Senate Week in Review: October 21-25

The first week of the annual fall veto session ended with lawmakers quickly disposing of vetoed measures and then moving on to address other issues.

3D Mammography Traveling Coach visits the Capitol during Veto Session Week

On Wednesday, October 23, the Hologic 3D Mammography traveling coach was in Springfield to provide information on the newest form of early breast cancer detection.  Sen. Rezin visited the coach and learned from experts about the new technology and its benefits in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.  

Earlier this month, Sen. Rezin encouraged women to receive yearly breast cancer screenings and be proactive with their health all year round.  

“October is officially dedicated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but women need to be proactive year round with regular checkups and by educating themselves about the latest developments in the fight against breast cancer,” Sen. Rezin said.  “The new technology and early detection that is possible is encouraging and it should be taken advantage of.”

She is pictured with her colleague State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) inside the traveling coach, learning about the new 3D Mammography technology.  

No Vetoes Overridden

State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said that only three measures vetoed by the Governor were on the agenda at the start of the week – two in the House and one in the Senate. The sponsor of the vetoed Senate measure – which affected bidding rules at the Regional Transportation Authority and its operating agencies – elected not seek a vote on the veto.

In the House, a bill that reduced the number of free admission days at state supported museums failed to win the needed three-fifths vote to override the Governor’s veto and the third measure – which affected advisory questions that townships must place on election ballots –never received a vote.

Due to constitutional deadlines, all three proposals died at the end of the week.

Major Issues Remain

No progress was made on the state’s looming pension crisis – an issue that has stymied the Governor and legislators for years.  

At the Governor’s suggestion, the negotiations on pensions were kicked over to a special joint Senate-House conference committee in June. The committee has met throughout the summer and fall, trying to develop a compromise that can win bipartisan support in the legislature.

Youth Hunting, Mortgages, Puppies and More

While pensions and other major issues were the topics of behind-the-scenes discussions, committee and floor action in the legislature focused primarily on legislation addressing local concerns or incorporating fixes or changes to bills passed earlier.  

These included a new youth hunting permit, helping a Pekin-based corn processing plant, extending a home mortgage relief program and fixing problems with the state’s new “Puppy Lemon Law.”

Medicare Advantage Hearing

In addition, the bi-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, took testimony on the state’s new Medicare Advantage program that will impact retirees eligible for state health insurance. The move has become controversial because a large insurer, Health Alliance, was not included among the companies approved to offer the Medicare Advantage policies to retired public employees.

Lawmakers also sought more details about a planned audit of dependent care coverage that will require participants to provide new documentation proving that those receiving coverage under state insurance programs are eligible.

Education Mandate Waiver Requests

Finally, the Senate reviewed mandate waivers sent to it by the State Board of Education. Under state law, school districts may petition the State Board of Education to waive or modify certain mandated requirements. If the State Board denies the waiver, it can be appealed to the General Assembly, which can overrule the State Board.

This year the State Board recommended denial of a physical education waiver request for O’Fallon School District 90. This denial was upheld by the Senate.

Another requested waiver was for non-resident tuition for newly combined Abingdon – Avon School District 276. The issue arose as a result of the consolidation, which left the district unable to waive non-resident tuition for students whose parents work within the newly consolidated school district. The Senate approved that waiver request.

Senate Approves Nine Measures

In Senate floor action, nine measures were passed Oct. 23, with eight moving to the Illinois House for review by that body. One measure had already been approved by the House and will now go to the Governor.  That measure, SB 1689, is needed to implement the reduction and consolidation of the state’s various Regional Offices of Education.

Bills passed by the Senate and sent to the House include:

Ambulance Reimbursement (SB 636): Extends the time period, from 20 days to 90 days, for ambulance service providers to file a Medical Certification and Physician Order for non-emergency Ambulances (MCA form) to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) for reimbursement of services.  

Hospital Dissolution (SB 496): As amended, the bill dissolves the Wood River Township Hospital.  The hospital closed in 2000 because of financial problems.  The hospital was funded by property taxes. After its closing the entity still had approximately $8 million remaining.  Under the legislation, any monies leftover after the dissolution are to be distributed to the property owners in Wood River Township. There was some controversy attached to the measure, because the Democrat sponsor of the legislation gave the County Clerk (a fellow Democrat) the authority to give the money back to taxpayers, when the duties would ordinarily have belonged to the County Treasurer, who is a Republican.

Land Transfer (SB 116): Designed to allow land the state sold to the City of Chicago for $1 in 2000 to be transferred instead to the New Horizons Center for the Developmentally Disabled.

Natural Gas Utilities (SB 635): This will prevent Illinois Corn Processing in Pekin from being regulated as a utility company. The company, which uses large amounts of natural gas in the processing of corn into ethanol, missed a deadline to file a declaration with the state that they are not a gas utility.

Puppy Lemon Law Change (SB 633): This is a follow up bill to SB 1639/PA 98-0509, also known as the Puppy Lemon Law, which requires a pet shop to inform pet owners and the Illinois Department of Agriculture of any potential diseases if there is a breakout in the pet shop. The law has a lemon provision, in which a customer may receive monetary compensation if a veterinarian finds that a dog or cat was sold having a disease.  This would assure that any reimbursement of veterinary fees cannot exceed the purchase price of the dog or cat.  

Prostitution Reduced Penalty Trailer (SB 1007): This is a trailer bill to SB 1872, which eliminated felony penalty enhancements for prostitution and allowed a county to establish a special mental health court program for defendants charged with prostitution. The legislation clarifies that all defendants admitted to the mental health court program are eligible to participate in specialized service programs.

Sunset Extension (SB 1045): Extends the state’s Making Home Affordable program for two years (from Jan. 1, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2016). This program was designed to aid eligible homeowners facing foreclosure by lowering their monthly mortgage payments to a more manageable level.

Youth Hunting Licensure (SB 853): This bill will allow those under the age of 16 to hunt with a youth hunting license, as long as they are accompanied by a parent, grandparent, or guardian over the age of 21.

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