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The following is a brief legislative update and notices of upcoming events, prepared by Robyn Gabel, State Representative 18th District. 

Pensions

Throughout the summer the special pension reform committee comprised of 10 members of the Illinois General Assembly has been meeting to work out a solution to the state’s high pension deficit. This pension liability is of utmost concern, not only for those teachers and public employees who are retired or are budgeting with a certain retirement in mind, but it is affecting the budget of critical human services and education needs. In addition, it has resulted in numerous bond rating declines that cost the State of Illinois even more money to borrow.

I have been committed to supporting reforms to the state’s pension program because it is critical that the problem be remedied. However, my support is conditional on the changes being fair to those who have retired or are nearing retirement, considerate of lower income pensioners and that the state be bound to make the full and accurate contributions in the future. A couple of weeks ago the special pension reform committee released their most recent ideas for change. Some of them include:

  • Decreasing the annual cost of living allowance (COLA)      for retirees, but also decreasing the individual contribution for      employees.
  • Removal of a previous proposal to give retirees the      choice between keeping health insurance or taking a smaller pension increase      each year.
  • No increase in the retirement age for current      employees.
  • No limits on how much of an employee’s salary could be      counted toward a pension.

The estimated cost savings of this most recent proposal is $145.6 billion. Although these ideas are not yet in the form of a bill, it is a significant step to have the House and Senate agree on a set of proposals. I am hopeful that the committee will release a formal proposal that is both fair to retirees/employees, in addition to providing that future state pension payments will be at a reasonable level in relationship to the state budget.    

Protecting our youth

On August 15, 2013 Governor Pat Quinn signed HB 188 into law (Public Act 98-0349), which will restrict minors under 18 years old from using indoor ultraviolet tanning beds at tanning salons.  I introduced HB 188 because I have spent most of my career advocating for public health and have witnessed the consequences of prolonged exposure to artificial ultraviolet light. According to the World Health Organization, UV light is a level 1 carcinogen and the American Cancer Society states that those who tan prior to age 35 are 75% more likely to develop melanoma in their lives. This piece of legislation will help youth and their families avoid the consequences of a health risk that is very preventable. This bill still allows teens under 18 to get a spray or mist tan at tanning salons. The measure will take effect on January 1, 2014. 

Affordable Care Act

In Illinois, we are working hard to make quality, affordable, healthcare available to everyone through the Affordable Care Act. The State is preparing for the enrollment of almost 2 million uninsured people in health insurance programs.  Already, the Affordable Care Act has had a positive effect on the people of Illinois –

  • Young adults under the age of 26 now can have health      insurance through their parents’ plan.
  • Seniors receive prescription drug discounts for the      part D “donut hole”.
  • Seniors are now eligible for Medicare preventive      services without paying any co-pays, coinsurance or deductible.
  • Individuals are saving money due to ACA provisions that      prevent insurance companies from spending more than 20% of their premiums      on profits and administrative overhead.
  • Children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be      denied coverage by health insurers.

Starting in January, 2014, new provisions will include-

  • Individuals will be able to purchase health insurance      through the marketplace with subsidies for people who earn under 400% of      the federal poverty level
  • Medicaid eligibility will increase to 133 percent of      poverty for all non-elderly people.
  • There will be no annual or lifetime limits on coverage.       
  • Health insurance companies will not be able to      discriminate against enrollees because of preexisting conditions or      gender.  
  • Small businesses (under 25 employees) may qualify for      tax credits and will be able to purchase health insurance through the      federal government’s SHOP program.

Beginning October 1, 2013, individuals will be able to pre-enroll for health insurance on the marketplace to be effective January 1, 2014. Our office, along with Senator Biss, Rep. Fine and Congresswoman Schakowsky will be hosting the following enrollment and informational event.  

Affordable Care Act Enrollment and Forum 

Sunday, October 13

Levy Center

300 Dodge Ave, Evanston

12:00-5:00pm

Those who are looking to enroll and qualify will be able to do so from 12-5pm. Trained navigators and counselors will be on hand to assist and guide enrollees through the process. There will also be a panel discussion beginning at 3:00pm featuring the hosting elected officials and other experts to provide information and answer the concerns of the general public and the business community.   

In addition to the Affordable Care Act enrollment event, I will also be co-hosting a couple other events in the near future: 

New Trier Township Property Tax Seminar with Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin and Cook County Board of Review

If you live in New Trier Township, your properties were recently reassessed. While you may or may not have already filed an appeal with the Cook County Assessor’s Office, you have a second opportunity to file an appeal with the Cook County Board of Review. This seminar will walk you through filing a property tax assessment appeal with the Board of Review and will cover other areas of interest to property tax payers.  Representatives from Commissioner Suffredin’s office and the Board of Review will be available to answer questions, assist you one-on-one with your appeal, analyze your property tax bill and help you file for any missing exemptions.  The details of the event are as follows,

 New Trier Property Tax Seminar

Tuesday, September 17

6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

Wilmette Park District Recreation Center

3000 Glenview Road, Wilmette

  

Small Business Educational Workshop and Networking Opportunity

As a member of the Business Growth & Incentives Committee, one of my goals is to promote the economic development of small businesses through educational workshops and networking opportunities. To that end, I am co-hosting an event with the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.  Experts will be on hand to discuss topics including contracting with the state, certification and prompt vendor payment. The details of this event are as follows,  

Make a Connection: 

“Connecting Communities to Illinois Business Opportunities”

Thursday, October 10th

8:30am to 1:00pm

Oakton Community Center

4701 Oakton Street, Skokie

  • Registration is recommended; register online at www.CMS.Illinois.gov/Events 
  • This event is free and open to the public.       Refreshments will be served. 
  • Free parking is available at venue parking lot.