The week in review, September 23-27

Durkin Takes Reins as New House Republican Leader

·         Representative Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) takes over as Leader of the House Republican Caucus.  The transition took place on Monday, September 23.  Representative Tom Cross (R-Plainfield), the leader of the House Republicans for ten years (2003-2013), moved on to turn his attention to other opportunities.  While Cross plans to serve out his legislative term, Durkin becomes the leader of the forty-seven House Republican members.

Jim Durkin, a practicing attorney, began his House service in 1995.  He has served repeatedly on the House’s Judiciary Committees, specializing in issues of criminal law and civil misconduct.  He was a leader in the bipartisan investigatory committee that gathered evidence and made a recommendation that led to the impeachment and removal from office of former Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2008-2009.  In 2012-2013, Durkin led the General Assembly’s efforts to investigate and help regain financial stability for the troubled “College Illinois” savings program.    

Budget – Medicaid Reform

·         State to continue redetermination scrutiny of 2.7 million Illinois Medicaid recipients.   With  the taxpayer-funded program’s costs and patient headcounts growing exponentially – more than one-fifth of Illinois’ 12.8 million men, women and children are now enrolled in the program, originally designed to provide medical care to the extremely poor – the General Assembly, led by Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Westmont), has instructed the Quinn administration to carry out a “redetermination,” a scrutiny procedure to examine the existing rolls to see how many of the households currently in the program have experienced changes in their financial circumstances that may render some of them ineligible.

This redetermination has run into many snags.  In particular, a major labor union that represents State employees filed a grievance lawsuit to stop the redetermination, arguing that the terms of its existing contract forbid the redetermination from being bid out and procured from the private sector.  Acting in accordance with the General Assembly’s mandated timetable, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) has contracted with Maximus, a private-sector firm, to conduct the database search functions necessary for the redetermination.  DHFS reaffirmed on Monday that it plans to appeal a court ruling that seeks to break the State’s procurement contract with Maximus, and plans to continue working with the private sector to carry out the redetermination and meet its General Assembly-mandated FY14 budget goals.

Concealed Carry

·         State Police announce that approved concealed carry firearms training curricula will be available on Monday, September 30.  The announcement marked what the State Police believes is another stage of progress towards the full rollout of concealed carry, which has been mandated by the General Assembly to occur no later than January 2014. As of Tuesday, September 24, 54 instructors had been approved by the State Police to instruct applicants for concealed carry licenses.  The new State concealed carry law will require applicants to show proof of instruction as part of their applications to carry a concealable firearm in public.  

Groups that advocate for the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners have expressed concerns about the proposed new curricula, which could impose redundant “gun safety information” requirements upon licensed FOID cardholders who have already learned how to safely handle a concealable firearm.  Even if they already know gun safety, most of these individuals are slated to still be required to undergo 16 hours of additional mandated training.      Concealed carry instructors will be required to follow one of the State Police-approved 16-hour curricula when training a concealed carry applicant and passing him or her on to final licensure.

Concerned gun owners may want to look up the Illinois State Police’s website for further concealed carry information at and their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) webpage at

Criminal Law – Controlled Substances

·         Police, reporters say heroin increasingly available in greater Chicago area; overdose deaths tallied.  Five of the greater Chicago area’s six counties (all except Cook) have seen increased heroin-related fatalities in the first seven months of 2013.  While the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has stepped up its investigatory and search-and-seizure operations, and nearly 180 kilos of heroin were seized in 2012 in the five-state DEA Chicago Division, improved supply pipelines appear to be funneling increased quantities of the illegal opiate into Illinois. 

A report published on Monday, September 23 by the Chicago Tribune stated that a dose of heroin, treated so as to be ingestible by sniffing, can be bought in some localities within greater Chicago for as little as $10.  Changes in technology have created a form of heroin that does not need to be injected by syringe.  A drug cartel headquartered in western Mexico is blamed for the heroin pipeline.       

Criminal Law – Parole

·         Representative John Cabello (R-Loves Park) calls for improved parole standards.  The Rockford-area lawmaker, who is a trained police officer, pointed to flaws in the existing parole system operated by the Illinois Department of Corrections.  IDOC’s 341 parole officers have an average caseload of 106 parolees each, which prevents them from putting effective guidance or pressure on parolees to get a GED degree or other job training.  An investigation by the Rockford Register Star has found that in some cases, the Department has not even been able to maintain accurate records of the physical location of its parolees.  After a series of violent crimes in Rockford, a parolee was arrested on March 15 on charges of attempted murder and armed robbery.  Cabello’s remarks were made on Thursday, September 26. 


·         Food giant Archer Daniels Midland announces exploration for new headquarters.  The agricultural processing giant, which has been headquartered in Decatur since 1969, announced on Monday, September 23 that it is exploring headquarters opportunities elsewhere.   ADM’s management has historically sited itself adjacent to the firm’s U.S. industrial operations, which refine corn and soybeans into ethanol, animal feed, soybean meal products, corn oil, and other commodity goods.  

Wall Street analysts pointed towards the increased importance of international trading to ADM’s overall operational picture, and suggested that relocating to a major urban area could increase the firm’s global profile.  Approximately 100 headcount positions would be affected by the move.   ADM stated that they expected to continue to employ approximately 4,400 men and women in Decatur.  ADM’s global sales totaled $89.0 billion in FY12, of which almost 48% were earned outside the U.S.  


·         Illinois unemployment rate remains at 9.2 percent.  The August 2013 numbers from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (DES) indicate that Illinois’ jobless rate remains among the highest reported among the 50 states.  While the unemployment rate has dropped slightly from its January-February 2010 peak of 11.3 percent, the jobless numbers (602,000 Illinois residents lack a paycheck and report searching actively for work) continue to indicate severe recessionary conditions. 

The 2010-2013 period has seen a genuine cut in the number of persons employed by the public sector, with 34,000 headcount positions shed by federal, State and local government during this three-and-a-half-year period.   

By contrast, August 2013 figures reported separately by the Illinois Association of Realtors indicates the presence of a ray of strength in the Illinois construction and building sector, with home sales up in August 2013 by 17.3% on a year-over-year basis from the depressed levels of August 2012.  Year-over-year growth in home sales was reported in 52 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

Gambling – Riverboat Casinos

·         Illinois Gaming Board considers whether to explicitly allow 24/7 riverboat casino operation.  The Land of Lincoln’s ten licensed riverboat casinos, operating from Elgin to the southern Illinois county seat of Metropolis, have voluntarily complied with a 22-hour-per-day limit on their operations.  By contrast, casino floors in Atlantic City and Las Vegas operate under a business model that includes continuous operation. 

Testimony presented to the Illinois Gaming Board on Thursday, September 19, included both supporters and opponents to the proposed move from 22 hours to 24-hour-operation.  Opponents, including a recovering compulsive gambler, pointed to a daily casino floor shutdown as the only way to stop them from pursuing a gaming binge.  Proponents pointed out that the casino floors in neighboring states, and the video gaming machines operated at Illinois truck stops, are already allowed to operate on a 24/7 basis.   

General Assembly

·         Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Freeport) steps aside; to be replaced by Brian Stewart.  Jim Sacia, a member of the House since 2003, had pledged to serve no more than six terms in office.  A former Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Sacia has specialized in law enforcement and agricultural issues.  Sacia’s resignation will take effect on Monday, September 30.   

Following legal procedure, local political leaders convened and appointed Freeport businessman and former sheriff’s deputy Brian Stewart to serve as the new representative for the 89th House District.  Speaking to reporters, Stewart cited lower taxes, middle-class job creation, and a bipartisan solution to Illinois’ pension crisis as three key priorities for his legislative work.  Stewart is scheduled to be sworn into office on Wednesday, October 2.

Health Care – Obamacare

·         Unanswered questions affect Illinoisans, including those without health insurance.  Widespread questions are being asked about the imminent rollout of health insurance products under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “exchange” scheduled to be operating no later than Tuesday, October 1.  The 50 states, and the District of Columbia, are each scheduled to have federally mandated “exchanges” on which uninsured Americans and their families can purchase health insurance.  36 states, including Illinois, have elected to have the federal government run their exchanges.  Many questions remain as to which health conditions will and will not be covered by the insurance policies that may or may not be available in various states.  In addition, different levels of patient co-payments will be required under different levels of ACA insurance coverage.

Critics say the Quinn administration has not taken effective steps to explain the program.  While some federally funded advertising is taking place, critics also point out that if the ACA were truly a private-sector-friendly federal program, the insurance industry would be taking active steps to explain the program and sell the insurance policies that Americans will, in the near future, be mandated and required to buy.  

Revenue – Taxes & Fees

·         State considers new $15 annual fee for golf carts and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs); hearings possible.  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reported to be preparing a new $15 annual fee to be imposed on owners and operators of golf carts and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) if they are used on a “public way,” such as a country road, municipal street, or campground.  The fee would be enforced by decal sticker, which would be similar to the decals mounted by owners on boats and motor vehicles. 

The widely used recreational vehicles are not licensed as motor vehicles and, up until now, Illinois residents have not been required to register them or pay a fee.  The new surcharge, which would be imposed by rule, would bring in an estimated $800,000 per year. Similar fees are already charged in Maine, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.  

State law requires DNR to hold hearings on new administrative rules if enough Illinois voters or businesses request one and a hearing on this proposal could be held as soon as October.  DNR said on Monday, September 23 that they did not expect to enforce the fee decal requirement on private property that the vehicle owner resides on or uses for business.

Suburbs – Deep Tunnel

·         North section of well-known dolomite quarry closes; to become stormwater reservoir.  The bedrock excavation is a familiar sight to drivers on the Interstate 80 section of Chicago’s Tri-State Tollway.  The quarry is located in south suburban Thornton adjacent to the tollway oasis.  The quarry quadrant north of the toll road will now become a key link in the Deep Tunnel floodwater control system.  As the Thornton Transitional Reservoir, the reconfigured 350-foot-deep basin will have the capacity to hold up to 7.9 billion gallons of stormwater and sanitary sewer runoff flowing out of more than 12 south suburban municipalities.  Basin reconstruction began on Monday, September 23.