Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
July 6, 2015
In This Issue:
Ø Pay Stops; Work Doesn’t
Ø Temporary Budget Fails in House
Ø Determination of Need Debated
Ø Campuses Go Smoke Free
Ø Forum for Veteran Owned Businesses
Ø Local Government Task Force Issues Report
Pay Stops; Work Doesn’t
As the state’s fiscal year begins without a budget, courts are being asked again which bills can be paid and which have to wait for a legislative appropriation. The Attorney General is arguing in a Chicago court that state employees cannot be paid while the Governor thinks they can. It’s also in question whether group homes for the developmentally disabled that depend upon state funding for even one resident can shut down.
The Governor sent a letter to all state employees on June 29 stating all state employees are expected to work their normal schedules, should not expect any lockout or strike, and that services provided pursuant to federal consent decrees should continue.
The letter went on to say the Governor would be pursuing everything within his power to ensure workers don’t miss a single pay check. He added that his lawyers would be fighting any effort to overturn the precedent set in 2007 to pay workers even without a budget. Attorney General Madigan and Speaker Madigan are seeking just such a court order to temporarily block paying state workers.
The Governor also indicated he is working with financial institutions to extend temporary bridge loans to employees without interest if the court precedent is overturned. Credit Union 1, with offices throughout Illinois as well as Indianapolis and Las Vegas, will be offering no interest loans to state employees to get through the shutdown.
Some Republicans, including myself, have asked the State Comptroller to withhold our paychecks if state workers can’t get theirs. Legislator pay is classified as a continuing appropriation — a budget item that state law mandates be funded like debt, pensions and retired employee health benefits even in the event of a government shutdown.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has reportedly gotten a federal court order requiring continuation of services to people with physical and psychological disabilities. The state must continue to fund programs mandated by federal consent decrees which includes children who are wards of the state. ARC of Illinois adds that some attorneys believe these decrees mean a group living facility must continue operations even if only one of its residents is covered by such a decree.
I continue to press legislative leaders to work with the Governor to reach a compromise on the budget and related reform proposals as quickly as possible. Unfortunately there are indications the legislative leaders will wait months to reach an agreement so pressure will mount on the Governor to abandon all of his ideas to turnaround Illinois.
Temporary Budget Fails in the House
Instead of working to fix the unbalanced budget or avert a government shutdown, Speaker Madigan had House members spend two days last week listening to testimony of what could happen if the government shuts down. Then on Wednesday, the Speaker introduced a one-month budget that ignored many essential services while continuing others at current levels well beyond expected revenue.
That bill (HB4190) needed a supermajority of 71 votes to pass so that it could be implemented immediately, but it failed to garner the necessary support. Meanwhile the Senate was passing its own version of a one-month budget that now comes to the House and may be voted on this week.
Determination of Need Debated
Illinois uses an assessment test called the Determination of Need (DON) to decide eligibility of the elderly and disabled for state programs. The test evaluates the individual’s mental and physical ability to do normal daily tasks around the house and the amount of family assistance available. The higher the score, the more services the individual is eligible to receive whether they stay in their home or move to a nursing or assisted living facility.
The legislature raised the DON score to be eligible for services to 37 as a part of the SMART Act in 2012 but the Governor never implemented the higher threshold. While the legislature wanted to reduce eligibility, Governor Quinn didn’t. Now Governor Rauner is proposing to implement the higher score which has set off a real debate not only among legislators, but also clients who might lose services and providers who might lose clients.
AARP for one feels Illinois is serving too many individuals in nursing homes that have a low level of need. The governor is focused on rebalancing the system and ensuring that individuals who are receiving state supported services actually need that level of support.
Campuses Go Smoke Free
The Illinois Smoke Free Campus Act took effect July 1 and now all college campuses must be smoke free. Like previous laws regarding smoke free public buildings, the purpose of this act seeks to benefit public health and mitigate the secondary negative effects of smoking.
The prohibition includes using or carrying any kind of lighted smoking materials. Research shows that smoking is the top cause of avoidable death in the United States, and by establishing a smoke-free environment, the hope is to reduce exposure to carcinogens and asthma triggers. Smoke free environments encourage smokers to quit at a rate 84 percent higher than average. You can learn more by visiting niu.edu/smokefree.
Forum for Veteran Owned Business
Any business owned by a veteran is invited to attend a forum about how to do business with the state. The General Services Chief Procurement Office is hosting a public forum on July 22 from 1:30pm-3pm regarding state contracting with veterans. Individuals may participate in person at Chicago or Springfield sites, or by conference call. Central Management Services Director Tom Tyrrell is scheduled to attend to discuss legislative initiatives, review the Veteran Owned Business Program, and listen to public input and concerns.
The meetings will be at:
Stratton Office Building, 401 South Spring, Room 349C, Springfield, Illinois
James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph, Room 14-612, Chicago, Illinois
Or you may attend the meeting via phone by calling:
1.888.494.4032, Access Code: 895 083 2216
Local Government Task Force Issues Report
Members of the Local Government and Unfunded Mandates Task Force, created by Gov. Bruce Rauner and chaired by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, passed eight non-binding proposals on June 23 to help streamline and consolidate local governments to make them more effective and efficient.
The Task Force was charged with the responsibility of developing ways to reduce the size and cost of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government. These proposals were overwhelming supported by all members of the bipartisan task force:
· Enact a 4-year moratorium on creating new local governments.
· Expand DuPage County consolidation powers to all 102 counties.
· Empower Illinois citizens to consolidate or dissolve local governments via referendum.
· Repeal or reform prevailing wage.
· Modernize public notice mandates.
· Provide third-party contracting mandate relief.
· Implement physical education mandate relief.
· Provide drivers education mandate relief.
“Today a diverse group of state and local leaders joined together in support of proposals to structurally reform state and local government,” said Illinois Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti. “I sincerely hope our leadership in the General Assembly puts politics aside and considers these needed reforms."
I hope you had an enjoyable celebration of our nation’s independence. As you replay the weekend on Monday morning and its significance, I offer the words of our first President George Washington. He said “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”