Today is Flag Day, where we commemorate the adoption of the United States Flag. Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the American flag on June 14th, 1777. After that, additional stripes and starts were added when welcoming new states. The colors were also specifically chosen and have special meaning: the red symbolizes hardiness and valor, the white symbolizes purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

National Flag Day is always observed on June 14th and typically celebrated throughout the entire week. After three decades of informal celebrations of this day around the country, Flag Day was officially established by President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. But it wasn’t until President Harry Truman declared through an Act of Congress, Flag Day to be a national holiday. However, only Pennsylvania celebrates Flag Day on June 14th as a federal holiday.

Flag Day is an opportunity to show American pride. During this week, you will often see the flag proudly displayed on government buildings and many others around the country.

The American flag is a special source of pride and inspiration for United States citizens. Americans enjoy the greatest freedoms, and today you can celebrate by flying the flag!



The budget impasse has had a lasting impact on higher education in the State of Illinois. The University of Illinois School System—the state’s largest educator—expressed the effect the lack of state funding is having on its universities as well as students. 

University of Illinois officials wrote to lawmakers at the end of spring legislative session in the General Assembly to express their concerns over the continuing budget impasse, and detail the severity of its effect on state schools. You can find a copy of their letter here.

Above all, financial uncertainty has left faculty leaving for other opportunities and Illinois residents choosing other higher education options in other states. The impasse has hurt enrollment and impacted the national ranking of Illinois’ schools, leading many to choose other more appealing options. Illinois now ranks second, only to New Jersey, in having the highest net ranking of students who leave for colleges out of state. In 2015, that number amounted to 45% of high school graduates in Illinois.

Institutions of higher education have encouraged lawmakers to work together to put an end to the impasse and come to a budget agreement that will sufficiently fund Illinois’ schools and provide a more certain future.

With regular session in Springfield concluding without a budget in place, more pressure needs to be placed on lawmakers to encourage compromise and an end to the budget stalemate.

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

June 5, 2017
In This Issue:
Ø  Yucky Medicine
Ø  New School Funding Formula Passes Both Chambers
Ø  Key Legislation Passed in Final Days of Spring Session
Ø  Summer Reading Program Launched

Yucky Medicine
Do you remember when you were sick as a kid; mom would often give you a spoonful of something that tasted terrible?  That’s how Illinois is right now.  We are terribly sick fiscally and we don’t want to take the medicine that will make us better.
The bond rating company downgrade last week is just the latest indication of how sick we are.  Having a rating one notch above junk status and the lowest of any state in the history of our country should motivate us to take some corrective medicine.  If you don’t believe the bond houses, then look at the mounting pile of unpaid bills or the students fleeing Illinois because colleges are cheaper and more stable someplace else. 
Judging from constituent calls to my office and actions by the legislature, many refuse to take the yucky medicine.  Nearly every policy think tank says the medicine must include spending cuts, reforms to stimulate job creation and yes, revenue increases. 
The House of Representatives continues to ignore the medicine and didn’t even respond to the “doctors” in the Senate who sent the House a number of spending cut and tax increase bills.  The House procrastinated and instead went into what’s called “continuous session” promising to meet again in June and talk about the medicine.
The solution to our problems won’t become any tastier by waiting and hopes of some miracle drug from Washington to restore our state to greatness are out of the question.  It’s time to step up and take the medicine for years of overspending, inefficiency and voter inattention to what elected officials were doing.  

New School Funding Formula Passes both Chambers
At long last the legislature has passed a new school funding bill aimed at determining adequate funding for each school based on the educational needs of its students and research-based educational practices.  Any increased funding would come from the State and could lead to property tax reductions. 
Senate Bill 1 is the result of Senate and House members working together after dozens of hearings and the work of the Governor’s Commission on School Funding Reform.  Based on cost estimates to fully implement the formula and the state’s current fiscal conditions, it could take a decade to reach adequate funding for every child but we would be on the road to achieving that goal. 
The bill was a compromise of competing interests and in the end, efforts by Chicago and its Public Schools to receive funding faster than other districts and include all of its pension costs caused most Republicans to oppose the bill and the Governor to threaten a veto.
The evidence-based funding model, however, is an excellent blueprint for us to follow when we discuss overhauling our broken state funding formula.  This new way of funding was specifically designed to drive much-needed funding to school districts that are the farthest away from their adequacy target and have insufficient local capacity to fund education.  The model, as it was initially envisioned, focuses more dollars on districts that are the least adequately funded, which I believe is a critical point that differentiates this model from our current funding model.  
The issue of Chicago teacher pensions has been debated as an equity issue.  Chicago pays its share of the state teacher pension system but the state has not lived up to its agreement to contribute to the separate Chicago teacher pensions.  There is a lot of agreement about the mismanagement of both teacher pension systems over the years.  Nevertheless we face the consequences of these decisions.
Adequately funding education is vital to the success of our students and the well-trained workforce that attracts businesses.  Getting the state to pay its constitutional share for education could offer property tax relief. 
For now, SB1 is being held in the Senate in hopes pension reform will be tied to the Chicago teacher pension issue and garner the Governor’s support. 

Key Legislation Passed in Final Days of Spring Session
SB1839: Amends the Emergency Telephone Act by extending the system set to expire on June 30 and promoting an upgrade to technology.  The bill increases phone fees to fund a statewide 9-1-1 system that runs on the new IP network. The IP network is not only faster, but it also allows the customer to connect to a variety of devices, including tablets, computers, home phones, and cell phones.  
Greg and Sandy Beitel, Ogle County 9-1-1 coordinators, came to the State Capitol to explain the need for 9-1-1 system upgrades 

SB3: Provides that the Local Government Reduction and Efficiency Division of the Counties Code will be applied to all counties.  It encourages township consolidation through referenda that are approved by the township board.

SB8: Updates the state’s procurement code to increase purchasing transparency, correct some over regulation, while still providing a mechanism for obtaining the best purchasing terms.  I helped negotiate this bill over several years in part to clarify that university purchases through groups of organizations was allowed.

SB31: Sets reasonable, constitutional limits on local police interaction with the federal immigration authority and fosters trust between local police and immigrant communities.  It does not prevent local law enforcement officials from cooperating with immigration authorities when they have a warrant. 

SB81: Raises the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.  Compared to its border states, Illinois already has the highest minimum wage and under this bill would have the highest in the nation.  The bill also includes a complicated income tax credit designed to appear to provide relief for employers with fewer than 50 employees.  Proponents admitted a minimum wage increase imposes costs of doing business for a host of non-profits and small businesses.

SB1316: Provides for three innovative but very costly programs in higher education that I referred to as the College “Dream Act” in House floor debate.  One element pays university faculty a bonus to keep them from leaving Illinois.  Another provides a college grant program for middle-income students similar to MAP; while the last element would buy-out student loans of any eligible participant at zero interest.  Given the state’s fiscal condition and its failure to fund higher education or MAP grants, this program is an absurdity.

SB1353: Increases the monthly personal needs allowance to $60 for residents living on medical assistance in a nursing home.  The Personal Needs Allowance is the amount of Social Security an individual gets to keep for personal expenses not covered by Medicaid. 

SB1688: Requires the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to consider certain mitigating factors and evidence of rehabilitation for certain applicants of licenses, certificates, and registrations.  The bill is intended to reduce licensing barriers for people with arrest or conviction records wishing to become licensed in Illinois.

SB1904: Amends the Prevailing Wage Act to require the Department of Labor to publish, by August 15 of each year on its official website, a prevailing wage schedule for each county in the State.  The bill directs that the prevailing wage shall be no less than the rate set through collective bargaining for public projects.

HB2525: Provides what was explained as Workers Compensation reform but appears to increase the cost of doing business in Illinois.  It codifies worker friendly case law, mandates increased insurance regulation, and imposes fraud penalties, electronic billing penalties and penalties for delays in medical care.

HB2622: Creates a state run employers’ mutual insurance company to compete with over 300 private insurance companies.  The bill claims $10 million from the Workers’ Compensation Commission Operating Fund to start the company with doubtful reserves to operate it.

HB3259: Appropriates $18.6 million from the Commitment to Human Services Fund for Domestic Violence Shelters and Services during FY2017.  These shelters like DeKalb County’s Safe Passage have been operating without any state funding for a year and are about to close their doors.

Summer Reading Program Launched in District
I have officially launched my annual summer reading program to encourage students in K-5th grades to keep reading over the summer.  The program builds upon local library reading efforts and books read can be counted for each program. 
Reading is a foundation skill in education, and through this program I hope to encourage student engagement throughout the summer months when they can regress in their abilities.  Students who return their completed reading lists to my District Office will be invited to an ice cream party and commendation for their efforts.
You can find a copy of the summer reading brochure here, which includes the rules and instructions.

Have a great week and call my District Office to share your opinions or if I can be of assistance.
-Bob


Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

May 22, 2017
In This Issue:
Ø  School Funding Reform Proceeds
Ø  Senate Passes Grand Bargain Bills
Ø  Homeschooling on the Rise in Illinois
Ø  Red Mass Ceremony Reaffirms Commitment
Ø  Looking Ahead to Memorial Day

School Funding Reform Proceeds
The House version of a new school funding plan passed out of committee last week while the Senate version passed that chamber and came over to the House.  HB2808 and SB1 are very similar bills seeking to replace the current school funding formula with funding “best-practices” based on the students’ needs in each school.
As I have discussed before, there are four major components to each bill.  First, the Evidence-Based Model (EBM) looks at the social and educational needs of each student and determines the cost which is called an adequacy target for the school.  Next it calculates what each district is able to fund toward the adequacy target based on its property wealth and tax rate. 
Third, EBM calculates how much the state is currently contributing to the district, adds in the local contribution and determines the district’s percent of adequacy.  Finally, the model’s distribution method allocates new state funding to those districts that are least well-funded.
Any time there is discussion about a new school funding formula there has to be a hold harmless provision so no district receives less than they are currently receiving.  Both bills provide such “base funding.”  Next, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) want the state to pick-up its pension costs just like the state does for every other school district. 
However, CPS does not want to lose its block grants that were established in 1995 because they receive about $252 million more in state aid than they should receive based upon student numbers. 
You begin to see why some legislators feel the new model favors Chicago over treating every child in the state alike.  Neither of the bills offers needed relief from unfunded state mandates and high property taxes.  As a co-sponsor of the bills, I am still working on amendments to address these issues and to keep the focus on funding the best practices so every child improves each year.
In the preliminary computer runs of the EBM that determine the current percentage of adequate funding for my legislative district, the DeKalb and Genoa-Kingston districts are in Tier 1--the districts farthest from their adequacy target.  The other five districts are in Tier 2, which are between 60 and 90 percent of their adequacy targets.  Tiers 3 and 4 schools are currently funding more than their adequacy targets.
You can follow along with the status of these bills as they proceed through the House legislative process here.

Senate Passes Grand Bargain Bills
After months of debate and urging by House members, the Senate last week finally passed 7 bills in their “Grand Bargain” to solve the state budget crisis.  They also removed the “all or nothing” requirement that all the bills in the package had to pass before any of them could become law.
We have already discussed SB1 so here are brief comments about bills in the package that passed the Senate.  SB3 contains consolidation provisions affecting townships, road districts, drainage districts and county board authority to dissolve units that they appoint.
SB4 authorizes the sale of $7 billion in bonds to pay down the estimated $14 billion of unpaid bills.  The bonds would be paid back in 7 years at a cost of about $1.4 billion per year.
SB 6 appropriates a total of $11.5 billion to the State Board of Education for FY18 and additional FY17 spending.  Funding would cover the base funding level and add $288 million for the least equitably funded school districts.  Programs outside of the new funding model would receive nearly $733 million.
SB7 adds 6 casinos including one for Chicago, slots at race tracks, and changes to betting limits and rules.
SB8 provides reforms to streamline the state’s buying procedures and provide cost savings while still maintaining oversight and transparency.
SB16 provides comprehensive pension reform that requires Tier 1 employees to choose between two benefit plans, creates a new Tier 3 plan, makes funding changes, and offers a pension buyout option.  This bill is identical to HB4027 and HB4045 which are on third reading in the House.    
Bills dealing with revenue, worker compensation reform and property tax freeze have yet to pass the Senate.

State Representative Bob Pritchard’s summer reading program has begun! The Representative invites students in K-5th grades to participate and read at least 8 books during the summer months. Those who participate are invited to a free ice cream party in August.

This is a program the Representative has offered every ear because “Encouraging reading is a foundation to learning” said Pritchard. He believes that reading over the summer helps students retain what they have learned in school and prepares them for more growth when they return to school.

You can find a copy of the summer reading brochure here, which includes the rules and instructions. If you have questions, contact Rep. Pritchard’s District Office at (815) 748-3494.
In This Issue:
Ø  Bipartisan Group of House Lawmakers Urges Senate Action
Ø  Thank You Teachers
Ø  Local Firefighters Awarded State's Highest Honor
Ø  Local Students' Art Exhibited in the Capitol 
Ø  We Should Not Abandon Affordable Higher Education


Bipartisan Group of House Lawmakers Urges Senate Action
The Senate has been debating a series of bills dealing with the budget for months and a group of House lawmakers say it’s time to vote and forward the bills to their chamber.  In an open letter to the Senate last Monday, some 30 bipartisan Representatives joined me in urging action and committing to a resolution of the state’s financial crisis now.
The number of members from both parties may have been motivation for Speaker Madigan to appoint 4 top members in his party on Tuesday to negotiate with the Governor over non-budget items.  Republican Leader Durkin did the same thing later in the week.  While yet another working group sounds like a stalling action by the Speaker, members seem ready for action.
House members recognized that the Senate’s budget plan does not have to be perfect, but a starting point at which the House can expand upon in order to produce a solution that will pass both chambers and ultimately be signed by the Governor.  A balanced compromise would include a package of bills that cut spending, raise revenue and make reforms that will grow the economy longer term.  
The legislators’ action clearly shows the frustration of taxpayers and voters.  But more people need to join in creating pressure.  I’ve told a number of school superintendents to turn up the volume in their “Pass Illinois Budget” campaign.  Let parents know schools won’t open this fall without a full state budget; indeed many can’t.  Let’s break the political fight and stop the slide to the fiscal abyss.  
Bipartisan House members ready to debate Senate budget bills 
Thank You Teachers
As we near the end of another school year, the nation paused this past week to thank our teachers.  I hope you stopped to think about a teacher in your life who made a difference; gave confidence, inspired, lite a spark in you or challenged you to do better.  Then let them know.
There are few careers more important to our nation than education yet too often criticized and ignored.  Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people.  No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness.” 
We trust these teachers, staff and administrators with our most precious possessions (children) and miraculously they grow into responsible adults who too soon graduate from high school and college.  I had the opportunity to visit with some of these miracle workers last week—early childhood educators in Springfield and special needs educators in Garden Prairie.  Thank you all for the work you do for our community and country.  
Early childhood education advocates from DeKalb and Sycamore at the capitol
Illinois firefighters were honored in Springfield this week, and special awards were given to a few extraordinary firefighters, including one from the area.

Jared Thorp is a firefighter and paramedic with the DeKalb Fire Department, and was designated the Medal of Honor Award Recipient. This is the highest award given by the State of Illinois to a firefighter for an act of outstanding bravery or heroism, selflessness, and personal courage above and beyond the call of duty, under adverse conditions, with the possibility of extreme personal risk.

The award was presented to Jared by the Firefighting Medal of Honor Committee and the Office of the State Fire Marshall at the Tuesday ceremony in Springfield. Congratulations to Jared on this outstanding achievement!

Two other groups of DeKalb firefighters were designated Excellence Award Recipients. This award is given to acknowledge an act of service in the line of duty, demonstrating excellence and professionalism in service to the citizens of the State of Illinois.  This award is given with Unit Citations, as it is designated to groups of firefighters. 

Excellence Award Recipients -
DeKalb Engine Company #2 [Unit Citation]
·         Firefighter/Paramedic Todd Adamson
·         Lieutenant/Paramedic Brett Gautcher
·         Firefighter/Paramedic Tim Stiker
·         Firefighter/Paramedic Chris Krupa
DeKalb Aerial Ladder Truck Company #1 [Unit Citation]
·         Firefighter/Paramedic Matt Holuj
·         Firefighter/Paramedic Jon Ritter
·         Captain Mike Thomas
·         Firefighter/Paramedic Andrew Romano

All the firefighters and their families were welcomed to Springfield for the special ceremony.  A memorial was also held to honor all the fallen firefighters in Illinois.  Today, we not only recognized those hardworking firefighters we have here in Illinois, but remembered those we lost. 

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

Happy May Day—A Spring Holiday

In This Issue:
Ø  Marathon Week for Passing House Bills
Ø  Budget Talks Regain Momentum
Ø  Action Taken to Restart Prison Nurses Talks
Ø  Festivals Fuel the State’s Economy
Ø  Visitors in the Capitol

Marathon Week for Passing House Bills
The House returned from a two-week recess last week to debate hundreds of bills before the deadline for consideration.  What follows are some of the more interesting pieces of legislation that passed out of the House and now go to the Senate for consideration.
HB40: Expands access to abortions for women on Medicaid.  Currently public funds cannot be used for this purpose.
HB223: Provides that identification bracelets may be used in nursing homes without a doctor’s order.  Further, nursing homes may require the use of bracelets for residents in Alzheimer’s units with the guardian’s approval.
HB261: Allows schools that are currently required to provide transportation for homeless students staying in out-of-district locations to instead provide rental or mortgage assistance for them to live within the district.  This would be an option for the district to save money. 
HB302: Requires life insurance companies to pay benefits or proceeds to the appropriate persons upon the death of the insured for policies in effect since 1996.  Currently companies are only required to make payment when requested by the beneficiaries.
HB313: Extends the Nurse Practice Act to 2028, expands permissible scope of practice and relieves some restrictions upon their practice.
HB531: Creates the offense of first responder endangerment when the manager of a commercial property knowingly creates a dangerous condition and intentionally conceals it which may cause the death or serious bodily injury to a first responder.
HB607: Allows the township board of trustees in any county with less than 3 million inhabitants to abolish its road district if approved by electors of that township at a general or consolidated election.
HB698: Creates a pilot project for prison inmates within three years of release to receive training in business skills, computer skills, budgeting, creating a business plan, public speaking, and realistic goal setting.  This five-year pilot is aimed at reducing prison recidivism.
HB768: Removes provisions allowing the State Charter School Commission to reverse a local school board's decision to deny, revoke, or not renew an application for a charter in its district.  Provides for the creation of a charter school under certain conditions.
HB2373: Makes it easier for courts to seal the records of individuals with a misdemeanor.  Such records often prevent an individual from finding work, schooling or housing.
HB2453: Provides for direct deposit of revenues from sales and use taxes into the Downstate Public Transportation Fund and thus eliminates current delays in making funds available.
HB2462:  Amends the Equal Pay Act to ensure that women and minorities are not paid less for doing the same work.  This would prevent employers from seeking an applicant’s wage and benefits history.
HB2525: Makes changes to the worker’s compensation law and provides for electronic billing but does not make changes to reduce the cost of insurance for employers.
HB2527: Allows for nonprofit organizations like Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois to provide a program leading to a high school diploma instead of a GED for adult learners.  The proposal is modeled after a successful effort in Indiana
HB2580: Increases the weight limits for trucks transporting grain during the fall harvest season when the Governor declares an emergencies situation.
HB2624: Creates the independent Health Insurance Rate Review Board in an effort to hold down insurance rates for consumers by ensuring that rates are reasonable and justified.
HB2764: Seeks to support Illinois manufacturing by requiring that only materials manufactured in Illinois may be sold on the property of the Illinois State Museum, in gift shops or concession areas within state parks or parkways, and on the property of State Historic Sites, and State Memorials.
HB2771: Requires most employers to provide a minimum of five paid sick days per year to employees.  Provides an exemption for the construction industry, school districts, park districts, and certain City of Chicago sister agencies.
HB2774: Provides that an operator of a commercial website or online service that collects personally identifiable information about individual customers residing in Illinois shall notify them about their personal information sharing practices.
HB2820: Directs the Department of Public Health to make uniform rules and regulations for all Farmers Markets throughout the state.  This bill is in response to complaints that local health departments' fees and sanitation provisions are too variable and unreasonable for vendors.
HB2977: Amends the School Code to require every public elementary and high school to include cursive writing in its curriculum.
HB3163: Allows families to take a tax credit of up to $10,000 per year when they contribute to a 529-like ABLE care plan for a member with disabilities under the age of 26.  This is an expansion of the federal ABLE program approve in Illinois last year.
HB3215: Requires school districts to make feminine hygiene products available, at no cost to students, in the bathrooms of school buildings. 
HB3503: Provides that cable and video providers cannot charge rental fees to customers for more than the cost of the modem. 
HB3538: Provides that companies must repay all tax incentives they receive for creating jobs if they move any jobs out of the state or reduce their number of workers.  Further, these companies would be barred from any future economic incentives.
HB3691: Creates a college savings account for every child born in Illinois to encourage thoughts of higher education attainment.  Parents may add to the account.
HB3744: Requires public construction contracts to include that at least 10 percent of the man-hours performing construction services be performed by individuals who reside in areas of poverty.  The Central Management Services Agency will provide a list of areas of poverty.
HB3817: Requires that juvenile court records be sealed and never revealed to the public in order to make it easier for juveniles who have criminal records to become employed.

Budget Talks Regain Momentum
Last week Governor Rauner and Speaker Madigan met for the first time since December in a hopeful attempt to restart budget talks.  There was no statement after the meeting and other legislative leaders were not involved so the meeting at best could be described as preliminary. 
Speaker Madigan did not reach out to House Republican Leader Durkin in a quest to restart budget talks so it appears that members will have to start their own talks.  In fact, several groups of bipartisan legislators from both chambers are quietly talking about budget ingredients and fanning the embers of what is left of the Senate “Grand Bargain” for revenue, spending reductions and reforms.
I have noticed an increase in feedback and pressure on legislators from residents, providers, and educators to help stimulate action.  Last week many lawmakers received letters from local school superintendents and principals pleading for action toward a budget agreement.  On Thursday, students, educators, and higher education groups gathered in the Capitol to raise their voices for funding as well.
After two full years of partial funding and no serious efforts to craft a balanced budget, I have been suggesting to anyone who would listen that it’s time we engage parents of school-age children.  If there was a serious threat that schools would not open this fall, parents would be enraged and legislators would be forced to action.  After all, parents have been kept on the sidelines during the budget impasse since schools have been mostly funded.  It’s time to stir the parents and everyone call on legislators for a full budget, now.

Action Taken to Restart Prison Nurses Talks
Late last week the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) withdrew plans to fire 124 union nurses and replace them with private contractors.  The layoff was originally taken when contract negotiations with the Illinois Nursing Association (INA) broke down over efforts to cut $8 million from their budget line. 
From the INA standpoint, it is believed that if more nurses were hired to adequately staff state prisons, overall staffing costs could be reduced and would prevent privatization.
While there is undoubtedly tension between the two groups, the INA has returned to the negotiation table in good faith, and is working with the IDOC to find a better solution.  Perhaps this could be a solution for the contract impasse between the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Governor.  The courts are blocking the Governor from imposing his last and final offer so let’s restart negotiations as the administration did with the nurses.


Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

April 10, 2017

In This Issue:
Ø  State Employee Insurance Plan Could Change
Ø  Bills Pass Quickly Out of the House
Ø  Another Stop Gap Funding Measure Passes
Ø  Computer Science Promoted for Education
Ø  April Declared Seed Month
Ø  Gun Owners Rally in the Capitol
Ø Break Offers Time to Listen--Reflect

State Employee Insurance Plan Could Change
Proposed changes to the state employee health insurance package are almost certain to be delayed by two legal issues.  Normally information about the benefit package is distributed about this time of year, sign-up occurs in May and the program begins on June first.
What could delay implementation of the new plan are a court injunction preventing the Governor from implementing his final labor contract offer to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union and a challenge to the contract award for administering the state’s medical benefit plan.  The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) heard details about the possible delay and the proposed plan at a hearing last week.
Central Management Services (CMS) Acting Director Mike Hoffman testified that if the court does not permit the Governor to implement his contract offer in the next few weeks, the current benefit plan will be extended.  A new plan will be implemented as soon as possible during the fiscal year. 
Cigna, who currently administers the benefit package, has challenged the awarding of the contract to Aetna for next year.  Cigna contends Aetna’s proposal does not meet the requirements set out in the request for proposal and has appealed the matter to the Executive Ethics Commission. 
The proposed state employee health and life insurance plan creates a multi-tiered system to reduce liabilities and increase overall revenue contributions from employees.  The Acting Director said the goal was to split the cost of the program so the state’s responsibility would be about 60 percent, similar to other states and private businesses.  However, the changes would not affect the Medicare advantage HMO plans currently utilized by retirees.
The current FY2017 insurance plan benefits would be the “platinum” plan under the new proposal and increase monthly plan premiums by 120 percent.  Three other options would reduce or have no premium but require higher deductibles and co-payments.  According to CMS, employees could keep their existing doctors and other providers.
CMS also testified that the lack of a budget appropriation for health insurance has prevented the state from paying claims and resulted in a backlog that now exceeds $4.2 billion.  Interest on the unpaid claims exceeds $493 million and could reach $1 billion in the next year.  This is money that should be used to pay claims.
With healthcare and drug costs continuing to grow at near double digit percent levels and considering the state’s fiscal crisis, Director Hoffman said the state must try to reduce benefit costs.

Bills Pass Quickly Out of the House
A large number of bills were debated last week in the House and most passed with bipartisan support.  Here is a sampling of bills now in the Senate.

HB732:  Amends the Illinois Roofing Industry Licensing Act and would require any business that wants to do their own repair or to replace a roof on their buildings using their own labor to first obtain a roofing license and know how to do the work safely.

HB2449:  Amends the Illinois Service Member Civil Relief Act and would allow service members ordered to relocate for at least 90 days to terminate or suspend certain contracts for service.  It also provides that the contracts could be reinstated if the service member is no longer on active military service.

HB706:  Amends the Safe Pharmaceutical Disposal Act to ensure that medical professionals can take possession and dispose dangerous medications following a death. 

HB524: Provides that pharmaceuticals disposed of under the Act may be destroyed in a drug destruction device.  This change allows law enforcement agencies to dispose of unwanted, unused, or expired pharmaceuticals instead of relying on the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency to do so.