An email from Mike Tryon about the next-to-the-last week in Springfield:
Key legislation was debated and voted on last week in the General Assembly. Here is an update of some of the more noteworthy items:
Bill to Curb use of Special Prosecutors Heads to Governor
After receiving unanimous support in the Illinois House in March, legislation that would put strict guidelines in place for judges who wish to appoint special prosecutors to investigate elected officials gained unanimous Senate support last week.
I was a sponsor of this bill.
House Bill 4797 was filed in response to the excessive bills associated with an investigation of McHenry County States Attorney Lou Bianchi, who was eventually acquitted on all charges.
To date, the taxpayers of McHenry County have had to pay more than $525,000 in special prosecutor costs.
According to the bill, before a judge can appoint a special prosecutor, he/she must first exhaust all efforts to find a state’s attorney from
- another county or
- the Illinois Attorney General to do the work.
If it is determined that a special prosecutor must be hired, the bill includes language that gives county boards a voice in discussions regarding costs and the right to see itemized bills.
House Approves Massive Medicaid Reforms
Historic Medicaid reforms – a key component to fixing the State’s budget crisis, were also approved last week.
While difficult, I supported the reforms.
Without meaningful Medicaid reforms, Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills would grow to approximately $21 billion by 2017, a level of spending that is simply unsustainable.
The General Assembly’s action to cut nearly $1.6 billion from the State’s $11 billion Medicaid program will go far in helping get Illinois back on solid fiscal ground.
With passage of Senate Bill 2840, an estimated 300,000 individuals are expected to be removed from Illinois’ Medicaid rolls because they
- do not meet income eligibility guidelines,
- are not Illinois residents,
- have died, or
- have aged-out of the All Kids program.
This eligibility verification alone will save taxpayers $350 million.
The bill also provides for a moderate rate reduction for hospitals of 3.5% and exempts Critical Access and Safety Net Hospitals from the reduction.
In addition, Senate Bill 2840 will do the following:
- Roll back the Blagojevich expansion of Family Care by reducing the eligibility limit for parents to $30,000 for a family of four
- Impose a $10 co-pay for emergency room visits
- Require a $3.60 co-pay on all services and a $2 co-pay for generic medications
- Limit prescription coverage to four prescriptions per month without doctor certification of need or specialty drug/condition exception
- Eliminate funding for adult chiropractic services
Shortly after the House approval of SB 2840, the Senate also approved the bill. It awaits final action by the Governor. [For who voted how, see here. Democrat Jack Franks did not support the bill.]
Cigarette Tax Approved
Last week the House also voted to increase the cigarette tax in Illinois. Under current law, the State charges a tax on cigarettes that is equivalent to 98 cents per pack of 20.
Senate Bill 2194 would raise the cigarette tax to $1.98 per pack.
The additional revenue raised by this tax, an estimated $350 million per year, would garner a federal match, bringing in a total of $700 million for the State’s financially stretched Medicaid program.
SB 2194 also contains language intended to create a financial incentive for Illinois hospitals and hospital-affiliated health care facilities to provide charity health care to low-income and underserved Illinois residents.
SB 2194 was approved by the House by a vote of 60-52-0 and awaits action in the Senate.
I voted against this bill because I can not and will not support any additional taxes on the people of Illinois.
The key to getting Illinois’ finances in order involves making difficult decisions; not simply creating more revenue sources.
Gambling Expansion Approved
With many providers waiting months to be paid by the State, and painful cuts being imposed on Medicaid, many other State programs, and on the State’s own workforce, the House passed legislation this week for a new round of licenses to conduct gambling within a variety of Illinois venues.
Senate Bill 1849, as amended, would direct the State to award five additional licenses to operate riverboat casinos at specified locations throughout Illinois.
The bill would also authorize a Chicago casino and the operation of slot machines at Illinois racetracks.
SB 1849 would raise estimated gaming tax revenue of $200 million a year, with additional one-time revenues through the awarding of the additional gaming licenses.
The bill would also provide funding for many agricultural programs and the State Fairgrounds.
The House passed SB 1849 on Wednesday by a vote of 69-47-2; the bill is currently awaiting a concurrence vote in the Senate.
Governor Pat Quinn has indicated that he does not support the proposal.
I voted against the bill, and while I am not opposed to a MODEST expansion of gambling, I feel strongly that revenues from any expansion need to be earmarked, at least in part, toward a pension stabilization fund.
General Assembly Works Through the Weekend
The General Assembly worked through the weekend and is also in session today. As your Representative, I am committed to staying in Springfield as long as it takes to make the required decisions that will lead us to a balanced budget for fiscal year 2013. I will continue to update you as other important pieces of legislation move through the process.
Remember our Military Today on Memorial Day
Lastly, as you gather with friends and family to celebrate this Memorial Day, please keep in your heart the brave men and women who have served in uniform and given their lives in service to our country. All of these heroes are deserving of our utmost respect today, and every day.
Michael W. Tryon
State Representative, District 64