This week is the deadline for Senate Bills to pass the House, a critical deadline as session winds down. We expect to see a number of contentious bills debated on the floor this week. The House and Senate will be in Springfield virtually every day until spring session ends on May 31st.
Tomorrow is the 2nd of 4 scheduled Senior Driving Seminars this year. Call the office to reserve your spot!
In the 2015 book “Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism and Criminality”, the writers estimated that corruption costs Illinois taxpayers about $500 million per year. Last week, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Political Science Department released a report that ranked Chicago as the most corrupt city in the country and Illinois as the third most corrupt state. The report cited specific cases like CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett’s $2 million in bribes, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s sex abuse scandal, Congressman Aaron Schock’s indictment on fraud and theft charges, and the pending case against Chicago Alderman Willie Cochran for bribery and extortion. The study ended with suggestions like public financing of political campaigns and fair remapping of legislative districts as ways to reduce corruption.
The deadline to put term limits and fair legislative redistricting, two issues supported by a majority of Illinoisans, on the ballot in November has come and gone. In response, Rep. Werhli filed a bill to legislatively crackdown on public corruption. House Bill 5878 significantly increases current penalties and imposes new ones on more than 20 offenses. This includes raising the maximum penalty for bribery from $25,000 to $1 million. The proposed legislation also implements a $50 fine for any legislator, public official or public employee who knowingly fails to comply with ethics or sexual harassment prevention training.
$2 billion for Behavioral Health
Governor Rauner recently announced that Illinois has received federal approval to launch a sweeping $2 billion behavioral health initiative designed to deliver better outcomes for Medicaid beneficiaries suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders. The Better Care Illinois Behavioral Health Initiative is the culmination of a 30-month long Rauner administration effort to involve state health agencies, legislators, and behavioral health organizations in a coordinated plan to help people with disorders that require treatment of the whole person. The waiver is not a grant, but rather an opportunity to use $2 billion Medicaid dollars differently to increase the efficiency and quality of care for Medicaid populations. More than 750,000 beneficiaries, 25 percent of Illinois’ Medicaid population, have behavioral health conditions, and they account for 52 percent of Medicaid spending.
Beginning July 1st Illinois can begin investing federal funds in 10 pilots to demonstrate better care alternatives and outcomes. The pilots will feature newly created delivery systems designed to improve care, increase the value of patient experiences, and produce better outcomes for the dollar. The federal government has also been approving related innovations called state plan amendments.
New Public Safety Push
In issuing an amendatory veto of a bill to require a 72 hour waiting period for the purchase of “assault weapons”, Governor Rauner recommended the following:
- Extend 72-hour waiting period to delivery of ALL gun purchases, not just handguns.
- Death penalty for mass murderers and those who kill law enforcement officers.
- Ban bump stocks and trigger cranks.
- Funding to hire resource officers and mental health workers for schools.
- Restraining orders to disarm dangerous individuals.
- “Catch and release” accountability and transparency for judges, prosecutors.
*There is often confusion regarding what is defined as an “assault weapon” and therefore it makes sense to extend this waiting period to ALL guns. Current law requires a 72-hour wait for handguns only.
The biggest headline grabber from the announcement was his suggestion to reinstate a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard death penalty in certain cases. However, there was a lot more put forth by the Governor in his new Public Safety Initiatives. This includes instituting new active shooter protocols in schools and creating Threat Assessment Teams of law enforcement, mental health, and school experts to work with local schools to identify behaviors, intervene, and help students before they resort to violence. In addition, he supports allowing family members and others to petition courts to disarm people who pose an immediate and present threat to the public or to themselves, while also protecting law-abiding gun owners from vindictive complaints by shifting responsibility for attorney’s fees if petitions are “frivolous or vexatious.”
It’s once again time for my annual summer reading program. This year’s theme is “Lions, Tigers, and Books…Oh My”. The reading program challenges elementary school age kids to keep their minds active over the summer by reading 10 books. Kids that do so will be invited to an end of summer ice cream party and will receive an official certificate from the Illinois House of Representatives. You can find a copy of my summer reading program pamphlet at any of the libraries in the 37th district or you can print one out online at my website.
Property Tax Relief
Last week I spoke on the House Floor to call for property tax reform. So many folks in the 37th district say that property taxes are making it so they can no longer afford to stay in their homes. The General Assembly needs to act to provide real relief to distressed homeowners. You can view the video of my speech on my website.