The Week In Review - September 16-20

Budget – Medicaid Reform

·         Representative Patty Bellock questions Quinn administration’s compliance with Medicaid reform.  In a Chicago budget hearing on Tuesday, September 17 that centered on Medicaid and health care issues, members of the Illinois House questioned the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) about the Department’s implementation of Medicaid reforms.  The General Assembly, bound by its constitutional duty to generate a balanced budget, appropriated money to DHFS for Medicaid that assumed that these reforms, which have been enacted into law, would be carried out. 

One key reform, looked at closely by the Illinois House this week, is the scrutiny of existing Medicaid patients to see how many of them are legally ineligible for Medicaid.  Existing law assumes that this redetermination will be carried out under contract by the private sector, and DHFS has contracted with Maximus, a service provider with experience at performing database scrutinies and redeterminations of this type. 

A major public-sector labor union that opposes what they call the “privatization” of government operations has held up the redetermination by grievancing the role to be played by Maximus, and an arbitrator has ruled in favor of the union’s complaint and won a preliminary ruling.  The arbitrator’s ruling calls for the Maximus contract to be ended no later than December 31 and for the redetermination work to be re-planned and started over by full-time state workers. 

At the September 17 hearing, Rep. Patty Bellock (R-Westmont) forcefully advocated for DHFS to continue working with Maximus in line with the policy and budget goals set by the General Assembly.  DHFS agreed to appeal the arbitrator’s ruling.  This appeal, if it is legally sustained, will mean that the State will be able to continue to work with Maximus and continue to make progress toward meeting its budget and policy goals.   

On the other hand, the possible failure of the Quinn administration to win this appeal, combined with the money totals allocated to Medicaid under the current budget, could mean that this Medicaid reform program will be upended.  Health care service providers could have to wait even longer to get reimbursed by the State than their current queue times.   Further legislation may be required to clarify the powers and duties of the State to implement Medicaid reform, including redetermination, and save money for Illinois taxpayers.

Concealed Carry

·         As controversy continues, Illinois State Police revise and update the webpage they use to inform Illinoisans about their new concealed carry rules.  These rules, which have so far been adopted as emergency rules under a loophole in state law that allows the rules to be adopted without official public comment, describe the terms and conditions under which Illinois residents who are gun owners will be expected to follow when they apply for a license to carry a concealable firearm when in public.  “In public” includes when the armed citizen is in a moving motor vehicle or walking on a public sidewalk.  

Several organizations that have historically represented the Second Amendment rights of gun owners have expressed sharp concern about aspects of these rules that could make it more difficult to get a license of this type.  Concerned gun owners may want to work with their advocacy groups, and may also want to look up the State Police’s concealed carry website at and their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) webpage at

General Assembly – Legislative Pay

·         Judge hears arguments in case brought by Democratic Party caucus leaders.  After Governor Pat Quinn vetoed that portion of the State’s budget meant to be used to pay the members of the Illinois House and Senate, the House Speaker and the President of the Senate, who lead their respective party caucuses, sued the State to reopen their members’ pay window.  Associate Judge Neil Cohen heard arguments in the case on Wednesday, September 18, and said he would rule on the case no later than Thursday, September 26. 

Opponents of the lawsuit say that the General Assembly has a constitutional recourse to get paid – they can override the Governor’s veto.  However, many members, including many members of the House Republican caucus, have expressed opposition to an override.  They want the State to settle its pension crisis and take other urgently needed measures to stabilize the State’s fiscal picture and taxpayer prospects before the General Assembly can get paid according to law.

Higher Education

·         Changing demographics at the University of Illinois (UIUC).  New figures show that a record percentage of University of Illinois students at the state university system’s flagship campus are international enrollees.  For 2013-14, a record high percentage of undergraduate enrollees, 15.5%, are from abroad and a record low percentage, 73.0%, are from families residing in Illinois.  This proportion of less than three-quarters is a sharp decline from the 90 percent figures posted less than a decade ago.  About 44.7% of Illinois residents who were offered admission to the 2013-14 fall freshman class responded positively to their acceptance, which the university and Chicago Tribune reporters believe could be the lowest positive-response percentage ever by Illinois residents. 

Positive response rates from Illinois residents to a green light from the University of Illinois admissions office have been hampered in recent years by compounded tuition rates, spurred higher by overall trends in higher education and cuts in the allocations of Illinois general tax revenues for higher education.  Total tuition, fees, and other living costs for an Illinois resident at the University of Illinois can be up to $35,000 per year.  At the same time, the appetite by non-U.S. students and their families for a University of Illinois education continues to grow.  Approximately 4,990 U of I undergraduates are from abroad, as a percentage of a total population of 32,300 undergraduates.  Non-U.S. students must pay up to $52,000/year.  2,588 of these 4,990 undergraduates are from China, and 886 are from South Korea.  The University of Illinois numbers were published on Friday, September 13.

Special Education

·         Special education rules draw scrutiny.  The State Board of Education (SBE) had been pursuing a repeal of current rules that place a cap on the class size for self-contained special education classrooms, as well as to provide that no more than 30% of a general education classroom can be comprised of special education students. 
The SBE held public hearings over the summer to take comments from the education community, special education advocates, and parents.  During the SBE’s meeting this week on Thursday, September 19, board members decided to delay adopting the rules to ensure that there is ample time to take into consideration all testimony taken during the comment period before sending the changes to the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) for review and possible enactment.   

The SBE says these current rules exceed the requirements under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and that the implementation of the current rules over the past three years has led to several unintended consequences for both special education and general education class rooms.  The SBE believes that the elimination of the sections specific to special education class size and general education class composition will ensure that each student with disabilities is placed in the least restrictive environment, as well as have access to a broader array of coursework, particularly in the middle grades and high school.  Opponents of the proposed SBE rule changes believe that the action would compromise the quality of education for all students. 

State Government

·         Many unelected members of boards and commissions collect taxpayer-funded salaries.  Pay and other compensation includes travel and other expenses required to attend board meetings, and in many cases service on a state board or commission is not a full-time job.  The nonpartisan Legislative Research Unit (LRU) reports that pay board and commission service scales up to the compensation granted to members of the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC), whose members (who oversee the full-time staff that supervises the workers’ compensation system of Illinois) are paid $119,840 per year, plus expenses (the WCC  chairperson receives a supplemental stipend of $5,392/year).  Members of the Pollution Control Board are paid $117,043 per year, plus expenses, and the Small Business Utility Advocate is paid $99,414 per year.  Most members of state boards and commissions are appointed by the Governor.

Starting on Wednesday, September 18, the Daily Herald and its allied papers began a feature series on the expenses of Illinois boards and commissions to taxpayers and fee payers.  The newspaper found that collective pay and expenses in these budget line items cost nearly $6.9 million last year for 167 commissioners who are paid salaries and expenses.  Illinois has 391 separate boards and commissions, although most of the commission positions pay expenses only and do not include a separate paycheck for chairpersons or members.