* We’ve been talking a lot about Sterigenics, so I asked yesterday for a chart comparing the ethylene oxide regulations in the bill sponsored by House Republican Leader Durkin and signed into law by Gov. Pritzker with the additional regulations included in the consent order that was agreed to by Attorney General Kwame Raoul, DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin, the IEPA and Sterigenics. Here’s what the AG’s office compiled. Click the pic if you need a better image…
I followed up to ask about that loophole closure, which AG Raoul mentioned yesterday…
The new law contains certification requirements that currently apply to Sterigenics, but the law contains an exception. Sterigenics could have qualified for the exception if it proved to a court that the findings of the seal order were without merit. The consent order takes away Sterigenics’ ability to even make this argument in court. As a result, Sterigenics no longer has the ability to qualify for the exception to the certification requirements.
The assumed reductions in State pension contributions are the result of three provisions in the FY2019 budget legislation. The most important is a voluntary buyout plan that offers certain employees who are about to retire upfront cash payments—in exchange for delayed and lower automatic annual increases in their benefits. The plan accounts for $382 million, or 86%, of the total budgeted State pension savings for the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2018.
Public records show that the $382 million figure comes from actuarial reviews of a different pension buyout plan. As a result, it is not clear whether the savings estimate applies to the enacted measure. Even if the savings estimate is relevant, it remains to be seen whether the assumed participation rate of 25% is realistic.
The $382 million savings estimate is based on actuarial reviews of House Bill 5472. The measure has not come up for a vote in the General Assembly, but the actuarial studies were prepared by the pension funds at the legislature’s request in advance of a public hearing last February. There was no public hearing on the enacted pension measure. [Emphasis added.]
A new pension buyout plan designed to save hundreds of millions of dollars for the State of Illinois in the fiscal year that just ended actually generated relatively minor savings in FY2019 and does not appear likely to meet the annual cost-reduction target over the next few years.
The shortfall has occurred despite robust participation by members of the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS), the pension fund that was supposed to account for most of the savings. The problem stems from the original savings estimate, which was overstated because it was based on a different buyout plan and further inflated due to technical miscalculations, according to SERS officials. […]
Actual General Funds savings are now pegged at about $13 million, largely from the COLA buyout at SERS, according to recent reports by the three pension funds. […]
To pay for the buyouts, the State was authorized to sell up to $1 billion of bonds. So far, the State has issued $300 million at an interest cost of 5.74%. Of the $298.5 million in net proceeds, records from the Illinois Comptroller’s website show expenditures of $29.6 million for buyouts at SERS and $1.6 million for buyouts at TRS. SERS reports having spent an additional $17.6 million in FY2019, which is not yet reflected in the Comptroller’s records. The remaining bond proceeds continue to cost the State interest, but have not yet resulted in any pension savings.
So, we’ve got a big pile of borrowed money just sitting there piling up interest and a cost savings projection that is wildly out of whack.
…Adding… Hannah Meisel at the Daily Line wrote about this last week and I missed it somehow. Click here.
The Illinois Auditor General released an audit Thursday of the Illinois Department of Transportation for a two-year period ending June 2018. Among other issues, the audit found that 78 bridges that weren’t inspected on time. Twenty-eight bridges were overdue for routine inspections, some were up to 4 years overdue. Ten were listed as the responsibility of an adjacent state and five were rated structurally deficient, the audit said.
There were 27 bridges set for special inspections that were overdue. Five were overdue by more than two years. Another seven bridges were overdue for underwater inspections.
Eleven were overdue for fracture critical inspection. Two of those were over 21 years overdue.
State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, is on a House transportation committee. She said it was important for information like that to reported on time, especially when lawmakers are planning infrastructure projects like the six-year, $45 billion capital plan that was just enacted. Lawmakers voted to double the state’s gas tax to fund the capital plan. […]
“That would have maybe made a difference in how we put together the capital bill or in what our expectations of what IDOT will accomplish in their beefed-up six-year plan,” McDermed said. “What if the beefed-up six-year plan is all sucked up by all these bridges. There’s going to be a lot of unhappy legislators that thought they were going to get some roads.”
The audit wasn’t limited to bridge inspections. It also found issues with the management of IDOT property, fund transfers and how the state agency handled outdoor advertising close to the state’s highways. […]
The audit found that bank accounts administered by a management company had authorized signors who were not state employees, cash deposits were uncollateralized, and there was no IDOT approval of some spending.
The report also found IDOT wasn’t in compliance with reporting requirements. No master plan was filed at the end of fieldwork. The department also did not publish the Multimodal Multi-year Improvement Program during fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Another report for a multi-year plan was delivered 195 days later than it was due.
A separate audit found that 20 percent of IDOT employee overtime cards tested during the audit period hadn’t been properly signed to attest for accuracy. The department spending a combined $63.7 million on overtime for the two years ending June 30, 2018.
Other findings included that about a third of tested IDOT vehicle trip tickets didn’t have supervisor approval or other proper trip documentation. Yet another found that 47 percent of outdoor advertising near highways might be illegal.
The previous acting director, Beverly “BJ” Walker, signed a six-month, $5.1 million contract on her final day as DCFS director.
The contract created the Aunt Martha’s interim care center, which is a short-term living arrangement for children coming out of psychiatric hospitals. […]
But according to [Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert], there is no research to support the interim care center (ICC) that DCFS is paying $5 million for.
“It’s something DCFS made up,” Golbert said. […]
Edwin C. Yohnka, director of communications and public policy of ACLU of Illinois, said, “We were not consulted by the leadership of DCFS as they moved forward with a plan for an ICC at Aunt Martha’s until months after the contract was agreed and the process was well underway. When we became aware of this proposal, we raised our concerns – concerns confirmed by one of the court-appointed experts.”
Golbert said DCFS created the ICC to help the statistic of kids in locked hospitals but as a result, created more problems.
“And one of the ICCs used to be shelter space and so, they took away the shelter space. So now you also have a shortage of shelter space and as a result, now you also have children sleeping in offices.”
The current DCFS director, Marc Smith, was with Aunt Martha’s for 10 years before being picked by Gov. Pritzker to direct DCFS.
Golbert said there is no evidence to prove Interim Care Centers are a good placement for children.
“If you scour the social sciences literature looking for references to an Interim Care Center. If you scour social work literature, if you scour other models in other parts of the country, you will not find anything called an Interim Care Center,” Golbert said.
Although the ICC contract was just signed in February 2019, Pennington said they’ve been doing this integrated care for more than a year and have seen results.
“We have seen about a 30% reduction in hospitalizations. Once they are admitted to the ICC, we see compliance with medication. We see success with a reduction in acts of physical aggression and then, we have seen them transition on to more permanent placements,” Pennington said.
The Interim Care Center is even being debated in a court case between the American Civil Liberties Union and DCFS.
We got a copy of the transcripts and it shows that during the last hearing, an attorney with the ACLU said, “This isn’t a known treatment method for people coming out of psych hospitalization. This is a made up thing and it was operating as a shelter.”
* DCFS has been under extreme pressure to reduce psychiatric hospitalizations. Kids are sent there and can’t get out because the state can’t find foster homes or other placements…
According to the public guardian, at this exact moment, there are Illinois children inside locked psych hospitals even though they don’t have to be there simply because DCFS doesn’t have a place to put them.
“There’s not a whole lot that says to a kid you don’t care more than being forced to stay in psychiatric hospital for weeks and months after you’re ready to go because your guardian doesn’t have anywhere to put you,” Golbert said. […]
In a letter to the governor written in May, Golbert said from 2015 to 2017, it cost taxpayers $9.4 million to house children “Beyond Medical Necessity.”
“It’s a multi-million-dollar waste of money while we are trampling on these kids rights and traumatizing them,” Golbert said.
The letter to the governor also said in that two-year span, the children spent collectively 27,000 days in the hospital longer than they needed to.
So, what appears to be happening is DCFS came up with a way to get kids out of psych hospitals, but the method is unprecedented and watchdogs are alarmed.
Newly obtained pictures show a problem the Cook County public guardian fears is happening too often: Kids sleeping on the floor of a state office building.
The kids were in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services at the time . […]
DCFS’ own count shows a dwindling number of emergency shelter space available. Five years ago there were 159 beds. Now, the number is down to just 43 statewide.
“The kids I’m aware of sleeping in offices it’s because the shelter was full, no beds available,” Golbert said.
A DCFS spokesperson insists the state office building isn’t being used as a makeshift shelter.
The agency released a statement that reads:
Many DCFS offices across the state must be prepared to protect infants, children and youth who will often arrive exhausted and in need of clothing, food, diapers, formula and other necessities. This is not a substitute for shelter. DCFS is working in partnership with providers to secure additional shelter options for those in need.
* After DCFS caseworker killed on the job, her husband works for change at the troubled agency: His idea is to create a numbered rating system that’s clean and easy for all to understand. Cases with a 1 or 2 would be considered less threatening. “If it was a 3,4,5 before they moved on that case they would need a police officer,” he said. He also wants all cases called into the hotline to begin with a high-risk status, requiring a police escort for several visits until the environment inside is determined to be safe enough for a DCFS investigator to go there alone. As for the DCFS union agreement, Don Knight wants the safety clauses for workers enforced. He claims they’re currently ignored.
* DCFS Acting Director Marc Smith reveals plan to turn troubled child welfare agency around: “One of the ways we’re trying to address that is we review a tremendous amount of our cases,” Smith told the I-Team. “One of the areas we look at, cases that have reached a level of tragedy or concern. And then we pull those cases and the management team looks at each individual case. We do it to see what we can learn, if there were mistakes made, if there were things we should have done better.”
* Change underway for Illinois DCFS after controversial children’s deaths: While Smith is committed to staying, DCFS caseworkers are another story. Turnover is high, largely because the pay is low. “I’ve also seen workers that are overwhelmed, don’t really want to dig deeper, sometimes folks are really unable to make a good assessment if they are not able to handle the immense work load that they are under or maybe not enough training to understand the dynamics of abuse and how that may affect family,” Rivette said.
A broad coalition is forming to push for state funding for a joint campus in downtown Springfield, to be shared by the University of Illinois Springfield and Southern Illinois University.
The effort originated with state Sen. Andy Manar, who introduced legislation in January requesting $50 million for an SIU facility in the state capital. […]
“We put several opportunities on the table [at a July 9 meeting convened by Manar] — what would go in this building and on this campus, including initiatives related to medicine and law, social service, management of governmental intern positions, public health and policy, and so on,” said SIU Interim President J. Kevin Dorsey. “Collaboration between SIU, the School of Medicine and UIS was seen as critical.”
The Springfield university is already seeking to bolster its downtown presence via a new “Innovation Hub,” funded within the University of Illinois’s $500 million Discovery Partners Institute initiative. […]
“Our initial conversations have been about the ‘Y’ block, but as the conversations unfolded and as resources have become available through the recent capital bill … it’s beginning to evolve into the development of a mini-campus of several blocks in the downtown area,” possibly including student housing, Van Meter said. “No prospect has so ignited as the possibility of establishing an SIU presence and the law school’s presence in the community.”
* If I was king, I’d put that mini campus just south of the Statehouse in the area bordered by Edwards on the north, Lawrence on the south, College on the west and 2nd St. on the east. Not every building would have to go. You’d definitely want to keep some of them. But there’s a lot of empty space and business and office locations which have been difficult to develop over the years…
And since the SIU law school wants to use its potential Springfield campus to offer “classes, support to law students interning in the capitol, and continuing education for legal professionals,” that would be a great spot.
The area just north of downtown near the medical district has some possibilities as well.
This morning I asked the Illinois Attorney General, the DuPage County State’s Attorney, and the Governor to delay next week’s hearing and implementation of the settlement agreement and consent order regarding the Sterigenics litigation.
This delay would provide for greater public input on their proposed agreement, an agreement that provides Sterigenics with a road map to open, and fails to hold them accountable for their past environmental violations that have damaged the public’s health in and around the Willowbrook area.
Unfortunately, the Illinois Attorney General has declined my request.
I also informed Governor Pritzker today that I fully support his offer to call a special session to address this critical issue. It is vital that we ensure every action is taken within the law to prevent Sterigenics from operating and emitting ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, in Willowbrook and the surrounding community.
The new law imposes new certification requirements, but, through litigation, Sterigenics attempted to exploit a loophole in the law to avoid those requirements. Through the consent order, we eliminated that loophole. Sterigenics will now always be subject to the certification requirements that area legislators insisted be included in the law. The final result is that, combined with the Matt Haller Act, the consent order ensures that Sterigenics will not reopen unless and until it installs new emissions controls that will reduce its emissions to no more than 85 pounds of EtO per year.
Sterigenics’ permit issued by the Rauner administration allowed it to emit 36,400 pounds of ethylene oxide per year.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot continued sparring with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday over who’s to blame for Chicago’s gun violence.
After Preckwinkle sent a letter to Lightfoot this week that defended how the county judicial system treats gun offenders and called on Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to “stop misleading the public about why gun violence remains a challenging problem in Chicago,” the mayor responded by criticizing the county’s system for tracking gun crimes and calling on Preckwinkle to publicize her statistics weekly.
But first, Lightfoot reminded reporters about the sound defeat she handed Preckwinkle in the April mayoral runoff, when Lightfoot won all 50 wards and got more than 70 percent of the vote.
“So the question’s about the letter, the nice letter I got from Toni Preckwinkle,” Lightfoot said at a news conference about preparations for the expected extreme heat this weekend. “Well, it’s July, not March. The election’s over and we had a result. So we’re going to continue to take the high road and move forward.”
This fight is so tedious. People are dying in the street and “leaders” are relitigating the election.
As set forth in my public safety plan, we cannot arrest our way out of our violence problem. Instead, the city and its partners must treat this epidemic of violence as the public health crisis that it is. … In addition, we must follow the lead of cities like Boston and Oakland and increase the resources devoted to violence interruption techniques so we can stop violence before it happens.
Furthermore, the city, philanthropic foundations and local businesses must place more emphasis on, and commit more resources to, organizations across the city that help ease the transition of the thousands of citizens released annually from state and county jails back into society and the workforce. Providing legitimate jobs that pay a living wage is one of the best ways to reduce violence and recidivism and improve our communities.
The Chicago Police Board voted Thursday to fire a sergeant and three other officers over their alleged cover-up of the murder of Laquan McDonald by CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke.
The board voted unanimously to fire Officers Ricardo Viramontes and Janet Mondragon for their roles in the case, as well as Sgt. Stephen Franko. According to the board, all three officers made false statements, among other violations of department rules, in an attempt to have the shooting of McDonald by Van Dyke deemed as justified.
Officer Daphne Sebastian was also fired, according to the board’s vote, which was posted on the City of Chicago’s police discipline website.
Sgt. Franko was charged with violating five different rules and regulations of the Chicago Police Department, including taking action to “impede the department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals” and “making a false report, written or oral.”
Your ruling today, so contrary to the verdict against the officers criminally charged in this case, Gaffney, Walsh, and March, destroys the reputation and careers of three excellent police officers.
It will no doubt lead to more violence in the city and quite likely more violence against the police, because officers understand that, by your ruling, an officer can be fired or indicted merely responding to a job.
They filed police reports directly contradictory to the video evidence.
* Speaker Madigan loves moving campaign money around. He’ll have an entity (often a union) “park” cash in a member’s account and then eventually have that member write a check to a candidate or to the state party or wherever. It’s mostly designed to legally get around the campaign contribution caps, but it’s sometimes about avoiding putting his own name on a contribution.
Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin), for instance, received four contributions of about $50K each last year, even though she didn’t need the dough for her own campaign.
Seven legislators gave Mike Madigan a whopping $751,400 within the last few weeks — just as the powerful Illinois House speaker’s legal bills mount and federal investigations touch some of his allies.
The lawmakers who spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times about what for most were six-figure donations insist it’s business as usual, routine fundraising by the powerful Southwest Side Democrat, who also serves as Illinois Democratic Party chairman.
“I’ve contributed to others in the past at similar levels,” said state Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, who gave $57,800. “It wasn’t out of the ordinary.”
What is out of the ordinary is Madigan’s growing legal bills.
So far this year, the speaker has spent $453,608 on lawyers from his campaign fund. Many Illinois politicians dip into their political accounts to pay legal expenses, but the amount Madigan has spent is raising eyebrows.
The legislators interviewed did not ask why Madigan needed the money.
* Perhaps my all-time “favorite” email about the Confederate Railroad controversy…
What is your malfunction?You attack a veteran country group just because of their name.let me educate your inbred ignorant was on something you socialist snowflake.The civil war started over taxes on goods.you illiterate uneducated racist pigs want people to believe it was about slavery,guess what idiot….they both had slaves then to and it wasn’t till later during the war the north wanted to abolish slavery.slavery started when blacks sold their own kind for money.you sir can be held on defamation of character by the band if they so feel like it.why don’t you stop crying like a liberal snowflake and grow up.Get a real job like most Americans do you lazy bum.
I learned after the first email I received on this topic to just respond to all these the same way…
That dismissive laughter always drives ‘em nuts…
You must be a racist liberal.for a blogger you are immature.are you to lazy to get a job?
* My dad used to play this Silhouettes song for us when my brothers and I were young…
llinois is preparing to cover federal health care funding that’s being threatened by a new Trump administration rule banning family planning clinics from referring women for abortions.
Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday that the Illinois Department of Public Health will use state money to cover the 28 health care providers that currently receive Title X grant money, should the “gag rule” remain in effect through the end of the fiscal year.
(T)he Illinois Department of Public Health will provide state funding to the 28 local clinics that normally receive Title X money through the agency, making up for an estimated $2.4 million in federal dollars they otherwise stand to lose for the rest of the fiscal year, Pritzker said.
* Illinois Republican Party spokesman Joe Hackler sent out this statement late yesterday afternoon while I was out of the office…
Notwithstanding aggressive obfuscation in the Pritzker administration’s PR surrounding this decision, the truth is really quite clear.
In a state struggling financially, Governor Pritzker would rather turn away federal money funding life saving non-abortion related medical care for women and girls because of his unrivaled zeal for forced taxpayer funding of abortions.
This episode highlights exactly how extreme Illinois is in dealing with abortion. Our state now allows abortion for almost any reason up until the moment of birth and taxpayers who find this unconscionable, must pay for the procedures. Despite this policy being wildly out of step with the public’s views, the Governor is willing to forgo millions of federal money for women’s health and defy a court ruling in order to preserve it.
* I asked the Reproductive Health Act sponsor Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) for a response…
It is disappointing to see an entire political party seek to deny critical health care to women across Illinois. This tired rhetoric is factually wrong and just bad policy. These funds support care for women that protects their health and advances families. My Republican friends in Illinois have not been helped by blindly following Trump policies. They might want to consider that reality in this moment.
The Trump administration is considering backtracking on an announcement this week that immediately required federally funded family planning centers to follow new rules banning referrals for abortion, amid widespread confusion among clinics about the changes.
A federal health official overseeing the family planning program told more than 200 leaders of reproductive health organizations gathered this week in Washington that she wanted to give them 60 days to comply with the rules and that federal lawyers were reviewing the idea, according to three participants in the closed meeting and others who were told afterward.
Those comments Thursday, by Department of Health and Human Services official Diane Foley at a conference for recipients of the family planning grants, created new turmoil in the administration’s efforts to restrict the program known as Title X, a government program that started in 1970 and pays for reproductive health services for about 4 million poor women and girls annually.