Springfield, IL. – While Senate Republican lawmakers are looking to build bipartisan momentum toward a future budget and reform package, that spirit of cooperation did not extend to pension reform measures that failed to advance out of a Senate Committee this week.
However, the Senate did unanimously come together in support of a proposal to lift the statute of limitations for certain sex abuse crimes against a minor, and legislators on the Senate Public Health Committee approved a proposal to make life-saving epinephrine more accessible.
Also this week, lawmakers from both chambers welcomed FFA students from across the state to the Capitol on March 30 as part of the 47th Annual Illinois Agricultural Legislative Day.
Senate Republicans urge action on budget, pension proposals
During the week, a fiscal plan was introduced representing a package of seven bills that offer a full and balanced Fiscal Year 2018 budget that aims to protect the state’s highest priority programs, rein in spending, and eliminate two-thirds of the state’s backlog of unpaid bills.
The plan proposes selling revenue bonds totaling $6 billion to tackle the state’s backlog of unpaid bills – saving the state millions of dollars in late-payment interest costs. The package also includes a hard-spending cap of roughly $36 billion in general funds. Furthermore, the balanced budget proposal calls for a 1:1 ratio when it comes to spending cuts and revenue enhancements. For example, if lawmakers want to increase revenues by $1, they need to also look to cut spending by $1.
The budget plan provides full funding for the school-aid formula, and holds MAP grants for college students at their current level. It incorporates many of the budget-balancing measures proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in his February budget address, including $1.3 billion in pension reform savings, selling the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago, and restructuring the state employee group health insurance program. Additionally, the proposed budget includes new across-the-board cuts totaling nearly $800 million.
While the budget plan seeks to build on the Senate’s recent efforts to negotiate a budget buoyed by critical structural reforms, unfortunately that spirit of bipartisanship was not extended to reforming the state’s pension system.
On March 29, Senate Democrats ensured two pension reform measures introduced by Senate Republican lawmakers failed to advance out of a Senate committee.
In recent weeks, the Governor and a number of House lawmakers pledged their support for the Senate proposals heard by the Senate Executive Committee this week. Supporters of Senate Bill 2172 and Senate Bill 2173 underscored there is nothing preventing Senate lawmakers from moving forward on areas where there is agreement—such as pension reform. They emphasized the building support for the proposals should be seen as a positive development and a significant platform upon which consensus on other critical issues could be built.
The measures reflected the language and intent of previous pension reform legislation agreed to by both Republican and Democrat legislators last summer. The package incorporates pension reform concepts that have been supported by both Gov. Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton.
However, the proposals were held in committee by Democrat legislators, despite urging from proponents who stressed positive action on the measures provided an opportunity to form the foundation for positive budget negotiations moving forward.
Senate seeks to protect abuse victims
Seeking to give victims of child abuse additional time to report the crime, the Senate advanced legislation March 29 that would eliminate the statute of limitations on certain sexual abuse crimes against a minor.
Senate Bill 189 was approved by the Senate unanimously, and proponents say the bill will help prevent child predators from escaping justice. Frequently, victims of child sexual crimes require years to come to terms with the abuse. If signed into law, the measure would enable greater numbers of individuals who had been victimized as children to come forward. Advocates also noted that eliminating the statute of limitations will encourage state’s attorneys to investigate old claims, even if they decide not to bring charges against the accused.
The proposal eliminates the statute of limitations on the prosecution of child sex crimes in cases where the victim is younger than 18 at the time of the offense, to allow for prosecutions of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, or felony criminal sexual abuse.
Senate Bill 189 removes a current requirement that corroborating physical evidence be available, or that an individual who was required to report an alleged or suspected commission of any of these offenses under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act failed to do so.
Currently, under Illinois law, in child sex cases where corroborating physical evidence is available, or if an individual who was required to report the alleged or suspected commission of any of these offenses under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act failed to do so, a prosecution can take place at any time.
However, if those circumstances aren’t met, and the victim is younger than 18 at the time of the offense, a prosecution for criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, or felony criminal sexual abuse, or a prosecution for failure of a person who is required to report an alleged or suspected commission of any of these offenses under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, may be commenced within 20 years after the child victim attains 18 years of age (before the victim’s 38th birthday). When the victim is younger than 18 at the time of the offense and the prosecution is for misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse, the prosecution must be commenced within 10 years after the victim becomes 18.
Legislation advanced to ease epinephrine costs
As a response to the high costs of epinephrine auto-injectors, a Senate Public Health Committee advanced Senate Bill 2038 to allow authorized, trained entities to administer less-costly epinephrine from a glass vial, ampule or pre-filled syringe.
The proposal seeks to make life-saving epinephrine more available in cases of deadly allergic reactions by making it less cost-prohibitive for schools and universities, companies, restaurants, etc. to keep the medication on hand.
It is estimated that allowing entities to obtain an epinephrine prescription from a health-care practitioner in these less expensive forms could save hundreds and even thousands of dollars every year. Epinephrine auto-injectors can range from $300 to $2000 for a pack of two, while in contrast a glass vial of epinephrine from a pharmacy costs approximately $10 to $50.
Lawmakers celebrate 47th annual Illinois Agricultural Legislative Day at the Capitol
In honor of the 47th annual Illinois Agricultural Legislative Day (IALD), farm and agricultural organizations and interest groups were invited to join lawmakers in the Capitol on March 30. The day-long event, organized by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, offers the groups the opportunity to speak with their local legislators about industry-related issues, as well as educate them about their own agri-business and role in the community.
This year’s event began with an exclusive working breakfast for the participating organizations and friends of the agriculture community, followed by a roundtable briefing with the majority and minority leaders of the Agriculture and Conservation Committee and the Illinois Farm Bureau. Throughout the day, time was set aside for organizations to sit down with their local legislators to discuss Illinois agricultural priorities and legislation for the coming year.
In preparation of the event, each organization was encouraged to put together a packed lunch for their legislators, along with a basket of agricultural products that embody Illinois’ agricultural diversity. Members of Illinois’ FFA organizations and vocational teachers volunteered their services to deliver the lunches to the legislators.
Capping off National Agriculture Month, the annual event drew over 50 participating organizations. To view the IALD Directory or update your organization’s listing, go to https://www.agr.state.il.us/marketing/IALD/directory/.
Agriculture is Illinois’ number one industry, with ag and food production representing 10 percent of the state’s economy. Illinois has more than 74,000 farms located in three quarters of the state, and supporting the growth of agribusiness remains a top priority throughout Illinois.