Rep. Wheeler's Weekly Roundup: July 13

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

·        Patti Bellock named DHFS director.  Gov. Rauner announced last week that Patricia R. “Patti” Bellock has been named director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS). Bellock has served in the General Assembly since 1999 and is recognized as one of the body’s leading advocates for Medicaid, health care and social services, areas she will oversee in her new role.

“Illinois is so fortunate to have an advocate for health and human services as dedicated and talented as Patti Bellock,” said Rauner in announcing the appointment. “She has been instrumental in virtually every health advancement our state has made in the last two decades and I am looking forward to her leadership of the state’s ongoing effort to reform our delivery systems and improve our outcomes.”

Bellock is retiring from the House of Representatives where she became the first woman to serve as Deputy Minority Leader in 2013. She replaces interim DHFS Director Teresa Hursey who stepped in last month when Felicia Norwood left for the private sector. Hursey will remain as Medicaid Director.

Bellock helped to shepherd the recent approval of Better Care Illinois, the state’s landmark 1115 Medicaid waiver approved earlier this year for 10 pilot programs in mental health and substance abuse.

She is known for her bipartisan, collaborative style as a member of two other Medicaid-related groups moving legislation forward to approve the Hospital Assessment and the Omnibus Medicaid bill. She has effectively co-led efforts in the General Assembly in recent years to move Illinois toward managed care. Her extensive work on Medicaid reform in Illinois has been recognized by the Wall Street Journal.

“It is an honor to join the talented and dedicated staff of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services,” Bellock said. “I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly to ensure access to quality health care for Illinois’ most vulnerable population and making our health care delivery systems more efficient and effective.”

Bellock’s distinguished 20-year legislative career had a decided emphasis on health and human services. She was the Minority spokesperson on both the House Human Services Committee and the Human Services – Appropriations Committee. She has also served on committees with three different national organizations working on health care legislation and public policy issues throughout the United States.

Bellock’s signature achievement in the General Assembly was the landmark Save Medicaid Access and Resources Together (SMART) Act reforms of 2012. She served as Chairperson of the Medicaid Reform, Family & Children Committee from 2009-2011 under Speaker Madigan; the group which started the work on improving Illinois’ Medicaid program that culminated with passage of comprehensive reforms in 2012.

Bellock was Chief Co-Sponsor of a 2007 law to protect the health of people in hospitals, nursing homes and mental health facilities against infection by requiring the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to create rules to reduce rates of multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs), and other “super bugs.”

The law requires healthcare facilities regulated or licensed by the state, as well as mental health and developmentally disabled facilities overseen by the state to perform annual facility-wide infection control risk assessments; develop infection control policies for Multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO’s); enforce hand hygiene and contact precaution requirements and incorporate any updated MDRO prevention and control recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A native of River Forest, Bellock graduated from Saint Norbert College in Wisconsin, where she received a bachelor’s degree in History and American Government.  She has received dozens of awards over the years from numerous organizations for her work on various health care policy issues, particularly in the areas of mental health, developmental disabilities, and children’s health.

The appointment is effective July 11, 2018.

·        Rep. Bourne chosen for ISBE’s Review Panel.  State Representative Avery Bourne was recently named the newest member of ISBE’s (Illinois State Board of Education) Evidence-Based Funding Professional Review Panel. The panel was created with the new school funding formula to annually review data, proposed changes, and the overall implementation of the formula. It is made up of practitioners, experts, legislative leaders, and advocates.

Rep. Bourne stated, “It is an honor to be chosen for the ISBE Panel and I look forward to working with these professionals to make our school funding formula work. School children statewide now have a brighter future because of school funding reform. The work of this panel will make sure the school funding reform is dynamic and continues to provide the best outcomes for students statewide. After our important work to pass school funding reform, now the hard work of implementing it begins.”
Read more.

BUDGET
·        CGFA report shows relatively strong FY18 budget numbers.  The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the nonpartisan budget accounting arm of the General Assembly, tracked State tax and other receipts throughout FY18, the fiscal management period that ended on June 30, 2018.  The monthly report for June 2018 contains final CGFA numbers for the year.  General funds receipts totaled almost $42.5 billion for the twelve-month period. 

Well more than half of the receipts were derived from personal income tax receipts ($20.8 billion) and federal reimbursements through Medicaid and other programs.  Illinois has to raise and spend Medicaid money in order to get matching funds from the federal government.  $5.2 billion in federal matching funds and other federal funds were included in Illinois general funds accounts in FY18.

Illinois’ FY18 sales tax revenues of more than $8.2 billion could be augmented in FY19 by a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.  In the June 2018 decision cited as South Dakota v. Wayfair, the federal high court upheld the rights of the states to work with interstate retailers (such as firms that sell goods over the Internet) to enforce the collection of sales taxes that are being sent to an end-user in that state.  The State’s FY19 balanced budget includes a projected $150 million annual cash infusion from sales taxes that will be charged on goods sold to Illinois residents.  As an increasing percentage of consumers buy goods online, CGFA staff believes this could be a conservative estimate.      

DOWNSTATE
·        Peach season begins.  The second week of July marks the beginning of the Illinois peach season.  Fruit is grown and sold at farmer’s markets and other locations throughout the State.  The tree fruit’s susceptibility to bruises means that quality peaches are often sold and eaten close to where they are grown.  The Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass published a tribute to Illinois peaches on Wednesday, July 11.  The tribute centered on Calhoun County in southwestern Illinois. 

ECONOMY
·        Illinois employment data generates statistical analysis of State’s economy.  The “2018 Illinois Economic Report” was published by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) on Monday, July 2.  As part of its overall responsibilities as administrator of Illinois’ system of unemployment insurance, the Department is constantly collecting job-related information and insurance contributions from Illinois employers.  This database can be used to generate a statistical picture of Illinois’ current economic status and near-term future prospects.

Illinois is currently close to so-called ‘full employment,” with statewide unemployment having dropped to 4.3% in May 2018, the most recent month for which Illinois has statistical numbers.  Unemployment numbers for June 2018 should become available on Thursday, July 19.  However, new jobs are not being created in Illinois with the same energy as is being posted in other states.  The “2018 Illinois Economic Report” used job numbers compiled by IDES to look at the ten major geographic regions of Illinois, and at specific economic and employment categories within each geographic region, with the goal of enumerating areas of Illinois strength and weakness.

The IDES numbers indicate that Illinois’ region of greatest economic strength continues to be the production of jobs in the Chicago area.  Within the Chicago area, job creation is concentrated within economic sectors oriented towards high-level educational skill sets and specific professional credentials.  The nine Illinois regions that collectively make up Downstate Illinois are not creating as many jobs and the overall economic picture within these less urbanized regions is not oriented towards the sort of highly professionalized job creation environment that is characteristic of many sub-regions within the Chicago area.

The Economic Report has compiled a wide variety of statistics that closely align with the overall economic status of Illinois households as a population.  Labor force participation, wages, employment categories, possession or absence of health insurance, income below poverty level, and eligibility for/participation in the food stamp/SNAP nutritional assistance program are all tracked.   

HIGHER EDUCATION
·        Carbondale Faculty Senate urges removal of SIU president.   The Faculty Senate, which represents teaching and educational personnel at the flagship university within the Southern Illinois University (SIU) system, expressed concerns this week at the continuation in office of current SIU President Randy Dunn.  The resolution calling for Dunn’s removal from office was approved by a vote of 25-1.  The vote occurred on Tuesday, July 10.

The resolution and vote followed revelations that President Dunn had developed a collaborative relationship with leading administrators at another SIU University campus, located in Edwardsville.  Evidence has been published that this collaboration included secret moves to siphon operating resources away from Carbondale and to Edwardsville.  The revelations have sharply divided the two campuses.  The SIU Board of Trustees has discussed placing President Dunn on administrative leave.

The Carbondale Faculty Senate vote followed calls by Representative Terri Bryant for President Dunn to resign or be removed from his position.  On May 17, Rep. Bryant became the first sitting legislator to publicly call for Dunn’s resignation.  As the state representative for much of the Carbondale-Murphysboro area, Rep. Bryant has been outspoken in her support of SIU’s historic headquarters campus and its 14,000 students.         

SPECIAL OLYMPICS
·        Born in Illinois, Special Olympics celebrates 50th anniversary.  The festival of celebration and support for challenged athletes traces its origins to games held in Soldier Field half a century ago in July 1968.  The Special Olympics now offers programs in more than 30 sports, and its meets invite participants from 172 countries and territories.  An estimated 5 million athletes have participated in Special Olympics events worldwide and the headcount grows every year.  

Soldier Field in 1968 was a Roman-style athletic coliseum, an exciting place for the first Special Olympic athletes and their families.  An Olympic-style torch, built for the Pan American Games in 1959, rose at one end of the arena.  From 1962 through 1967, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver held a series of athletic day camps for eligible participants, starting in her back yard near Washington, D.C.  Work by Chicago Park District chief William McFetridge, in cooperation with Shriver, were key elements in helping the Special Olympics take this major organizational step upward.  The 1968 games were held in a high-status location to show respect for all of the participants and their achievements.   

ILLINOIS BICENTENNIAL
·        Governor’s Mansion reopens to public.  The historic Governor’s Mansion in Springfield, major portions of which date back to 1855, has been under complete building renovation since 2016.  After two years of work funded entirely by private-sector donations, the Mansion will reopen for public tours on Saturday, July 14.  Visitors will have the opportunity to see the historic architecture of a building visited by future President Abraham Lincoln, then a leading Springfield lawyer, and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln.  Exhibits in the Executive Mansion will celebrate Illinois art and history.

When the Governor’s Mansion was built in 1855, Illinois had been a state for only thirty-seven years.  Construction of the Mansion reflected the boom conditions of the 1850s, marked by rising prices enjoyed by Illinois farmers who were able to ship their crops on the state’s fast-growing network of steam railroads.  Gov. Joel Matteson, the Mansion’s first resident, was himself a railroad executive.  Now that Illinois is celebrating its Bicentennial, the Governor’s Mansion is itself well more than 150 years old.  It is now one of the three oldest continuously occupied governor’s mansions in the United States.               

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