New crime classification; Illinois approved for behavioral health initiative

Governor proposes new classification of homicides
This week Governor Rauner issued an amendatory veto of House Bill 1468, proposing changes to enhance public safety in Illinois. His proposal included the creation of a new class of homicides, to be known as “death penalty murder” for those 18 or older who murder peace officers, or more than one person and who are convicted “beyond all doubt.”

The proposal would also make several other public safety changes, including the creation of the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act, which would create a process for family members to petition courts to remove the guns from a person who has been determined to be a danger to themselves or to others. His proposal goes on to expand the existing 72-hour waiting period for purchasing handguns to apply to all gun purchases in Illinois.

It would also amend the law governing local school sales taxes to give a county the option of raising its sales tax by up to 1% for the purpose of hiring school resource officers and mental health professionals. Any proposed increase would have to be submitted to the voters for approval by referendum. The Governor’s proposal also makes changes to the way plea bargains and other gun-related charges are handled by state’s attorneys.

House Bill 1468 passed both chambers in its original form earlier this year. For the Governor’s amendatory veto to become law, both houses would have to agree to his changes. The House has 15 days from the date of his amendatory veto to consider the legislation.

Illinois approved for new behavioral health initiative
A new $2 billion Illinois program designed to deliver better outcomes for persons on Medicaid who are dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues has been approved for launch by the federal government. The initiative, called Better Care Illinois is the result of more than 30 months of effort by state agencies, legislators and behavioral health organizations to put together a coordinated plan to better help those with disorders that require treatment of the whole person.

In announcing the new initiative, Governor Rauner said the state would devote massive integrated resources to the personal and societal effects of behavioral health programs. He went on to say that the new program will focus on results by paying for value and outcomes, rather than volume and services.

Beginning July 1, Illinois can begin investing $2 billion of federal funds in 10 pilot programs to produce better care alternatives and outcomes. Each of these pilot programs will feature new delivery systems for improving care and producing better outcomes for the dollar. It gives Illinois the chance to see better health outcomes without spending more state funds. It will lead to earlier help for beneficiaries, meaning that savings can be invested in more cost-effective services. A quarter of those among Illinois’ Medicaid population have behavioral health conditions, which accounts for 52 percent of Medicaid spending.

More than a dozen state agencies participated in developing the state’s application, led by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which is the state’s Medicaid agency. The new initiative will help the state address a wide range of issues including mental health, violence, public safety, and opioid abuse.

How much do we owe? 
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,346,977,878 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

SBA disaster outreach centers now open in Iroquois and Vermilion
Assistance from the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is now available to residents and businesses in Iroquois and Vermilion Counties who suffered flood losses earlier this year. The SBA has opened Disaster Loan Outreach Centers in our area for those wishing to apply for disaster assistance or just to get their questions answered. The Iroquois County center is at the Watseka Union Depot on 2nd Street. The center for Vermilion County is in the Administration Building at 201 N. Vermilion Street in Danville. A center has also been set up in Kankakee County at the Aroma Park Fire Station on Bridge Street. Centers are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Applications being accepted for Governor’s Hometown Awards
Our area has some truly great communities, and the annual Governor’s Hometown Awards recognition program gives us a chance to formally recognize them. The program honors community leadership efforts that maintain the quality of life in the places where the program participants live and work.

In the past, some of the winners have been programs that help with food drives, tutoring, senior welfare awareness, and trail maintenance. This year’s awards will be special because they are closely tied to the ongoing celebration of the Illinois Bicentennial. They will celebrate community projects that took place in calendar year 2017. Applications must be turned in no later than August 1, 2018.

TECH Day students visit the Capitol
When I am back in the district I enjoy visiting local schools and talking with their students. I am always impressed with their ideas and questions. Recently, groups of students from around the state came to the Capitol and put on a series of impressive demonstrations of science and technology as part of the annual TECH Day.

This year, students from Pontiac, Milford, Iroquois West and Fieldcrest were among the presenters. Congratulations to these outstanding students, their parents and teachers on some very interesting demonstrations. Thanks for your hard work!

Did You Know?
Saturday May 19 is Armed Forces Day. The Illinois National Guard is composed of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. Between them, they have approximately 13,000 personnel ready to respond to natural disasters or other emergencies within the state or to be called into federal service to defend the nation. The Adjutant General; the commanding officer of the Illinois National Guard; is Major General Richard J. Hayes, Jr.