SPRINGFIELD - State Rep. Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) met the House Bill filing deadline on Friday by filing a comprehensive package of legislation aimed to improve transparency and accountability for the Regional Transportation Authority.
“Last year there were several instances where high-level Chicago area mass transit officials were accused of impropriety,” said Tryon, the Republican Spokesperson for the Mass Transit Committee in Springfield. “These bills will go far in restoring the public trust through new layers of accountability and transparency.”
A total of 11 bills were filed by Tryon last week to address RTA issues. Included in the comprehensive package are bills that would:
- Require public hearings about the RTA annual budget before the Mass Transit Committee in the House and Senate where information about budgets for Metra, Pace and the CTA would be shared; additionally, the RTA would be required to post budget and financial information on the agency’s website
- Require the RTA to hold public hearings about the budget at least two weeks before the directors meet to consider adoption of the budget
- Change the budget year of the RTA from a calendar year to a budget year that mirrors that of the State (July1-June30) and require the RTA to submit a budget report annually to the Governor, to members of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) and to the General Assembly
- Put new guidelines in place to ensure that board members for Metra, Pace and the CTA have certain qualifications and backgrounds in the transportation industry
- Put restrictions in place for lobbying activities involving mass transit officials and board members
- Put additional approval requirements in place for the award of bonuses that exceed 10% of an employee’s salary or a severance agreement that exceeds $50,000
“This is a very thorough attempt to bring credibility back to an agency that has been plagued by corruption over the last few years,” Tryon said. “By making these and other common-sense improvements to the RTA budgeting and financial processes, it is my hope that the public’s trust of this agency can be restored.”
Another key initiative for Tryon in 2014 will be the pushing of HB3353, the Job Creation Finance Act. Through HB3353, several layers of tax incentives would be created based on the number of jobs a new or expanding business would create. “Illinois’ laws that relate to job creation incentives are out of date and antiquated,” said Tryon. “They are based on the urban renewal period of the 1970’s which encouraged redevelopment of blighted areas. When trying to lure businesses to Illinois, it has not been my experience that businesses are interested in relocating to our most blighted areas. The provisions of this bill would put incentives in place that would benefit both large businesses and small businesses, and bring jobs to Illinois.”
Tryon will also be pushing a bill in 2014 that would tackle high college tuition costs by making it easier for Illinois students to earn college credit for coursework taken in high school. House Bill 4424 would ease the process through which local boards of education excuse pupils from physical education classes so they can take Advanced Placement (AP) coursework.
“Today, students in Illinois are required to take PE five days per week unless a waiver is received, said Tryon. “It is not unusual for waivers to be granted, but the process for students to receive a waiver to allow for AP coursework is very difficult. We should be encouraging our high school students to be taking these college-level classes; not making it difficult for them to do so.”
According to Tryon, the idea for HB 4424 came from his District 66 Student Advisory Council. The group, which meets regularly throughout the year, is comprised of two upperclassmen from each of the five high schools located within the boundaries of the 66th legislative district. “These are bright, academically talented students who are trying to enhance their college applications by showing success in advanced coursework,” Tryon said. “The rising cost of college tuition is a real concern and these students are doing everything they can to bring as many credit hours as possible with them when they arrive at college. This translates to real money saved on tuition costs.”