If you are following the news at all you know that this current veto session in Springfield is probably one of the most important in our state’s history. Legislation involving income taxes, Medicaid reform and whether or not to abolish the state’s death penalty are just a few of the “hot button” issues that are being debated in the General Assembly.
At the end of this veto session I will send you an update about which bills passed and which did not.
Please know that as pressure is put on lawmakers to raise the state’s income tax I will stand firm in my belief that this is the worst possible time to raise taxes on the people of Illinois.
I will not support any measure that increases the personal income tax to either 5.25% or 5.5% and increases the corporate income tax to 10.9%.
I am very happy to report that the House has approved sweeping reforms to Medicaid that will save $800 million for this costly program. I served on the special Medicaid Reforms committee and I believe the results of our work will go far in controlling state spending.
Medicaid is one of the fastest growing segments of Illinois’ budget and unfortunately it is a system that is often abused. The bill that now awaits the Governor’s signature puts more stringent eligibility requirements in place and imposes a two year moratorium on eligibility and program expansions.
A key component of the reforms is that now income and Illinois residency will be verified for all applicants. The new law also allows for data sharing between state agencies for electronic eligibility verification.
The bill also ends the practice of automatic renewal of eligibility for the program.
In the past re-enrollment forms were automatically sent out to Medicaid users and it was assumed that individuals were still eligible. Moving forward there will be no assumption that all users will re-qualify each year.
The bill also reigns in runaway spending associated with the All Kids Insurance Program by capping eligibility requirements at 300 percent of the federal poverty level. When the All Kids program was implemented by Governor Blagojevich in 2005 there was no income cap tied to the program and benefits were also offered to undocumented residents. The All Kids reforms will significantly reduce fraud and help ensure that resources are directed only to those families truly in need.
Other components of the bill include a more holistic approach to caring for Medicaid patients by moving more into managed and integrated care programs, and a new provision which allows for a $2,000 civil penalty for each fraudulent claim that is made for benefits or payments.
Looking ahead, the 97th Illinois General Assembly will be sworn into office on Wednesday, January 12.
One key proposal being brought forth by House Republicans is common-sense procedural reforms to the rules for bringing bills forward to the floor of the House of Representatives for consideration.
We live in a democracy and as such Illinois residents deserve to have a voice in their state government. Unfortunately, often times that is not the case. Today in Illinois we are subject to a “power of one” form of government.
In November of 2010 the people of Illinois elected the 118 members of the Illinois House of Representatives. Each of the 118 was elected to represent the will of approximately 100,000 constituents from their home district.
But for 26 of the last 28 years in Illinois, one man- and his set of rules- has governed the Illinois House; circumventing our democracy and placing the power over all legislation into the hands of one man- the Speaker of the House.
The public has a right to expect that their ideas and concerns, brought forward in Springfield by their elected representatives, will receive fair consideration on the House floor.
However, many times good legislation is blocked from ever receiving consideration by the 118 members of the House.
Today, moving a bill to the House floor for consideration requires a unanimous vote of the Rules Committee. In other words, 117 of the 118 State Representatives can be in favor of bringing a bill to the floor for immediate consideration and discussion, but if the “one” objects, the bill can be blocked.
Is that democracy?
Is that representation of the people by the people?
The following procedural reforms are being proposed so that Illinois can begin to change back into a true democracy where Illinoisans will have a legitimate voice in their state government:
- Guaranteed consideration of any bill supported by 71 members of the House of Representatives rather than the requirement of unanimous approval of the Rules Committee
- Advanced Notice of Hearings of the Rules Committee as well as Notice of the legislation they intend to discuss (currently deliberations are often secretive, held with little or no notice and in small rooms that do not accommodate non-committee members)
- A Mandatory Public Review Period Prior to Committee Action on Amendments to Bills
- Specific, line-item spending for state programs so people know how much money is being spent and on what
- Regular reviews of state programs to ensure efficiency and effectiveness A Mandatory Public Review Period before Passage of any Budget Bill
- Decreasing the number of House Committees by half, from 60 to 30
These procedural rules changes bring common sense to a currently flawed process. If approved, they will go far in increasing transparency, reestablishing a democracy in Illinois and in preventing a situation where one man has the power to stop any piece of legislation that he feels does not further is own personal agenda.
As always, do not hesitate to call or email me if you have additional questions on these or other new laws. I can be reached at (815) 459-6453 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael W. Tryon, State Representative, District 64