Legislative Roundup – May 30

Medicaid Expansion

The Illinois Senate has advanced a plan to restore Medicaid cuts made in 2012.

Senators voted 46-10 on Thursday to expand Medicaid to include funding for adult dental and podiatry services. Those were cut two years ago to save money.

Republicans have expressed concerns about sustaining services during a difficult budget year.

The Illinois House approved the measure on Wednesday.

Democratic Rep. Greg Harris is a bill sponsor. He has said that the 2012 cuts didn’t save the state money because people wound up in the emergency room, which costs more. Harris says the additional services will cost about $221 million this year. But he says federal money will cover some of the expenses, making the final cost to taxpayers about $125 million.

Capitol Construction

The Illinois House, in a 97-11 vote, passed a plan to fund $1 billion in new transportation projects.

The legislation passed Thursday would fund what transportation Secretary Ann Schneider calls “shovel ready” road and bridge projects across the state.

The projects will be paid for by selling bonds and paying back the loan with revenue from retired bonds.

Schneider said if both chambers approve the bill, construction can start as early as this summer.

The legislation now heads to the Senate. It requires a three-fifths majority approval from both chambers before being sent to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.

Juvenile Records

The Illinois Legislature has advanced a plan that would erase some arrest records for children who weren’t charged or convicted of the alleged crime.

The state Senate voted 36-16 on Thursday to approve a proposal that would require the Illinois State Police to delete its arrest records for those minors. The measure would exclude alleged sex-related offenses, higher-level felony arrests and those occurring within the previous six months.
It now goes to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk for approval.

Supporters say the plan would give kids a better chance to get jobs, enter college and avoid gang violence.

Some lawmakers say they’re concerned because the measure doesn’t guarantee that some lower-level arrest records wouldn’t be made public.

Nuclear Resolution

The Illinois House has approved a plan urging federal and state environmental agencies to adopt nuclear power-friendly rules.

Lawmakers gave House Speaker Michael Madigan’s nonbinding, bipartisan resolution the go-ahead on Thursday. The request comes as government agencies are scheduled to require new standards for nuclear power plants this year.

The Chicago Democrat says nuclear plants should be treated similar to other low-carbon energy suppliers. He says possible plant closures would hurt job growth and reliable energy sources.

Exelon Corporation has said several of its nuclear plants could close if financial outlooks don’t improve.

Environmental activists argue Illinois should invest in renewable energy sources because nuclear power has negative environment affects.

The resolution is HR1146.

Grant Transparency

Illinois lawmakers have advanced a plan to make state grants more transparent as legislators investigate Gov. Pat Quinn’s mismanaged Chicago anti-violence program.

Senators voted 45-6 on Thursday on a proposal that would apply to about $8 billion given annually to non-governmental organizations. It would require grant applicants to disclose financial information, conflicts of interest and employee criminal records.

Democratic state Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge sponsored the legislation. He says it’ll save taxpayers money by reducing waste.
Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington says the plan doesn’t do enough to eliminate wrongdoing.

He’s leading the legislative inquiry into Quinn’s 2010 program.
Quinn’s spokeswoman says the governor has been supportive of the legislation from the beginning.

The measure goes to the House.

The bill is HB2747.

Psychologist Prescriptions

The Illinois House approved legislation letting psychologists prescribe medication to patients.

Currently, only psychiatrists can prescribe medication. The measure includes safeguards, including a ban on prescribing medication to kids, pregnant women or patients with serious medical conditions.

Psychologists would also have to undergo additional training and are limited to which medications they can prescribe.

The measure now heads to the Senate.

Charter Schools

A bill adding new guidelines to the state’s charter schools has passed the Illinois Senate.

The bill, passed by a 34-15 vote, requires charter schools to accommodate disabled children and those who speak English as a second language.

State Senator Dave Luechtefeld spoke out against the bill.

“If we continue to do what this bill does, then there will be very little difference between charter schools and the public school system. Not a lot of flexibility,” Luechtefeld says. “I guess my concern is, what comes next?”

Supporters say disabled students and non-english speakers deserve the same rights as other students, regardless of the school they go to. The bill now goes to Governor Pat Quinn.

(Some material is copyright by The Associated Press. 2014. All rights reserved.)