Limiting the Governor’s emergency powers
Last week a judge ruled that Governor Pritzker does not have the authority to keep issuing stay-at-home orders beyond the 30 days allowed by state law. The Governor is expected to appeal the ruling, so the matter will remain unresolved for a while longer. The dispute is over the wording of a state law which gives the Governor certain emergency powers for 30 days, but then does not say what happens after those 30 days have passed. There has been much confusion and intense disagreement over what limitations exist on the Governor’s authority. Since we do not know what the courts will ultimately decide, or when, I believe we can settle this issue once and for all by clarifying the law.
To ensure that the peoples’ elected representatives have a say in the setting of long-term state policy, I have joined with several other representatives in introducing House Bill 5780. Our bill would change state law to say specifically that the Governor’s emergency powers last for only 30 days in a 12-month period. After that period is up, the Governor would need to get a two-thirds vote of the legislature to extend the emergency. This would bring back some much-needed checks-and-balances to state government in any future emergency like the one we have been dealing with since March. The Governor should have the ability to act quickly in the wake of an emergency, but that power should not be endless.
Bipartisan bill sends more funding to Illinois hospitals
This week the Governor signed Senate Bill 2541 which renews Illinois’ hospital assessment program. This is an especially important boost to hospitals throughout the state during the current public health emergency. The bill is the result of bipartisan negotiations which involved legislators, state agencies and the hospital industry. It is a model of the way good things can and should get done in Springfield.
The legislation will bring in more than $250 million in federal money for Illinois hospitals as part of a $3.8 billion program. Hospitals all over the state will benefit, with priority given to those hospitals which serve a large number of Medicaid patients. Funds are also made available for better access to diagnostic and treatment services in communities which are considered under-resourced for health care. The new law also makes improvements in transparency and simplifies the billing system for services like laboratory tests.
Reminders about heat safety
This week has seen all of Illinois locked in a summer heat wave with temperatures soaring up into the 90s on a daily basis. Hot July days just come with territory when you live in Illinois, but this weather can be dangerous or even deadly if the proper precautions are not taken. The National Weather Service is reminding Illinoisans to be safe in the heat during these hot summer months.
Those working outside in the heat should remember to stay hydrated and take frequent breaks in the shade. Limit strenuous outdoor activity, such as exercise, during the hottest hours of the day. Check on your neighbors, particularly the elderly, even if they have air conditioning. And never leave a child or a pet in a parked car, even for a short time. You can find more hot weather safety tips at weather.gov/heat.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $5,098,923,414 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.5 billion. 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 subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $137 billion.
More news from around the state
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For continually updated news from state agencies, visit: coronavirus.illinois.gov or my website at repbennett.com and click on COVID-19 Info. Persons with coronavirus questions or concerns should call the statewide toll-free coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also submit questions via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).