Latest News

Budget – FY17
·         Governor Rauner renews call for property tax freeze and term limits. Substantial segments of Illinois state spending are scheduled to run dry with the expiration of the so-called ‘stopgap” State budget that is covering the first half of FY17.  This period of time will end on December 31, 2016, and further State action will be required to keep those facets of State spending in operation.  However, meetings between Governor Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders, including House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, have not yet succeeded in achieving the level of agreement necessary for a budget bill to move forward.

Many Republicans believe that structural reforms are necessary in order to justify the investment of additional taxpayer money.  Governor Rauner has released a video on his Facebook page describing his call for legislative term limits and a freeze on Illinois property tax extensions.  Representative Mark Batinick introduced a property tax extension freeze bill in the Illinois House on Tuesday, December 1.
General Assembly – Veto Session
·         First week of veto session held in Springfield.  The Constitution of Illinois asks State lawmakers to spend two session periods of three days each in Springfield each fall.  The veto session weeks, which straddle Thanksgiving, give the General Assembly the opportunity to consider and approve or reject the total and amendatory vetoes signed by the Governor earlier in the summer. 

Action remains uncertain on some of the issues discussed this week, and both the House and the Senate final action on many of the measures considered in this first week of veto session will take place during the 2nd and final week of the session.  The General Assembly is discussing the stabilization of Illinois’ electrical generating infrastructure, workers’ compensation, legislative term limits, and many other issues.  The General Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday, November 29.
Budget – Unpaid Bills
·         State of Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills hovers above $9 billion.  As of Wednesday, October 26, the State was in possession of more than $9.1 billion in unpaid bills payable from general funds.  Unpaid obligations of the State of Illinois include money due to a wide variety of medical service and social service providers.  These are entities, most but not all of which are part of the private sector, which provide services to Illinois residents under state and federal laws (such as Medicaid) and have the right to be paid for them.

A wide variety of local government agencies are also hard hit by the State’s poor cash flow.  For example, Downstate public transportation districts offer van rides to persons who request transportation assistance, and often offer local bus services.  These local bus-and-van agencies cannot hope to cover their operating expenses from fare box collections, and depend on supplemental money from the State, which is currently not being paid.  Several Downstate transit systems have shut down operations due to the lack of state funding.  

Agriculture – Harvest Time
·         Illinois farmers have harvested more than three-quarters of corn, soybeans.  The bumper crop numbers were reported on Tuesday, October 25 by the National Agriculture Statistics Service.  Relatively dry conditions have made it possible for heavy farm equipment to repeatedly enter mature crop fields in most sections of Illinois.  Warm weather has further helped with harvest conditions. 

Damp fields affect some portions of the State. The Illinois Department of Agriculture reported at the start of this week that the corn harvest was 83% complete, compared to 91% last year, and the bean harvest was 76% done, compared to 77% for the 5-year average.  Large quantities of winter wheat are planted in some parts of Illinois, especially the southeastern counties.  This fall-sown crop had been 68% planted as of this week. 
State Government – Cutting the Red Tape Initiative
·         Governor Rauner issues executive order creating Illinois Competitiveness Council.  Governor Bruce Rauner has announced a comprehensive plan to promote economic growth and job creation by cutting the red tape in Illinois. He signed Executive Order 16-13 to review all agency rules and regulations by the newly-created Illinois Competitiveness Council.

“For years, Illinois has added layers and layers of burdensome rules and regulations to a never-ending bureaucracy,” Governor Rauner said. “It’s an endless line of red tape that creates a barrier for small businesses and entrepreneurs. By cutting the red tape, we are creating an environment where they can succeed.”

The Illinois Competitiveness Council will be comprised of a representative of each of Illinois’ regulatory state agencies. Its goal is to save Illinoisans at least $250 million in direct license fee costs over the next decade, and save Illinois taxpayers and business owners at least 4 million pages in paperwork. It will work to ensure current regulations are up to date and relevant to today’s industries and practices; ensure the language in rules are easy to understand; reduce the amount of unduly burdensome requirements on businesses, social service providers, and citizens through both time and cost; and ensure there is a clear need for the regulation.
Budget – Debt Refinancing
·         Underwriters agree to help refinance some Illinois debt.  The $600 million in variable-rate bonds that will be refinanced are stapled to a set of “crocodile” clauses.  Hidden under the dark water of the 2003 bonds’ contractual covenant are a series of punishment terms in which the State of Illinois promised to pay an enormous penalty ($150 million) should its credit standing fall below letter-of-credit level.  A consortium of four banks has agreed to refinance the debt under terms that will replace the letters of credit requirement that was stapled, by covenant, to the old debt.

The bonds that will be refinanced under this agreement were placed during the administration of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.  The agreement, which was announced on Wednesday, October 12, is not expected to lead to an upgrade of Illinois’ sub-par triple-B credit rating.  In addition, it is expected that the State of Illinois will have to pay fees to the refinancing banks in return for their replacement of the letters of credit.  The refinancing is expected to be completed on November 7.      
By Susan Sarkauskas
The Daily Herald

Tears come to the eyes of state Rep. Keith Wheeler when he talks about how as much as $200,000 is missing, presumably stolen, from the Kendall County Food Pantry.

But beyond the sadness, there's anger.

"They (charity thieves) are stealing from more than one person," Wheeler said.

Thieves reduce the aid that can be given to people and in a way also are stealing from people who give to charities, he said. And news of such fraud can discourage others from donations.

In August, the Oswego Republican filed legislation aimed at toughening the punishment for stealing from a charity. It would make nonprofit organizations special victims under the state's theft law, just like churches, schools and governments, and increase the severity of the charge.
Children – Teenage Concussions
·         Health care providers report sharp increase in official diagnoses of concussions among many Illinois teenagers.  The diagnosis count increased 83% from 2010 to 2015 among a large subset of Illinois children aged 10 to 19.  The subset is made up of those children and young adults that are members of households insured by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Illinois’ largest health care insurer.  Blue Cross reports that more than 8 million of the 12.9 million people of Illinois are covered by their firm.  The numbers reflect diagnostic codings reached by health care professionals, used by them as a basis for follow-up treatments of their patients, and submitted to Blue Cross for requested reimbursement.
 
It is not known to what extent, if any, concussions are growing in Illinois.  Health care providers have worked hard in recent years to improve their screening for this diagnosis when a patient is presented for treatment.  Many older Illinoisans will remember incidents, especially on a sports field, when a young person would have reported that he was “feeling woozy” and, instead of being diagnosed and treated by trained medical personnel, would have been urged to sit down until he felt better.    

The General Assembly has taken significant actions in recent years to treat teenage concussions, particularly in high school sports.  The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, passed in spring 2015, has led to a series of new guidelines from the Illinois High School Association.  A principle guideline mandates that school coaches and officials undergo both first-time training and, as a follow-up, continuing education in the field diagnosis of concussions and other acute medical conditions.  Additional guidelines set forth pathways and markers for an affected student, his or her family and caregivers, and his or her athletic trainers to follow in returning a person diagnosed with a concussion to possible future sports activity.