart Griffin High School (SHG) in Springfield where he broke the Illinois High School Association State meet record in the 50 yard freestyle, and repeated as the 100 freestyle champion. We're all very proud of him. Click below to watch the resolution presented in the House.


Cocoa Blue at the Capitol 
In month two of spotlighting our local businesses, Representative Butler and I this week welcomed Cocoa Blue to our Stratton Building office. They treated legislators, staff and guests to wonderful chocolates with a very appropriate Lincoln/State of Illinois theme.  Thanks to Joshua Becker and his crew!

Cocoa Blue has locations on Yucan Drive in Springfield and on Main Street in Rochester. You can check them out online at

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