* In this case, it’s a disputed trailer bill…
State school officials said Tuesday that about $350 million in additional K-12 education money could begin flowing to school districts in April.
At the same time, they said about 20 issues with the new funding distribution formula need to be addressed to clarify what lawmakers intended when they passed the new formula last year. […]
Smith said the education agency still believes the law, as it was approved, doesn’t do exactly what lawmakers think it should do. The ISBE has come up with 20 more changes it believes are necessary for the new formula to accomplish what lawmakers intended.
Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, an author of the new formula, wanted to know if those 20 changes would be enough, assuming lawmakers approved them.
“I don’t know,” Smith said.
* From Speaker Madigan…
“After six months of negotiation with the Rauner Administration, House Democrats are preparing to advance a framework for an update of the Illinois hospital assessment program, which must receive federal approval before June 30, 2018. Today, state Rep. Greg Harris filed the amendment to Senate Bill 1773.
“This amendment includes the work of a bipartisan, bicameral working group that has deliberated in good faith to update the hospital assessment program. It also includes some elements still under discussion which will be finalized in coming days. The working group deserves our thanks for this collaboration that is aimed at ensuring the state secures these resources that are vital for our hospitals.
“It has been the goal of House Democrats to push the administration toward an update that expands access to care in underserved communities of color and rural communities alike. The plan we are introducing reflects this commitment by taking steps to help secure hundreds of millions of dollars in new federal funds, and securing both safety net hospitals and rural critical care hospitals.
“As has been our priority, the plan also contains an appeal process for provider claims, and new transparency and accountability measures which recent audit findings show are urgently needed. Despite the Rauner Administration’s failure to account for billions of dollars in claims paid, claims denied, administrative costs, and other basic quality metrics needed to ensure patients are receiving quality care, they continue to operate without oversight. The administration unilaterally handed out some of the largest state contracts in state history to large insurance companies. While these contracts did not require that the administration be held accountable for mistakes within the system, we are correcting that in this bill. Our bill will increase transparency and hold the administration accountable for maintaining accurate records of all receipts of payments. Under our plan, all future purchases of care would also require full and proper vetting as laid out in the state’s procurement code.
“While the administration has not provided sufficient time for Managed Care Organizations to develop networks in the new markets they will be covering, we incentivize hospitals to participate in the Medicaid program, which increases access and helps reduce the overall cost of the program because patients are given a choice.
“This plan is a critical step toward a state health care policy that is guided by what is in the best interests of patients and taxpayers, not big insurance companies and the politically connected.”
Raging debate over increasing the legal smoking age in Illinois from 18 to 21 years old will likely continue after two legislative committees advanced bills on Tuesday.
House Bill 4297 and Senate Bill 2332 were given immense scrutiny by public health groups and advocates for retailers as both bills were reviewed and debated by Illinois House and Senate health committees. Both bills made it through their respective committees and could be added to either chambers’ docket for further debate soon.
The measures would increase the purchasing age for tobacco products to 21 but decriminalize possession of them by those under 21. Sponsors argue underage tobacco use is a public health issue, not a crime.
“We know that of all the current smokers today that nine out 10 of those current smokers began as teenagers,” said Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, the Senate bill’s sponsor. “I believe it’s time for Illinois to take this action.”
Public health officials and other advocates said the goal is to keep the products out of the hands of teens by cutting off the main supply line: 18-year-olds.
Opponents complained the plan would hurt small businesses and convenience stores, which could be fined $200 for a first offense.
They also argued that the legislation sends the wrong message. While buying tobacco under 21 would be barred, underage possession would not be penalized.
Republican Sen. Sam McCann of Plainview voted against the measure, saying it would make the “product harder to obtain but easier to possess.”
Current law penalizes underage smokers with a $25 fine for a first violation. Chief sponsor Sen. Julie Morrison, a Democrat from Deerfield, said the penalties are rarely enforced.
* Rock River Times editorial…
It’s old-hat for State Rep. Joe Sosnowski. The Rockford Republican is back with another effort to strip public notices out of newspapers.
This is an annual right of passage for some Republicans in statehouses across the country. Barring Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, taking up the cause in 2016, Sosnowski has been the go-to vehicle in Illinois for this failed idea: this is his sixth go at it.
Some form of this boilerplate conservative think tank-sponsored legislation has never made it out of committee in Springfield. In fact, only one state has ever passed such a law: Utah snuck it over the line in 2009 only to see it repealed in 2011 after government bodies failed to comply with posting the required information. In short: Utah’s legislation passed a law they were destined to break.
Just how bad are government bodies in Illinois at doing the internet? Pretty bad. A 2014 audit by the Citizens Advocacy Center of 750 units of government showed that only 57 percent of government bodies complied with posting agendas of upcoming meetings as required by law, and only 49 percent of those bodies surveyed maintained any website whatsoever.