Pritchard's Perspective for August 3rd

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com 
August 3, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø  Springfield Happenings Last Week
  Ø  ADA Celebrates 25 Years and Medicaid Turns 50
  Ø  Local Restaurant Judged for “Best Steak”
  Ø  Governor Signs Veteran Bill
  Ø  Illinois Tourism Continues to Boom
  Ø  Renewable Energy Task Force Created
  Ø  Grants Available for Response to Violence Against Women
  Ø  Last Discussion Over Coffee

Springfield Happenings Last Week
One can’t say “nothing” happened in Springfield last week, but the fifth week passed in the new fiscal year without any movement on a state budget.  The House did vote to deny pay raises to legislators, statewide elected officials, State’s Attorneys, and certain executive appointees.  The 2 percent inflation adjustment was planned to take effect unless there was legislative action.  The Senate will consider HB576 this week.

The Governor vetoed an amendment (SB1229) to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act that would replace collective bargaining with binding interest arbitration until 2019.  The act governs relations between most non-educational public sector employers and their employees including the state, counties, municipalities and other units of local government.  

The state labor negotiations were extended for two months.  Contentious negotiations between the state and its principal union, AFSCME, will continue with pledges not to strike or lock-out workers.  Talks have made only minor progress and both sides remain far apart.

Finally the Governor continues to sign numerous bills after a thorough review.  He is the first governor in recent memory to personally read each bill before taking action.

ADA Celebrates 25 and Medicaid Turns 50
          If you have ever had to use a wheel chair or walk with crutches in a public place, you have some understanding of the game changer the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in the past 25 years.  The law made it markedly easier for people with disabilities to navigate steps, bathrooms and doorways as well as hold a real job to name just a few barriers they encounter every day.  

The definition of disability has been broadened to include substance use disorder as well.  Approximately 56.7 million Americans live with a disability and an estimated 21.6 million Americans live with a substance use disorder.

Another aspect of enabling the disabled involves saving money for needs beyond qualified programs.  In 2014 Congress passed the ABLE Act (achieving a better life experience) and the Governor signed into law last week the Illinois version I cosponsored.  Families and friends can now create private savings accounts to maintain the health, independence and quality of life for people with disabilities.  Take a look at SB1383 or call my office if you want to know more about this new program.

An even more important program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year—Medicaid.  Created with the Social Security Amendments of 1965, Medicaid serves as the nation’s primary source of health insurance coverage for low-income populations.

Under the program, the federal government provides matching funds to states to enable them to provide medical assistance to residents who meet certain eligibility requirements.  In Illinois, Medicaid insures about 1 in 4 of all residents (about 3 million people), 2 in every 3 senior citizens, and 1 in 2 children.  Studies have found that Medicaid coverage reduces infant mortality, low birth weight, and asthma attacks.

Research also shows that expanding health coverage for low -income children increases high school graduation rates, college attendance and completion, as well as earnings in adulthood.  The total Fiscal Year 2015 appropriation for Medicaid was $7.1 billion or 19 percent of the $35.7 billion total General Revenue Fund budget.

As a part of the Affordable Healthcare Act, more than 500,000 additional Illinois residents are now covered by Medicaid.  The state will assume additional costs for these “new” recipients in 2020.

Local Restaurant Judged for “Best Steak”
You have an opportunity to vote on-line for the restaurant that serves the best steak in Illinois.  Sorrento’s Restaurant, Sycamore has reached the top-ten finalists in the Quest for Illinois’ Best Steak contest sponsored by the Illinois Beef Association.
The winning restaurant will be announced during Ag Day (August 18) at the Illinois State Fair.  You can vote by going to www.Illinoisbeef.com before August 15th.  Tell your friends to vote too; Good luck to Sorrento’s!

Governor Signs Veteran Hiring Bill
This past week the Governor signed into law a bill I sponsored that is aimed at helping veterans obtain jobs.  House Bill 3122 was crafted with the input of the USA4militaryfamilies, Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Illinois Department of Human Rights to help private companies avoid charges of discrimination when they prefer to hire veterans. 

To qualify, the private employer must adopt a veterans' preference employment policy and apply it to all decisions regarding hiring, promotion or reduction of force.  The policy must be in writing, publicly posted with employment information, and explained to all job applicants.  Current Illinois law already has a veteran’s policy for employment in the public sector.  In Illinois the veteran unemployment rate last year was 7 percent, compared to the U.S. average of 5.3 percent.

Illinois Tourism Continues to Boom
        The state’s Office of Tourism is celebrating a 4th consecutive year of record-breaking visitors.  State attractions hosted more than 109.4 million visitors last year, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2013, and generated more than $36.3 billion in purchases.
Visitors spent $88.39 million in DeKalb County in 2014, an increase of 8.3 percent notes Debbie Armstrong, County Convention and Visitor Bureau executive director.  The visitors’ spending directly supported 530 jobs and generated $1.38 million in local tax revenues.  DeKalb County is in the top 9 percent of counties that increased revenue from tourism spending. 

One of the newest hot attractions is a farm family venture called Whiskey Acres Distilling Company near DeKalb.  It is one of only two farm-based distilleries in the country using crops actually grown on the site.  For more information about this attraction, planning an Illinois getaway or to order a free copy of the 2015 Illinois Travel Guide, please visit www.EnjoyIllinois.com.


Renewable Energy Task Force Created
I have been appointed to a task force that will look into installing and maintaining renewable energy facilities on state-owned property.  The task force was created by House Bill 3560 which was signed in to law last week by Governor Rauner.  The group is entrusted with considering the financial implications, the impact on property values and the community, and environmental factors relating to renewable energy.  The task force is expected to present its report to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before September 1, 2016.

Grants Available for Response to Violence Against Women
The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority is requesting applications to fund multidisciplinary response teams to violence against women.  Applications may be for developing and implementing programs or expanding existing programs that serve victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.   

Teams should include personnel from state's attorney's offices, law enforcement agencies, probation departments, and victim services agencies.  Grants will be made with federal fiscal year 2015 Violence Against Women Act funding awarded to Illinois.   Individual grant awards will range from $100,000 to $600,000.  Applications must be submitted by August 31.

Last Discussion Over Coffee
        This Saturday will make our final Discussion Over Coffee event for the summer.  During the past several weeks I have enjoyed speaking with residents throughout the district on state issues and hearing their ideas and concerns.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to let your voice be heard.  Join me in the Kirkland Village Council Chambers at 511 W. Main Street in Kirkland at 10 a.m. Coffee will be hot and the discussion lively.