News Update

Last week we were in Springfield and continued our committee work and began voting on Senate bills. While it was a relatively quiet week in the legislature, I expect the next couple of weeks will be full of controversial bills, hot debates, and lots of work. I also had the opportunity to welcome constituents to the Capitol.

This week’s update is going to be a little different. I’m first going to share with you an op-ed that I wrote about the upcoming legislation to place severe mandates on workshops that allow work opportunities for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As you know, I have been fighting for over 2 years now to keep these mandates from being passed and as we reach the end of the legislative session, now is the time that we must fight harder than ever.

Well-Meaning HB 793 will Cost Developmentally Disabled Workers Their Jobs and Their Dignity

I am Charlie Meier – 109th District State Representative and Assistant Minority Leader. The legislative Session is beginning its march toward adjournment, with many major issues still left to address. For those who may not know me, I have spent my time as State Rep. fighting for the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities.

In this fight, I have had to take some tough positions on the issues. I’ve fought a governor who tried to close the Warren G. Murray Center in Centralia. To keep the Murray Center open, it took a team of volunteers, lawyers, and lawmakers years to win lawsuits and to convince Pat Quinn that his closure would irreparably harm families and residents at the Murray Center.

I could add much in the way of background on how I have done everything that I can as a conservative Republican to make sure the State of Illinois is doing right by the individuals and families in State Operated Developmental Centers (SODC) and Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs).

If you know me at all, you know that I fight for my facilities, and I fight for my residents, and I fight for their families. It is the fight of my career – one I am very proud to say that I have been successful at.

The purpose of this unusually long written essay from a conservative Republican farmer from Okawville is to bring awareness once again to an issue that is currently moving through the process that has me greatly concerned for the future of the developmentally disabled community that I work so hard to protect.

Located in my district and throughout the state are several workshops known as 14c workshops. Basically, they are non-profit workshops where folks with developmental disabilities learn skills and work menial tasks as a way to spend time outside their home, socialize, and contribute to society in a meaningful and positive way.

These 14c workshops are stress-free environments where people with developmental disabilities can gather with others with similar issues to work with outstanding organizers and volunteers, either individually or together, to reach simple but valuable goals. In Illinois, we are lucky enough to have companies that support the mission of these workshops. This support and the work done by the clients honors the wishes of families, guardians, and clients.

For years, 14c workshops have been proven to be tremendously successful partnerships with tangible and intangible value for workshops, individuals, and companies. A win-win-win, you might say.

The individuals doing this kind of work are paid a wage lower than Illinois’ minimum wage. The individuals performing this work are not the financial providers in their homes. They are not paying rent, tuition, or raising children. They are not handling the affairs as the head of their households.

During the last spring Session, I led the opposition against legislation that would raise the wage paid for these jobs to match the state’s minimum wage. Through my advocacy and questioning of the bill’s merits on the House floor, I was able to convince enough lawmakers to stop the bill from moving forward.

Since then, I have toured many of these facilities and have invited and hosted both Democrat and Republican legislators on these tours. I believe my colleagues have gained valuable perspective on this issue through these visits.

The minimum wage has risen sharply in Illinois as compared to surrounding states. That has meant labor cost increases to businesses large and small. This is at the same time inflation is out of control for everyone who has to buy anything.

Before I go on, I want to make something crystal clear, I support paying people who work a fair wage. I also believe, based on recent evidence, that companies faced with the choice of continuing to fund these programs at a much higher cost or shutting them down due to economic considerations will simply just shut them down.

The individuals that I am advocating for want a purpose in life. They love their job. How is it that a handful of politicians know more about the needs of the most vulnerable and the wishes of their families? They can’t.

Due to lack of data, it is difficult to determine the total fiscal impact to employers under HB 793, but using some basic assumptions we can get a preview of what the costs might look like. For example, if we assume that the estimated 3,516 14c individuals in the state work 10 hours a week at the current average wage for 14c employees ($4.15 per hour) then the cost to employers is just over $7.5 million. If HB 793 is passed and signed into law, and the wage paid to those employees reaches $15 per hour, the employer cost explodes to more than $27 million. If we take the same current average wage assumptions ($4.15 per hour) and apply it to every individual at the average rate for 25 hours of work per week, the cost to employers is a little under $19 million. But, if wages reach $15 per hour, those employers will pay a combined whopping total of more than $68.5 million. In addition to higher costs to employers, clients will be forced to pay much higher taxes on their income, and they could potentially jeopardize their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits if they exceed the $13,800 annual income threshold for SSDI.

As a staunch and proven advocate for our developmentally disabled friends and family members, I must say that I firmly believe HB 793 would cost at least 50% to 70% or higher of these very people their jobs and their purpose in life and would lead to the elimination of valuable resources for families from communities throughout the state.

I am working hard to raise awareness among my fellow legislators to STOP HB 793 before it costs people their jobs, their purpose, and their dignity.

You can watch my statement regarding HB 793 and hear some incredible testimonies here:

Elections Bill Changes Rules In The Middle of the Election Cycle

Last week, the House and Senate Democrats passed legislation that changes the rules for candidates to get on the ballot in the middle of the election cycle. This is Democrats stealing away democracy, plain and simple. The super majority is looking at an election cycle where they are going to have a hard time thanks to the failures of President Biden, rampant inflation, out-of-control illegal immigration, and antisemitic activity in major cities and on college campuses. Of course they are trying to keep opponents off of the ballot.

You can hear more about my opposition to the bill here:

Honoring our Fallen Law Enforcement Officers

Last week we honored our fallen heroes at the Illinois Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony. Law enforcement officers from across the state were in attendance to recognize officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I continue to pray for the families and remember their bravery, service and sacrifice.

Down on the Farm:

It was quite a feat and took a lot of manpower, but I got the 1893 World’s Fair Piano moved to my house. I bought this piano a few years ago. As many of you know, one of our museums in Okawville was the Dr. Poos house. This building will be sold and I needed to move the piano. Dr. Poos purchased the piano at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. It was delivered to his house in Okawville and that is where it has sat all these years. I look forward to all the enjoyment this piano will bring to my home. AND a big thank you to the many hands that helped me move it.

Some history on Dr. Poos house:

The house was owned by Dr. Robert C. Poos, a local doctor and staff physician at the Washington Springs Hotel and Bathhouse. Poos built an outbuilding on his property which he intended to use as a privately run bathhouse; however, after failing to acquire mineral water, Poos never actually opened the bathhouse. Poos’ family lived in the house until the 1980s and donated it to the Heritage House Museum in 1991. (copied from Wikipedia)

I was able to meet great folks and eat good meals at the Troy, IL Fireman’s BBQ and breakfast at the Highland American Legion.

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