* The post Emil Jones era has begun. There was quite a bit of legislative progress yesterday on some long-stalled legislation…
Insurance companies would be required to cover autism diagnosis and treatment up to $36,000 a year under legislation sent to the governor Thursday.
The action marks a victory for advocates who say early intervention and therapy is key to helping children with autism gain communication and social skills.
Under the proposal, which Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office said he plans to sign, insurance companies would be required to cover treatment until a patient turns 21. About 4,500 families across the state will qualify for coverage.
Immigrant-rights advocates scored a long-fought victory today when the House and the Senate unanimously approved the Access to Religious Ministry Act, which grants undocumented detainees the right to religious counsel. […]
Some of the state’s most cash-strapped hospitals could be in for a little relief. Both chambers agreed to transfer $40 million from the Tobacco Settlement Recovery Fund to free up money for hospitals that are in “catastrophic” financial shape. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will administer the one-time relief payments. […]
For years, lawmakers have been trying to win support for a coal gasification plant in Taylorville. By signing off on SB197 today, the legislature agreed to back a pricey feasibility study on the power plant (estimated at $10-$18 million), which will eventually go before the General Assembly as they decide whether to move forward with the project.
* Still more…
The House and Senate approved a plan to skim 3 percent of revenues off the four richest casinos and divert that money to racing — a subsidy worth at least $30 million annually for the next three years.
* The mood was definitely upbeat all day in the wake of the election of two new Senate leaders…
The mood in the Capitol Thursday felt lighter. People smiled, mingled, debated some serious legislation and congratulated each other. Perhaps the most touching moment came when Watson returned to the chamber floor for the first time since experiencing a stroke last month. Shortly after the stroke, he announced he would not seek re-election as minority leader but would continue to serve as a senator. […]
“I’m not going to fight with the speaker. I’m not going to fight with the governor. And hopefully, I can be a good go-between to try to bring about positive change.” [said Senate President-in-waiting John Cullerton]
He already appointed Sen. James Clayborne, the runner-up in the Democrats’ internal elections, as his majority leader to signal a fresh start.
* And the future looked bright…
Two newly chosen legislative leaders came out Thursday calling for a breakthrough on a long-stalled statewide construction program and hopeful a new era will lead to cooperation with Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who will ascend to Senate president in January, and Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who will become minority leader and be the first woman to serve as an Illinois legislative leader, enter the fray at a dicey time in the state’s history.
* The new spirit couldn’t come at a better time…
Illinois’ budget woes are getting no help from the state’s economy.
Job losses in construction and finances were the primary factors behind the unemployment rate rising 2 percent over the last year to 7.3 percent in October, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported Thursday. A three-month average of 7.1 percent was the highest in 15 years.
If families are struggling, so are many child-care providers. Falling enrollments have now replaced waiting lists, and tardy payments are a fact of life for some.
To make matters worse, the office of Illinois comptroller Dan Hynes recently announced that, because of the state’s cash flow problems, it would be late for the first time in sending checks that subsidize child care for low-income families.
* The guv even signed a bill allowing locals to raise their taxes without squawking about it or giving senior citizens free museum passes or something…
The Peoria riverfront museum project got a show of support Thursday from Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who signed into law a plan to let Peoria County seek voter approval on a special sales tax.
* But then right after legislators left town, Blagojevich pounced…
Minutes after lawmakers went home without taking budget action in their fall veto session, Blagojevich acted on Senate Bill 1103, designed to restore more than $230 million in spending cuts he made this summer.
The governor approved about $176 million of that total, aimed at restoring funding for substance-abuse centers, keeping 11 parks open and preventing more than 320 layoffs of human-services and child-welfare workers scheduled for Nov. 30.
But Blagojevich spokeswoman Katie Ridgway said human-services workers still will be laid off, and there’s no guarantee yet parks won’t close. Not all of the 179 workers at the Department of Children and Family Services scheduled to be laid off might be spared, either, she said.
“We were able to save some core services today, but in the larger picture, we still have a $2 billion shortfall and need to manage that budget,” Ridgway said. “Difficult decisions are being made this year, but we have to do so while maintaining core services.”
* And then there’s this…
The current governor, Rod Blagojevich, engaged in his customary governance-by-press-release this week, surprising lawmakers with a plan most notable for giving him added authority to cut expenditures. He also wants to borrow money to pay expenses that Comptroller Dan Hynes pegs at $4 billion and climbing.
But because this state’s governor has earned so much distrust, his great schemes get no more attention from legislators than the last rustle of dry leaves under foot. Time and again he has bent the budget process to serve his whimsy or to preen for the cameras. Lawmakers are as likely to give him more authority over taxpayer money as those dead leaves are to jump back onto trees.
* And where was the governor this week? He was in Beverly Hills until Wednesday, and he showed up in southern Illinois yesterday…
Illinois is billions of dollars behind on its bills and facing a huge deficit again next year. The Governor talked about the crisis Thursday in Mt. Vernon.
He talked about the crisis in Mt. Vernon, but didn’t show up in Springfield.