Illinois Legislative News

May 11, 2018

Pardon Our Dust

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On May 7, 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner announced the Better Care Illinois Behavioral Health Initiative, which was created to combat the state’s substance abuse problem and to direct funding to mental health services, has received the approval to direct $2 billion in Medicaid funding from the federal government. In a statement concerning the redirection of funds, Rauner stated that “…this effort puts a strong new focus on prevention and public health; pays for value and outcomes rather than volume and services; makes evidence-based and data driven decisions; and moves individuals from institutions to community care to keep them more closely connected with their families”.

This allowance came after the state received an 1115 waiver from the Trump Administration, which allows the state to use Medicaid funding in non-mandated, unconventional ways. Beginning July 1, Governor Rauner plans to use the newly-allocated funds to launch 10 pilot programs. These programs include a short-term substance use treatment at inpatient facilities, mandatory home visits to women who had babies that displayed substance withdraw symptoms at birth until the child reaches age five, and a program to help recipients of these services find and keep a job.

The Illinois General Assembly is rapidly approaching its scheduled adjournment date with little discernible progress towards a state budget for the 2019 fiscal year, which begins July 1st. Republicans and Democrats alike are hoping for a quick resolution and not another impasse. Budget working groups continue to meet to hash out the details of a budget. Earlier this week, the Governor and the leaders in the four legislative caucuses met. There were conflicting reports on the progress made in those meetings, with the parties still unable to agree on a revenue estimate. Additional leadership meetings are expected in the coming days.

Important Upcoming Dates – Statewide

May 15, 2018 – House and Senate in session
May 18, 2018 – Committee deadline Senate bills in the House
May 25, 2018 – 3rd Reading deadline in the House and Senate for bills from the opposite chamber
May 31, 2018 – Scheduled adjournment date for the General Assembly

In the News

Morning Spin: Equal Rights Amendment supporters want Rauner to get Republicans on board  — Chicago Tribune, May 10, 2018
As women’s rights advocates push to make Illinois the 37th state to ratify the long-stalled Equal Rights Amendment, they are hoping to pressure Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to support the effort and get more GOP lawmakers on board. Rauner so far hasn’t directly said whether he supports the amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would guarantee that rights can’t be denied because of a person’s sex. He has said he is a “supporter of equal rights for everyone” and notes that he does not have to sign off for lawmakers to approve it. But Democratic State Rep. Lou Lang said Wednesday that Rauner should “make public statements firmly and positively about what’s right and wrong.”

Rauner’s own administration critical of Legionnaires’ notification: documents – Chicago Sun-Times, May 10, 2018
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s own administration formally rebuked the state agency overseeing the Quincy veterans’ home for how it told staffers about the fatal Legionnaires’ disease outbreak after workers there got sick in 2015. The workplace safety reprimand issued by the state Department of Labor, first obtained by WBEZ, focused on a pair of emails Illinois Veterans Home administrators blasted out to state workers that seemed to downplay the threat of the disease. The agency reproached the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which oversees the home, saying it “failed to effectively notify all employees” about the outbreak just as it was taking hold. That Feb. 8, 2016, finding undercuts the insistent public claims by outgoing Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries that her department was “very clear” in its Legionnaires’ warnings to staff in Quincy.

What Illinois could learn from its neighbor to the north about pensions – Crain’s Chicago Business, May 9, 2018
The latest Pew Charitable Trusts report on the state pension funding gap, which came out last month, has many words of warning for states that are “on an unsustainable course, coming up short on their investment targets and having failed to set aside enough money to fund the pension promises made to public employees.” New Jersey is in the worst shape of all, with pension fund assets that in 2016 added up to only 31 percent of liabilities. Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut and Kentucky all had funding ratios of less than 50 percent; 17 other states had assets less than two-thirds of liabilities. Less attention is paid to the states that don’t have looming pension crises. Maybe that’s a mistake. Surely we could learn from, say, Wisconsin, the state with the best-funded retirement system. What does it do so differently?

Democrats: Rauner needs to introduce cost-saving bills – State Journal-Register, May 9, 2018
Turning the tables somewhat on Gov. Bruce Rauner, some Senate Democrats said Wednesday that it is the governor who is stalling action on a new state budget. The Democrats said the Rauner administration has never submitted legislation that contained his proposals for saving the state about $1.3 billion in next year’s state budget. That includes calls for cutting state worker health insurance benefits and beginning to shift downstate teacher pension costs to local districts and away from the state. Rauner budget director Hans Zigmund told a joint hearing of the Senate Appropriations committees the governor’s budget is predicated on lawmakers approving the pension shifts and insurance changes. “If we’re not going to do those things, what we want to hear is what is the proposal to do something different so that we can balance the budget and have a surplus,” Zigmund said.

Comptroller wants more burial-funding notice after AP report– St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 8, 2018
An Illinois county coroner’s practice of holding remains and death certificates of the indigent until their families can pay for burial is “disgusting behavior,” state Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Tuesday. The Democratic comptroller reacted to an Associated Press report about Adams County Coroner James Keller’s practice and called for a ramped-up campaign to alert local officials that state-funded burial is again available. The AP report found Keller demanded $1,000 from family members of the indigent before he would release the remains and deaths certificates. Mendoza wants Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration to “do more” to publicize the $1,655 available for the funeral, cremation and burial of those who die poor. “Holding the remains of people’s loved ones for ransom is unthinkable,” Mendoza said in a statement. “Everyone deserves a respectful burial. Being poor is not a crime.”

Rauner, Democrats say they don’t want another budget war but face deficit despite tax hike – Chicago Tribune, May 8, 2018
State lawmakers are entering the final few weeks of their annual session trying to accomplish a goal that took 736 days last time: approving a state budget to spend money on everything from schools and roads to prisons and programs to support the sick and elderly. The record-setting budget fight between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the General Assembly ended last summer when several GOP lawmakers split with the governor to help Democrats raise income taxes. This time, both sides say they are hoping for a quicker resolution. It’s an election year, and another prolonged impasse could hurt whichever party or candidates get blamed for another period of dysfunction. Plus, another stalemate could put institutions like universities in a tough spot again as they continue to recover from the last one.

Rauner calls budget process ‘frustratingly slow’ less than month before deadline – Illinois News Network, May 8, 2018
Gov. Bruce Rauner said Monday that budget talks have been “frustratingly slow” ahead of a deadline to pass a spending plan with simple majorities.
“I hope it’s not some orchestrated effort to go slow,” Rauner told reporters Monday in Chicago. “We need a balanced budget for a full year, not just six months, no new taxes and a budget that lives within our means.” June 1 is the benchmark day when lawmakers should have sent a budget to Rauner’s desk for either a signature or veto in hope that something is in place by July 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year. If they don’t pass something by May 31, a budget would require three-fifths of the General Assembly to approve, making the process more complicated.

Rauner’s only shot? Fight the graduated income tax argument  – Chicago Tribune, May 7, 2018
The numbers don’t look good for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s re-election chances based on enthusiasm among Democratic voters alone. Four years ago, the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries drew 1.3 million voters to Illinois polling places. In March, that number jumped to 2.1 million, driven by Democrats. They’re stoked. Consider that Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker in a six-way race still collected 597,756 votes. Rauner, in a two-way primary, collected only 372,124. Too early to cue the “Price is Right” loser horn? Bum-bum-ba-buuum. Perhaps. Rauner has one shot: Convince Illinoisans of both parties that a vote for Pritzker is a vote for higher taxes. Tap into the rebellion that overturned the Cook County soda tax. Remind voters that Springfield cannot be trusted with another blank check. Rauner still can position himself as the only backstop between voters’ wallets and the irresponsible savoir-faire of the General Assembly.

Limiting golden parachutes in Illinois  – Chicago Tribune, May 7, 2018
In September 2016, trustees at Chicago State University sent away then-President Thomas Calhoun Jr. with a nudge and a fat envelope. Not even nine months on the job, Calhoun stepped down without explanation — but with a $600,000 severance package. The university was in crisis, both financially and academically. A lack of state funding led to faculty and staff layoffs and program cuts. The university’s accreditation agency issued sanctions. Graduation rates fell to around 11 percent. And the freshmen class dropped to 86 students. But the board managed to scrape together a nifty parting gift for the outgoing president.

Rauner backs his hand-picked Republican Party chairman for re-election as leadership battle brews  – Chicago Tribune, May 7, 2018
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday tried to distance himself from a leadership battle within the Illinois Republican Party, the latest in an ongoing struggle between the governor and a vocal wing of conservatives who say they have been betrayed. Rauner in a letter had endorsed his hand-picked state party Chairman Tim Schneider for re-election, but state Rep. Jeanne Ives since has announced she favors Lake County GOP Chairman Mark Shaw. The challenge to party leadership follows Ives’ narrow loss to Rauner in the March primary and comes as the governor has been trying to repair the party’s image, contending he’s “unifying” Republicans after the bruising primary battle.

Illinois’ dilemma: Billions in capital needs, but prospects dim for funding planThe State Journal-Register, May 5, 2018
Most legislators say capital plan won’t happen this year. A group of business and labor representatives said last week that the state would need to spend $21 billion a year to bring the state’s roads and public buildings “into a state of good repair.” The huge price tag is partly the result of years of deferred maintenance on buildings and years of not having sufficient money to adequately maintain the state’s transportation system, said the report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. The report was issued on the same day a House transportation subcommittee held a hearing on the need for the state to address how to generate more money that can be used for maintenance and expansion of the state’s transportation networks.

Public universities can’t get past the lingering effects of state budget crisisChicago Sun-Times, May 5, 2018
Eastern Illinois University’s legislative liaison Katie Anselment had some strong words for legislators during an Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee hearing last week. Anselment testified against a bill that would create a pilot program to allow a Downstate community college to offer nursing bachelor’s degrees. The four-year universities view this legislation as a dangerous slippery slope toward turning community colleges into full-on competitors. I’m not going to take a stand on the merits of this particular bill.  There are good arguments pro and con.  It is, after all, just a pilot program.  The sponsor wants to address a very real nursing shortage, but the nurses’ union is strongly opposed, believing it won’t create any net new nurses and will instead just shift current students around.