Pritchard's Perspective for May 14th


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 14th, 2018
In This Issue:
·     Working Groups Making Progress
·     Illinois Secures Federal Medicaid Waiver
·     Votes Still Lacking for Equal Rights Amendment
·     Sycamore Park District Awarded Grant
·     Belvidere Firefighters Honored
·     County Fair Money Released
·     Middle School Art Displayed at the Capitol
·     Congratulation to all the Graduates

Working Groups Making Progress

Considerable time is being invested by two bipartisan, bicameral working groups toward crafting a budget framework and making Illinois colleges and universities more attractive to students. With three weeks left in the scheduled spring session, the groups need to reach agreement soon.

I am one of 18 members seeking a framework for the FY2019 budget. This includes reaching agreement on not only available revenue but also policies regarding such things as pensions, employee healthcare, spending levels for agencies and programs, paying unpaid bills, and revenue sharing with local units of government.

The group is committed to crafting a full-year budget that can pass the legislature by the end of May. To do so will require compromise from all sides and agreement among legislative leaders. Following the meeting Thursday, I am still optimistic we can reach the goal.

The 12-member Higher Education Working Group on which I serve has been focused on increasing student enrollment in Illinois institutions, and reducing the cost of higher education compared with out-of-state institutions. Discussion and testimony helped narrow the ideas and legislation is being drafted that includes more student financial aid, reducing institution costs, making college applications easier, and coordination between colleges and universities.

Both groups meet again on Tuesday.

Illinois Secures Federal Medicaid Waiver


After waiting two years, Illinois has finally received federal permission to begin pilot programs to treat drug abuse, opioid addiction and other behavioral health issues under the Medicaid program. Governor Rauner said the 1115 Medicaid waiver will allow $2 billion in funding to be used for 10 pilot programs over the next five years that will link behavioral health with physical health treatments.

Beginning July 1st, these programs will include:

· Short-term substance use treatment at certain inpatient and residential facilities.

· Withdrawal management services, including medication and intake/discharge at a facility.

· Home visits for up to five years for women who have a new-born baby exhibiting drug withdrawal symptoms. A growing number of babies suffer from their mother’s use of opioids or other drugs during pregnancy.

· Services to help recipients find and keep a job, including job coaching and transportation.

· Intensive in-home services to stabilize behavior that may lead to a crisis, hospitalization or residential care.

This federal Medicaid waiver will give a huge boost to behavioral health services and focus on outcomes instead of the volume of services offered.

Votes Still Lacking for Equal Rights Amendment
Since the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was first proposed some 46 years ago, Illinois has included nearly all of its provisions in state law. Yet, advocates would like to see Illinois become the 37th state to ratify the amendment and flocked to the capitol last week to make their case.

Proponents argue the ERA would outlaw sex discrimination and extend all constitutional rights equally regardless of sex. They are empowered by the current national women’s rights movement and incidents of sexual harassment. Many would also like to see the federal government given more power to enforce anti-discrimination.

Opponents resist this expansion of federalism and argue approximately 800 federal laws would be affected including some that give special consideration to women. They also argue the ERA would overturn restrictions on abortions and require public funding for those seeking abortions. Some courts in states where the ERA was incorporated into the state’s constitutions have upheld this view.

The Illinois legislature failed to approve the ERA in 1982 and bills introduced in recent years have failed to be called for a vote in both chambers. The amendment appears to still lack the needed votes for passage.

Sycamore Park District Awarded Grant
The Illinois Department of Transportation announced their 2018 Transportation Enhancement Program awards last week and the Sycamore Park District was among the 53 recipients. The district will receive nearly $1.7 million to extend the Great Western Trail bike and running path.

IDOT received nearly $36 million in federal funding to enhance bicycle, pedestrian and streetscape projects across the state. The agency believes that by investing in local communities, it will contribute to the state’s transportation system as a whole. The Sycamore project specifically addresses a local need while contributing to safe travel and increasing quality of life and enjoyment of the area.

IDOT received 218 applications for projects worth an estimated $252 million for this year’s funding allotment. You can view all project recipients here. The next application period for funding projects will be during the fall of 2019.

Belvidere Firefighters Honored

The State Fire Marshall presented the Medal of Valor to three firefighters from Belvidere and five more from the city received Firefighter Excellence Awards in ceremonies at the capitol last week. The awards were made for displaying exceptional bravery or heroism in the face of danger while performing their duties as a firefighter.

I had the opportunity to visit with the men about the fire incident in 2017 that earned them the recognition. They responded to a 3-story multi-family structure fire that quickly engulfed the building in smoke and fire. Two dozen occupants were able to flee the building, some jumping from windows; but 9 were trapped and had to be rescued by ladder or carried unconscious from the building.

Lieutenant Shawn Schadle and Firefighters Aaron Pihl and Jeff Vaughan were awarded Medals of Valor. Captain Mark Zumbragel and Firefighters Mark Beck, James Kriebs, Jason Swanson and Nicolas Thornton received Excellence Awards. Congratulations to these men for their demonstrations of bravery and thanks to all who continually serve and protect us.

Fortunately fire incidents as the one in Belvidere don’t happen often. Nevertheless, the Firefighters must be trained, physically fit, equipped with the necessary tools, and ready to respond in seconds.


Shown with the Belvidere Fire Department honorees were Fire Chief Al Hyser (second from left) and Mayor Mike Chamberlain (second from the right). 

County Fair Money Released
At long last and with repeated urging from me and other legislators, the Governor finally released the appropriated funds to support county fairs. While funding was appropriated, there had been insufficient cash to pay the local fair associations.

Agriculture is the leading industry in Illinois. County fairs provide an opportunity to demonstrate the skills of animal husbandry and crop production, new technology, arts and crafts, and much more. Fairs are a social gathering and provide entertainment. According to a University of Illinois Extension Study, county fairs generate $170 million in economic activity for the state and help support over 100 jobs and thousands of volunteers.

Middle School Art Displayed at the Capitol
The entries in my annual Middle School Art Contest were on display last week in the Capitol. Thousands of visitors got to see not only the creative talent of our local youth but also the benefits of art education in our schools. My thanks go to students and teachers at Hinckley-Big Rock, Burlington Central and DeKalb for participating.

The contest winner was Adrina Middono, a 7th grader from Hinckley-Big Rock Middle School and runner up honors went to Sadie Marks, an 8th Grader from Huntley Middle School, DeKalb.

Art encourages focus, concentration, creativity, attention to detail and hand-eye coordination. Art also teaches problem solving, follow-through and social interaction.

Congratulations to all the Graduates


During May and June, families across Illinois celebrate student education achievements at ceremonies and parties. It’s been a number of years since I received a college degree but I took the stage earlier this month to accept an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Aurora University President Rebecca Sherrick for my legislative work in education.

It’s important to remember that education is life-long and gaining knowledge and skills are the tools for progress and public service. Congratulations and best wishes to all those reaching an education milestone.

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

-Bob

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