April 24, 2015
We are now in the “home stretch” for lawmakers to get things done in Springfield. We are in every week until the end of May, when session is scheduled for completion. We have already accomplished a lot great things, legislation that is important for our financial future and legislation that will help many people. There is more about that below.
Because I will be in Springfield every week until the end of May, I wanted to take this time to encourage you to come visit our capitol and the city of Springfield.
The rest of this month and May is a perfect time to visit, as you can see firsthand how your state government works. Hearing the debates on the Senate and House floors, seeing the passion on lawmakers’ faces when they debate legislation, and learning about the legislative process makes for a more interesting experience. I would also love to visit with you. I always enjoy when constituents visit me in Springfield, so make sure to call my office to set up a time.
If you do plan on visiting the capitol, check out this video, as it’s a great resource for what to expect and will answer a lot of your questions.
I hope you have a great weekend!
State Senator Sue Rezin
At the Statehouse
Top: Sue with Dylan Blough, her intern this week.
Next: Sue with students from Augustana College, who visited the Statehouse.
Next: Sue with the Illinois Bankers Association Future Leader Alliance in Springfield today. This groups is from Grundy Bank. Thanks to Pete Brummel, Kevin Olson, Sara Grieff, Stefany Gumm, and Loren Frenzel.
Next: Leaders from Will County visiting with Sue during Will County Governmental Lobby Day.
Next: Sue talks about the Flood Alliance established in the 38th District and how energy is so important to the district on Comcast Newsmakers.
Next: Sue on the Senate Floor, speaking about legislation.
Next: Sue with Senate GOP Staffer Scott Foiles, who monitors all energy legislation.
Bottom: Sue with members of the Sportsman Caucus.
Around the District
Retiring Mayor Gloria Alvarado was presented with this plaque, honoring her service at the LaSalle Mayors Dinner.
Legislation would help those with disabilities plan for financial future
Springfield, IL – Legislation co-sponsored by State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Peru) that would help people with disabilities financially prepare for future healthcare costs sailed through the Senate April 23.
“I think our priority – as a society and as a government – must be showing compassion to those who are most vulnerable and need help,” Rezin said. “This legislation will help those with disabilities have some peace of mind when it comes to their financial future.”
Senate Bill 1383, also known as the “Achieving a Better Life Experience” (ABLE), would allow people with disabilities to establish an account with the Illinois Treasurer's Office to help with any future healthcare costs. The program’s plan would:
- Allow someone with a disability to save on disability expenses incurred by that person.
- Encourage and assist individuals and families in saving private funds for the purpose of supporting individuals with disabilities to maintain health, independence, and quality of life.
- Provide secure funding for disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement benefits provided through private insurance, federal and state medical and disability insurance.
“When it comes to the most vulnerable people among us, showing compassion is of the essence,” Rezin said. “That includes being there for them, advocating for them, protecting them, providing opportunities for them, giving them a positive life experience they deserve, and loving them.”
Sen. Rezin is a member of the Special Needs Caucus, a group of lawmakers who work hand-in-hand with people with disabilities and their advocates to establish legislation that can make their lives better.
All accounts within the ABLE program are exempt from taxation in Illinois.
Legislation would stop abuse of taxpayer dollars for mailed materials
Springfield, IL – Legislation co-sponsored by State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Peru) to help reduce taxpayer-funded abuses of office passed the Illinois Senate April 23 by a vote of 56-1.
“It’s outrageous public bodies are using taxpayer dollars to send mailers out just days before an election,” Rezin said. “That is a blatant abuse of taxpayer money. We have to restore the public’s trust. This legislation does that.”
Senate Bill 914 is in response to the College of DuPage sending out a taxpayer-funded mailer, days before this year’s election. The legislation would ban all units of local government and their employees and contractors from using taxpayer funds to send any promotional materials to residents during the periods of time immediately preceding an election (January 1 through the day after the consolidated election, February 1 through the day after the general primary election and September 1 through the day after the general election).
“This legislation is similar to a law already in place for Illinois constitutional officers and legislators,” Rezin said. “At a time where every public body must do more with less, it’s imperative we hold every public entity accountable to taxpayers.”
If Senate Bill 914 becomes law, violation would be a Class 4 felony and could result in forfeiture of office or termination of employment.
Governor Rauner's Infrastructure listening Tour is coming to Ottawa April 29!
For more information:
Senate Week in Review: April 20 - 24, 2015
SPRINGFIELD, IL– Facing an April 24 deadline to move legislation through the full Senate, hundreds of bills were debated and passed on the Senate floor this week, according to State Sen. Sue Rezin said.
In response to a suspension of grants for state programs that serve Illinois’ most vulnerable populations, the Senate approved an amendment this week that gives Gov. Bruce Rauner authority to transfer $26 million from special funds to restore funding for public health and social service programs affected by the cuts.
Senate Republicans pushed several important measures this week that address everything from reforming Illinois’ grant process to officially recognizing sweet corn as the Illinois state vegetable.
Also, in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month, Senate Republicans are raising awareness about the 30-year high in reports of child abuse and neglect in Illinois by sharing their awareness videoin their communities and on social media—calling Illinoisans to take action.
Senate Authorizes Governor to Restore $26 million to Social Service Programs
On April 22, the Senate passed an amendment to Senate Bill 274 that authorizes Gov. Rauner to transfer $26 million from special state funds to restore grant funding for public health and social service programs.
Grants that pay for programs such as funerals and burials of public-assistance recipients, smoking cessation, teen programs, autism and HIV and AIDS programs were suspended in early April. Providers strenuously opposed the cuts, which they said would have a devastating impact on their ability to provide important services. In response, Senate lawmakers agreed to give Gov. Rauner the authority to restore these funds.
As amended, Senate Bill 274 gives Gov. Rauner emergency budget-making powers to transfer up to $26 million from 105 specified special funds, with the exclusion of the Road Fund, Motor Fuel Tax Fund, and State Construction Account Fund.
While Senate Republicans agree that fixing Illinois’ budget woes will require making difficult, undesirable decisions, they also stress the importance of properly funding programs that provide vital resources for children’s health, addiction prevention and treatment and autism programs. Senate Republicans emphasized that moving forward, lawmakers must push for balanced, common-sense budgets that emphasize planning for the future, and avoid the type of short-term thinking that leads to crisis-budgeting, which places important social service programs at risk, said Sen. Rezin.
Senate Bill 274 passed the Senate 57-1-0 and awaits further consideration in the House.
NRI Scandal - Never Again
In 2010, just weeks before re-election, former Gov. Pat Quinn unveiled a $55 million program supposedly aimed at curbing violence in Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods. But due to widespread mismanagement, a lack of oversight, and a rush to spend the money ahead of Election Day, the program served as little more than a political slush fund, catching the eye of multiple criminal investigations and a scathing state audit.
This week, Senate Republicans pushed legislation to prevent scandals like NRI from ever happening again. The reform measure, Senate Bill 1058, does the following:
· Bans the promotion of new state programs and grants in the two months ahead of an election – Gov. Quinn made 61 such announcements in the final two months of the 2014 election.
· Closes the accounting loophole that allowed Gov. Quinn to bypass the budget process and take $55 million for NRI, a practice slammed in the 2014 audit;
· Updates the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act with stricter oversight and new disclosures to root out conflicts of interest.
The NRI scandal was a low moment for Illinois, and another black eye on the state’s still-damaged reputation. But according to Sen. XXX, this bill can go a long way in improving public trust and ensuring that such a scandal can never happen again – an important step on the road to fiscal recovery.
IDOC Chief Stresses Reform to Reduce High Costs in State Prison System
Illinois has one of the most expensive state prison systems in the country, spending an estimated $38,268 per inmate per year. For years, Senate Republicans have sought reforms intended to reduce costs, improve safety and increase efficiency within the state’s correctional system—efforts the state’s new head of corrections says he intends to pursue.
In a memo to Gov. Rauner, Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) Acting Director Donald Stolworthy identified several cost contributors that he says must be addressed to improve efficiency and accountability within the $1 billion-plus agency. In response,Stolworthy indicated he plans to outline a long term “action plan” to influence positive change within the system.
Though security staffing levels are down in Illinois prisons—many say dangerously so—the Director indicated high personnel and overtime costs contribute significantly to DOC costs. Additionally, he said DOC is hurt by its failure to embrace time- and money-saving technologies. Stolworthy noted the Department is reliant on an outdated and inefficient system to track employee time and inventory, which he said “wastes staff hours and generates accountability issues.” He also pointed out unreasonable numbers of DOC personnel are required to simply open and close gates at some of the older facilities.
The Rauner Administration continues to stress the importance of long-term reforms in state government. The Governor’s budget proposal sought an additional $65 million in Fiscal Year 2016 funding to hire more prison guards in order to increase safety and reduce costly overtime expenses. This will be just one aspect of the final budget plan lawmakers will be negotiating in the coming weeks.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
“If you see something, say something” is the message of a videothat Senate Republicans are sharing this month in their communities and on social media to raise awareness about Illinois’ 30-year spike in reports of child abuse and neglect in Illinois.
Every child matters. Senate Republicans say all Illinoisans can help raise awareness about how to help a child who may be in danger. Those who suspect a child has been harmed or is at risk of abuse or neglect should call the state’s 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE.
More than 100,000 cases of child abuse and neglect are reported each year in Illinois. Research shows that one in 10 children will be sexually abused by the age of 18, and that only 10% of that abuse is perpetrated by a stranger.
With reports of abuse at an all-time high, Senate Republicans unanimously supported legislation (SB 3217) last year, charging the Illinois Children's Justice Task Forcewith the “exploration, research, and development of recommendations on a multidisciplinary team approach to child abuse or neglect investigations.” Recently, the Senate passed Senate Bill 721—requiring the Task Force to submit their recommendations to the General Assembly by January 2016.
IDOT Announces Listening Tour to Discuss Capital Projects
The Illinois Department of Transportation announced that it will be joining the Illinois Capital Development Board to host a series of listening sessions across the state in the coming weeks to discuss Illinois’ infrastructure needs as a way to help prioritize future capital projects.
The goal of the listening tour is to create a comprehensive package of capital project recommendations for the Rauner Administration to consider this spring. Meetings will be open to the public to engage residents, businesses and local leaders on identifying key infrastructure priorities in each community and region.
Gov. Rauner has called for a capital infrastructure program to finance improvements to the state’s transportation infrastructure system. Past capital programs have financed maintenance and upgrades of roads, bridges and transit systems, and direct funding to improvements to state facilities, like schools and state parks.
Future dates and locations will be updated regularly at www.idot.illinois.gov.
Senate Approves Sweet Corn as Illinois’ Official State Vegetable
Legislation proposed by local students and sponsored by two Senate Republicans to make sweet corn the official state vegetable of Illinois passed the Senate on April 23.
Senate Bill 800 was initially proposed by Jodi Acree’s 4th-grade class at Chatham Elementary School. Acree and the other Chatham 4th-grade teachers brought five classes of students to the Capitol to witness the bill’s unanimous passage.
“This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s not that often that you get to help make a law with your students,” said Acree. “This is real-life learning. No text book can teach what these kids are learning today.”
Legislation Approved by the Senate
Several interesting legislative measures passed out of the Senate this week before the April 24 deadline and have been sent to the House for further review.
New Business Website (SB 659):Requires the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to create and maintain a website to help anyone wishing to start a business in Illinois, or relocate a business in Illinois.
School Security Task Force (SB 1340): Extends the date by which the School Security and Standards Task Force must submit its report to the GA and Governor to January 1, 2016. This allows the task force to begin its work studying the security of Illinois schools and making recommendations to increase safety at school facilities.
School Suspensions (SB 100):Redefines what constitutes expulsion and suspension behavior. Requires written rationale from the school board if a student is expelled or suspended. Prohibits zero-tolerance policies unless otherwise required. Requires schools to limit the number and duration of expulsions and suspensions.Requires school district to provide educational services to students who are suspended from the school bus if they have no alternative transportation to school. Adds limitations on the use of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and disciplinary removals to alternative settings and requires provision of behavioral support services until successful return to regular school.
Child Care Employee Vaccination Requirement(SB 986): Mandates any child care facility that cares for children ages 6 and under to require child care employees to provide proof of two doses of the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine or provide proof of immunity. Also requires child care employees to also show proof having received the tetanus, diptheria and pertussis vaccine (Tdap).
Synthetic Drug Classification (SB 1129): Schedules entire structural classes of synthetic cannabis and bath salts versus simply scheduling individual and specific molecular structures which can be slightly altered to avoid being illegal. This bill represents a significant step towards addressing the prevailing approach to addressing synthetic drugs by scheduling them as they appear only to have a very similar but technically "legal" drug hit the streets before the law goes into effect.
Immunization Exemptions (SB 1410): Authorizes children to forego immunizations and other health exams if the parents object on religious grounds, however requires the parents to present to the school a signed Certificate of Religious Exemption detailing the grounds for objection, which sets forth specific religious beliefs that are conflicting to the immunizations, exams or tests. The local school authority is responsible for determining if the content constitutes a valid religious exemption in accordance with established DPH rules.
Narcan Distribution Act (SB 1466): Authorizes licensed pharmacists to dispense Narcan without a prescription as long as they follow written procedures developed by DPH, DHS and DFPR. These procedures must be filed at the pharmacist's place of practice and with the Board of Pharmacy before implementation. Requires a pharmacists to complete a training program before dispensing Narcan. The training program must be approved by DHS.
Obama Library (HB 373):Grants the corporate authorities of cities and park districts that are in control of any public park(s), adding parks located on formerly submerged land, to purchase, erect and maintain a park, adding presidential libraries, centers and museums.
Powdered Caffeine Ban (SB 9): Prohibits the sale or offering of powdered pure caffeine to persons under age 18 in Illinois. Sets forth penalties. Requires the Comprehensive Health Education Program to include information regarding the use of powdered pure caffeine.
Hepatitis C Therapy (SB 1465): Authorizes prior approval by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services for interferon-free Hepatitis C therapy as long as the recipient meets specific criteria. Changes the qualifications of a physician who is authorized to prescribe interferon-free therapy. Ensures that a written consultation report is submitted to the Department when a formal request for prior approval is made.