Winger's Weekly Wrap-up

Budget – FY16/FY17
Second straight year without a State budget. As the end of fiscal year 2016 (FY16) approached, House Republicans filed a budget bill, HB 6585, to cover both FY16 “stopgap” expenditures and some urgently-needed FY17 expenditure areas. It would have appropriated badly-needed money to a wide variety of essential and job-creating state agencies and educational institutions, such as state universities and prisons. The appropriations contained in this bill were fully paid for from existing revenues. HB 6585 was filed by House Republican leader Jim Durkin on Tuesday, May 31.

However, the majority House Democrats refused to hear Republican budget bills. To add to the chaotic scene in Springfield’s State Capitol on the final night of the 2016 spring session, the majority Senate Democrats refused to pass the $7.5 billion out-of-balance “budget” approved by the House Democrats. The supermajority party in the two chambers could not even agree on fake numbers for a massively-unbalanced spending plan for FY17, which will start on July 1, 2016. In an unprecedented failure to govern, the Democrat supermajority did not pass a state budget by the May 31st deadline. Entities that have been left waiting for more than 11 months for payment from the State were left in no doubt which party was at fault for the debacle. Illinois’ public schools were also left unfunded as Democrats left town, pointing fingers at each other.

A series of special sessions are expected to be held in June for lawmakers to make additional attempts to reach a budget and policy compromise. Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger has warned lawmakers that some state payments will end, and others will be delayed as long as eight or nine months, unless a budget deal that matches expenditures to revenues is reached prior to the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

Budget – Durkin/School Aid
Durkin files legislation to protect public education from budget fight. One year ago, House Democrats agreed in May 2015 to suspend the impact of the budget impasses upon Illinois public schools and their pupils. This was done by passing a bill that appropriated full funding for Illinois public schools in the 2015-16 school year while leaving the rest of Illinois state government to try to operate without a budget. While deeply flawed, this strategy protected schoolchildren, their parents, and educators from the worst consequences of the current budget impasse for one year. However, the 2015-16 school year is over and a new fiscal year will soon begin.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, with the support of many members of the House Republican Caucus, has responded to the current impasse by filing a separate bill to fully fund K-12 education in Illinois for FY2017. This strategy follows the one adopted in 2015. HB 6583 responds to discussions among many House members, including rank-and-file House Democrats, who have called for leaving schools out of the current budget crisis. The measure responds to changes in school attendance, school district equalized assessed values (EAVs), and school district maintenance of efforts. HB 6583 includes a $104.8 million “hold harmless” provision to ensure that all Illinois public school districts will receive at least 100% of their gross prorated 2015-16 General State Aid school aid in FY17.

The Durkin measure parallels the bill voted for by most House Democrats in May 2015. One year ago, the Democrats were not willing to hold schoolchildren hostage in the ongoing budget fight. It remains to be seen if Democrats will hold Illinois school children hostage this year as they push for even more spending for Chicago. Enacting HB 6583 will mean that Illinois schoolchildren and their families can look forward with certainty to a school year starting in September.

Downstate – Illinois State Museum
Illinois State Museum set to reopen on July 2nd; admission to be charged. After months of work and discussions to make sure the State Museum opens its doors, State Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez applauded the announcement by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) that they plan to reopen the Illinois State Museum on July 2nd.

“This museum is a very important part of the Springfield community and the Illinois community as a whole. Its home to exhibits that allow us to learn about and connect with our state’s history. Today’s announcement is very good news for future generations who will continue to be able to explore their Illinois heritage at the Illinois State Museum,” said Representative Jimenez. “This session I’ve filed legislation and have done my best to work with all parties to make sure that this became a reality.”

According to the IDNR announcement, a proposal to charge a small admission fee for adults at the museum near the Capitol will be considered and hopefully approved at the June 14th meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). Children under 18 will continue to be admitted free. The approval of the adult admission fee will help fund museum operations and pave the way for the July relaunch. Representative Jimenez, along with State Representative Tim Butler this spring worked to pass legislation allowing the charging of the nominal adult admission fee to secure the museum’s reopening.

“The State Museum was facing a July deadline to reopen or possibly lose their accreditation. The JCAR hearing is the fastest path to providing funding needed to get the museum open again to the public,” Representative Jimenez said. “Approval at the hearing will be a win for everyone.”

Health Care – UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare announces withdrawal of UHC-branded products from Affordable Care Act (ACA) participation in Illinois. The decision by one of America’s three largest health care insurers could lead to significant problems in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” in calendar year 2017 and beyond. Like other insurance firms that are withdrawing from ACA markets across the U.S., UnitedHealthcare blamed financial losses for the outcome of its decision. UnitedHealthcare sold ACA-compliant policies in 27 Illinois counties for periods through 2016. Existing patients will continue to be covered by UnitedHealthcare through the end of the calendar year.

A nonbranded subsidiary of UnitedHealthcare, Harken Health, will continue to sell health plans on the Illinois ACA marketplace in 2017. However, Harken has positioned itself as a non-conventional “boutique” health care and insurance firm, and many patients will not find the names of their longtime doctors on Harken’s Illinois provider directory. For many Illinoisans, participation in the ACA insurance marketplace is required by law and nonparticipants are subject to fines and penalties. The State of Illinois operates a webpage, “Get Covered Illinois,” for persons who need to try to find new health insurance policies. The next ACA open enrollment period will start on November 1, 2016, and will end on January 31, 2017.

West Nile – First 2016 Virus Sighting
Mosquito bearing the West Nile virus gathered in Glenview. The mosquito-borne virus can cause fever, nausea, and headaches. In rare cases, West Nile virus infection can cause the death of a human being who has been bitten by an infected mosquito. As with other mosquito-borne illnesses, the West Nile season coincides with the months of summer and early fall. In 2015, 77 cases of West Nile were reported in Illinois, including nine deaths. Public health officials urge Illinois residents to take standard precautions against biting insects, including the use of mosquito repellent and the remediation of places of standing water on public or private property. The infected Glenview mosquito was collected in the final week of May.

REMINDER: Check your License Plate Renewal Date
In September of 2015, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced his office would suspend mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public. Email reminders will continue but you must sign-up through the Secretary of State’s website at https://www.ilsos.gov/greenmail/.

If you do not sign-up for the electronic reminders you will have to renew your vehicle stickers in person at a Secretary of State office.

Before signing up for the electronic reminder be sure to have your Registration ID and PIN number handy. They can be found on your current vehicle registration card. If you do not have your current registration card, please call the Public Inquiry Division at 800-252-8980 to obtain your Registration ID and PIN number.