The McDermed Dispatch for September 29th

The House was in session last week, but little movement was made on the substantial issues. Speaker Madigan informed the chamber that the next session dates will be October 20th and November 10th.

In Memoriam
         State Representative Esther Golar passed away last Monday. Many members shared fond memories of her on the House floor while we were in session on Thursday. She was praised for being passionate, kind, and for continuing to attend session despite her declining health. The House adopted HR 785 as a memorial resolution and expression of mourning for her death.

Lincoln Way
        Last night I had a townhall to listen to the concerns of many parents about the management of the Lincoln Way School District and the closing of Lincoln Way North. As I’ve said before, the power to open/close a school and to budget for the district belongs exclusively to school boards and the state has little, if any, say in the matter. Still, I’m happy we had this forum to discuss what happened, school board oversight, and what I as a state legislator might be able to propose to prevent future situations like this moving forward.

Early Intervention
          Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that DHS and her office, concerned about early intervention programs slipping through the cracks without a budget in place, determined that Early Intervention services were covered by recent judicial consent decrees and immediately began setting up the processes for making payments to providers. As I’ve mentioned before, significant portions of the state spending is being doled out despite the state not having a formal budget in place. However, Early Intervention providers, who work on development strategies with disabled infants and toddlers, were the latest group in a growing list of organizations to be penalized by the ramifications of the budget impasse that were not yet covered.

Beagle Bill
          I filed a bill last week, HB 4297, which would create the Research Dogs and Cats Adoption Act. It would require state funded higher education institutions or research facilities associated with state higher education institutions to offer dogs and cats used in their research efforts to animal rescue organizations for adoption before considering euthanasia. Similar bills in other states have been known as the ‘Beagle Freedom Bill’ because Beagles are commonly used research dogs. A good friend of mine has one of these rescue Beagles and she encouraged me to take up this cause.

Final Pizza Townhall
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          I’ve enjoyed speaking with many constituents over the last few weeks about the issues in Springfield and in the district. If you haven’t been able to make one yet, please consider joining me this Sunday, October 4th at 6pm in New Lenox for my final pizza townhall. We will be at Chicago Dough Company at 1080 E Lincoln Hwy.

Budget Still at an Impasse
          The House session last week did not show any signs of progress on the budget. Negotiations and reasonable bills to grow the state, reform bills, gaming bills, or bills to apply new fees and taxes aren’t getting any traction. Only bills to increase spending beyond anticipated revenue receive committee hearings and floor debate. On Thursday, Democrats on the House Executive Committee passed a $3.8 billion spending bill, SB2046, without specifying a funding source for the money to pay for it. The full House did not take up SB 2046 for debate last week, and did not discuss an overall spending plan or budget agreement. Instead there was another Committee of the Whole to discuss the need for mental health programs and police training.
          The House is not in session again until October 20th and conversations between our state leaders have stopped. We need to break the deadlock and the best way to do so is to contact legislative leaders who decide the calendar and the governor. I recently wrote a letter to the editor encouraging citizens to speak up; you can read it here.

PARCC
         The 2014-15 school year was the first school year of attempted full implementation of the PARCC testing system throughout Illinois, a test that utilizes the Common Core standards. Last week, State Superintendent, Tony Smith, released some figures on the results, many of which are “raw numbers” at this point that have not yet been sorted by individual school or rebalanced for social and demographic weighting factors. The numbers released also did not include tests taken by pen and paper, which was about 25% of test takers. The preliminary results show less than 4 in 10 Illinois students met or exceeded grade level expectations in Math and English.

State Employee Health Insurance
          CMS recently announced that without a budget, they lack the appropriations and legal authority to make payments to providers of state employee health insurance. The issue has just now come to a head because CMS was still paying claims from the last fiscal year. The first group of health insurance plans to be affected are self-insured plans often utilized by retirees. CMS stated that while health care payments for workers, retirees, and their families would be paid as long as possible, stoppage of payments would presumably cause a significant percentage of health care professionals to ask for alternate pathways of compensation, including asking employees to pay cash upfront for their healthcare.

Senior Fair
         On October 15th I will be holding a senior fair from 10am-Noon. Local and state senior service providers will be on hand to share tips, information, and services. The expo will be in the Mokena Park District at The Oaks, 10925 W. La Porte Rd in Mokena.