The McDermed Dispatch for November 16th

It was a busy week down in Springfield last week for session. The House is next in session on December 2nd and the Senate is not scheduled to meet again this year. 

House Action
        The House had several important votes take place. As part of the emergency measures put in place when the fiscal year began without a budget, the governor set new rules for the state childcare program. This past week, through bipartisan compromise, Governor Rauner agreed to reverse or review the majority of those changes. Additionally, the governor’s office said that it will establish a bipartisan, bicameral task force aimed at ensuring the long-term stability of the program. House Democrats still ran an override vote on Senate Bill 570, a bill which would have reversed the governor’s changes completely and stripped the Governor of the ability to act in a fiscal emergency to preserve funding for the program. The bill failed to reach the necessary super majority needed to override a veto.
         Another bipartisan agreement had been reached before the House met with regards to House Bill 2482 and the DON score. The Rauner administration recently withdrew its plans to raise the DON score, which requires federal approval. Illinois is the last state to still use the DON score as a method of determining whether someone qualifies for services through state home or community care, but we are in the process of transferring to an updated assessment tool. HB2482 would have locked in to statute a DON score of 29 and a provision that would allow qualifying individuals to be eligible for both institutional and home and community-based long term care services, thus driving up costs and eliminating the possibility for cost efficiency. In his amendatory veto, the governor changed an “and” to an “or”, which meant that qualified program recipients could receive either community or institution based care, but not both. Despite having reached a bipartisan compromise on the DON score and acceptance of his amendatory veto from related state programs and groups, Speaker Madigan scheduled a vote to override the governor. The amendatory veto override, like that of SB570, failed to gain the necessary votes. The bills pushed ahead by the speaker, even though compromise was reached would have stripped the governor’s office of flexibility in administering state programs.
       The House also voted on a bill to transfer funding from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund to cities and townships, which goes towards things like 911 center services and local road projects. Also included in the bill was appropriations to award money to award lottery winners. This is not general revenue fund money, but it has still been affected by the budget impasse because the state lacks the authority to appropriate the money. The Governor indicated he is ready to sign it once it reaches his desk and the House overwhelmingly voted in support of the bill. Unfortunately, municipalities and lottery winners are unlikely to see this money any time soon as the Senate must be in session 3 days before it can vote on the bill and the chamber is not scheduled to meet again until after the new year. House Republicans called for consideration of an amended Senate bill version of the contents of HB 4305, which would have expedited final approval on November 10th, but a vote on HB 4305 was pushed ahead nonetheless. After the vote, Speaker Madigan placed a parliamentary hold on the bill, meaning that the bill cannot even be taken up by the Senate the next time they are in town.

Agreement Reached on Unemployment Insurance
        A deal was reached last week with business groups and labor organizations to reform and improve Illinois’ unemployment insurance system. By reaching a deal, the groups avoid a massive ramp in unemployment insurance costs employers have to pay and a decrease in benefits to the unemployed. The agreement tightens up the law so people who get fired for certain just causes won’t get benefits. Workers benefit from the deal by allowing those who are laid off, but also eligible for Social Security to collect full benefits under both programs. Illinois is currently one of only two states to subtract 50 percent of what a worker receives for Social Security from the potential unemployment benefit. The negotiated bill was placed in a House floor amendment to Senate Bill 1941, which moved forward last Tuesday, but was not called for a vote.

Leadership Meeting Rescheduled
        Thanks to the efforts of some good government groups, Governor Rauner and the legislative leaders were scheduled to meet on November 18th. On Friday, Governor Rauner postponed the meeting until December 1st after Speaker Madigan said he needed to be out of town for a funeral then. You can read my recent letter to the editor about it here.

Looking Ahead
        As we look ahead to the start of the new year, legislators will be back in regular session starting in January. While the focus still remains on the budget, I intend to introduce new ideas and initiatives. I have worked to bring good government and cost-saving bills to the House Floor. Unfortunately, not all have made it. I hear a lot of good ideas while out and about in the district, but I’d like to hear more. I want to know your ideas to save the state money or help fix our state government. Maybe there is some local issue that has been bothering you and a state law might be helpful to other local areas around the state. Maybe you know of unnecessary redundancies in government rules. Whatever your ideas are, I’d like to hear them. Go to my website, click on the lightbulb, and submit your thoughts.  

Thanksgiving
       As we approach a “day of thanksgiving” next week, I encourage you to take time to count your blessings and give thanks. I am thankful that I have the ability to share the fixings for a thanksgiving dinner with those in need. There are many food pantries, churches, non-profits, and other organizations preparing meals for the hungry and help for the hopeless. Remember them and if you can, please share in this season of giving.