Winger's Weekly Wrap-up

Rep. Winger hosts reception for art students from
Westfield Middle School to showcase their artwork.
Fly Quiet Test Program Set to Expire. Created as a temporary effort, the trial period of the Fly Quiet Program will expire on December 25th of this year. The decision to make the program permanent is partially based on community response to a survey created by O’Hare officials. Rep. Winger urges all residents affected by noise from O'Hare to complete the survey. Read more.

Illinois Lottery
Winger explores legislative options to get to the heart of newly identified concerns at the Illinois Lottery. Earlier this month the Chicago Tribune reported that lottery scratch off winning tickets were not entirely random and grand prizes were not always paid out. Here's the original story.

Budget – FY17
As year-end deadline approaches, talks are suspended. Many facets of state spending are moving towards limbo with the approach of New Year’s Eve. December 31 is the expiration date for the so-called “stopgap budget” that is authorizing much of the State’s spending activities during the final two quarters of calendar year 2016. The “stopgap budget,” which was enacted in summer 2016, was meant to serve as a bridge to cover the first half of the 2017 fiscal year while budget negotiations took place. However, high-level budget talks have been suspended. Governor Bruce Rauner stated on Wednesday, December 14, that based on his face-to-face contacts with leading Democrats, negotiations are not being productive at this time.

Under the complex current Illinois budget situation, not all areas of State spending are tied to the so-called “stopgap budget.” Significant FY17 spending programs, such as Medicaid and pay for state employees, are tied to court orders, consent decrees, and continuing appropriations. Other spending programs are being carried out through December 31 in line with the so-called stopgap budget. Still other areas are not covered by any current appropriation at all, and monies for these programs are not being spent. Many entities that are not receiving needed state funding, such as community colleges and offices that carry out many social programs, are begging for relief.

Human Services – Developmental Disabilities
Department of Human Services (IDHS) director responds to reports. In the wake of an investigative-report series published by the Chicago Tribune that uncovered serious problems in some Illinois group homes for the developmentally disabled (DD) population, the General Assembly convened a joint committee to hold a hearing on the issue. More than 1,300 cases of abuse and neglect were uncovered by the series of news stories. Meeting on Tuesday, December 13, the committee heard from agency Director James Dimas, who described work being done by him and his top aides to understand the size of the scandal and improve enforcement of living conditions in Illinois DD group homes.

IDHS is required, under law, to supervise 3,000 licensed private-sector DD group homes throughout Illinois. These homes shelter approximately 12,000 persons with intellectual and developmental challenges, often in an extended-family setting. The treatment provided to persons in this category ranges from thoughtful, high-quality care to abuse and neglect. In some cases, DD group home caregivers are overwhelmed by the challenges of taking care of persons with two or more separately diagnosed disabilities.

A major finding by the Tribune was that many of the cases of abuse and neglect that had taken place since July 2011 had been flagged in some way or another by IDHS oversight, but that many of the investigative files on these cases had been hidden, concealed, or even legally sealed. A key pledge made by Director Dimas this week was that the Department will create a new infrastructure of electronic transparency to increase access to information on the standing of each group home. The transparency infrastructure will include an Internet-based public report card to detail the status of many State investigations based upon allegations of abuse and neglect. The report cards will include evaluations of many Illinois DD group homes. In another pledge, Director Dimas stated that Illinois group homes for adults with disabilities will face stricter standards for establishing and maintaining licensure.

Governor Rauner – Clemency
Governor’s office announces that clemency backlog has been eliminated. Under the Constitution of Illinois, persons negatively affected by criminal convictions (including, but not limited to, prisoners in State prisons) have the right to petition the Governor of Illinois for clemency. Nothing in the Constitution says that the Governor has to respond at once, though, and previous Governors had let a backlog of more than 2,300 clemency petitions build up in the Office of the Governor without final action.

When he took office in January 2015, newly-elected Governor Bruce Rauner pledged to work with his staff to eliminate this massive backlog of clemency requests. Upon digging into the pile, at least one unanswered request was found that had been filed thirteen years earlier, in 2003. Most of the clemency requests were standard pleas that a prisoner or convicted felon should not be punished. Although all of the 2,300 petitions were read, Governor Rauner granted pardons in less than 4% of the cases. Approximately 80 pardons were handed out. The backlog has now been eliminated, which will enable new requests to be read and acted on in a timely manner.

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