The following is a review of the spring legislative session prepared by State Representive Robyn Gabel.
Budget and Taxes
This year we passed a $35.3 billion state budget that maintains most services at current levels, fully pays the pension and pays down $1 billion in old bills. Although it is balanced, it relies on one time transfers and extending payments. Next year, the income tax is set to be reduced from 5% to 3.75% requiring the legislature to make critical decisions regarding revenues in one form or another.
Setting the state on a fiscal path that sees our revenues and expenditures match the growth in our economy has been my goal for the past three years. The state has reduced discretionary spending by $2.2 billion while paying down old bills from a high of $9.9 billion to $4.1 billion. Out of a $35 billion budget, more than half is used to cover fixed costs such as pension payment, group health insurance, debt service, transfers out to local government and Medicaid. Illinois has the lowest number of state employees per capital in the country (55 per 10,000 residents compared to the national average of 76). This affects the ability to provide state services in a timely manner. Illinois needs to make investments to become the global powerhouse it has the potential to become.
To continue our much-needed road and infrastructure work, the legislature passed a plan that will allow construction projects that have already been approved to move forward quickly. This bill puts thousands of people to work and improves our infrastructure that increases safety and the competitive edge our businesses need.
EDGE tax credits were reformed so businesses that have fewer than 100 employees and businesses in high poverty and high unemployment areas, will have access to tax breaks. All will be required to create jobs in return for tax breaks.
Medicaid - Dental and Podiatry Services (SB 741)
Senate Bill 741 restores funding for adult dental and podiatry services, lifts the four-prescription limit for people with severe mental illnesses, and allows more funding for children with extensive medical needs. This bill also helps to secure additional federal funding that will help expand Medicaid services to those who need it most and protect hospital funding.
Medicinal Cannabis for Epileptic Children (SB 2636)
Children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy suffer thousands of life-threatening seizures a day. I co-sponsored Senate Bill 2636, which gives these children access to cannabis oil, which has been proven to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. The bill also allows the IL Dept. of Public Health to adopt rules to allow other qualifying medical issues for children to be included in the act.
Solar Energy (HB 2427)
Funding for renewable energy has been stalled for 2 years. This bill, I sponsored, expands renewable energy credits for solar, encouraging further development and helping to move towards a greener economy. See below under my bills for more information.
Urban Flooding Awareness Act (SB 2966)
This bill advances funding for a study through the Department of Natural Resources to look at the costs of urban flooding, contributing factors that cause it, and ways in which infrastructure and policy changes can reduce the impacts. The bill defines "urban flooding" and provides that, by June 30, 2015, the Department of Natural Resources, in consultation with many organizations, will provide a report to the General Assembly.
Ban the Box (HB 5701)
This bill eliminates the criminal conviction question on job applications. It is difficult for people convicted of crimes who have paid their dues and are now looking for work to overcome that question on employment applications. Employers can now ask that question later in the interview process giving people a fair chance at employment.
Expungement of Juvenile Records (SB 978)
This bill sets policies that will automatically expunge juvenile offenses meeting certain criteria, particularly for arrests where there is not a conviction.
To see all the bills I sponsored click here.
Child Safety Caps for E-Cigarette Liquid (HB 5689)
The use of e-cigarettes is increasing exponentially and some hazards associated with them have become apparent. The CDC reported that the number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014. Only 10 mg of nicotine is lethal for a toddler (about a fifth of a teaspoon of the e-liquid). This bill requires the IL Dept. of Public Health to promulgate rules to require all caps on e-liquids to be in childproof packaging.
Early Intervention Services (HB 4407)
Early intervention services provide important developmental resources for infants and toddlers with developmental delays from birth to age three. This bill originally would allow for early intervention services to be initiated as soon as possible but no later than 30 days. In response to an agreement with the Department of Human Services, the bill allows children to stay in their current services if a dispute arises as to which services to provide for the child.
Community Health Care Workers
A community healthcare worker (CHW) is a public health worker who is a trusted member of the community. They serve as a liaison between health/social services and the community to improve the quality and delivery of services. This bill creates for the first time a certification path for these workers by requiring the IL Dept. of Public Health to establish a certification process with the advice of the Illinois Community Healthcare Worker Advisory Board.
EMS Stroke Center Designation (HB 5742)
This bill will facilitate better care for stroke victims. The IL Dept. of Public Health will be able to designate a hospital as an Acute Stroke-Ready Hospital allowing for better transfer of patients and increased quality of care.
Solar Energy (HB 2427)
House Bill 2427 requires the Illinois Power Agency to provide a supplemental procurement process for the purchase of renewable energy credits from new or existing solar energy. The bill authorizes the expenditure of up to $30,000,000 from the Illinois Power Agency Renewable Energy Resources Fund for this purpose. Up to 6% was set aside for solar but up to this point only .1% was used. This bill will jump start the solar industry in Illinois providing jobs and other economic benefits.
There will be three advisory referendums on the November ballot including increasing the state's hourly minimum wage to $10/hour, increasing the tax on income greater than one million dollars a year to provide additional funds for education and requiring prescription coverage to include prescriptions for birth control in insurance plans. Also, two legislatively referred constitutional amendments will appear on the ballot for voter approval. One provides that no person shall be denied the right to register to vote or cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation or income. The other makes changes to the Crime Victims' Bill of Rights by giving victims the ability to enforce their rights in a court of law.
Legislative Town Hall Forum
Tuesday, June 10
North Shore Senior Center
161 Northfield Rd.
Senator Daniel Biss and Rep. Laura Fine and I will provide a comprehensive overview of the major legislation passed this session.
Legislator of the Year Award
I am honored to be receiving the "Legislator of the Year" award from The Arc of Illinois for my work advocating for people with developmental disabilities and sponsoring bills that benefit persons with disabilities. Please come help me celebrate. To RSVP, call my office at 847-424-9898.
Wednesday, June 11
4 pm to 6 pm
Center for Independent Futures
1015 Davis St.
Concealed Carry Forum
Tuesday, June 24th
6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The Levy Center (Linden Room)
300 Dodge Avenue
Space is limited. Please RSVP by calling 847-998-1717 or 847-424-9898.
Representative Fine and I are sponsoring this forum which features representatives from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, NRA Illinois, Evanston Police Department and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office to help provide direction for abiding by the new Concealed Carry law.
Women's Exchange Salon program
Friday, June 20
4 pm to 5:30 pm
725 Pine St.
Come hear me present my program, Your Powerful Voice. I will discuss the powerful role women play in the legislative process. I will explain how input at every level can make a difference, and give examples of how members of the community have influenced the outcome of legislation. For more information or to sign up click here.
Independence Day Parades
Glenview 11:15 am
Evanston 2:00 pm
The Fourth of July is a celebration for all Americans and something that we all look forward to enjoying. I am excited to participate in both the Evanston and Glenview parades. I will be looking for volunteers to march with my group for both of these events, so please contact my office if you would like to participate. We always look forward to these events and hope that you will join us. You will receive a Robyn Gabel t-shirt (red, white and blue) for your efforts. I will send out a follow-up email when our actual position numbers and line up positions are determined.