Week in Review for 12/16/13 through 12/20/13

Concealed Carry
New Illinois State Police website for concealed carry pre-applicants and applicants.  Pre-applicants for a firearms concealed carry license (CCL) are invited to visit a new website, https://ccl4illinois.com/ccw/public/home.aspx, to establish their digital password ID and learn about the segments of their application they will be requested to fill out, including a strong suggestion that they submit fingerprints to speed up their background check.  The CCL applications themselves will become available to the general public no later than Sunday, January 5, 2014.  The State Police requests that e-applicants pay $150 with their applications, in addition to the costs to the applicant for pre-licensure training and fingerprinting services.

The website will walk gun owners through the application requirements.  The application to the State Police must be done electronically and online, with the help of a digital password ID that the applicant will submit in Stage 1 (the “Checklist”) of the application process and then use for the application itself.  Fingerprints may be submitted electronically through a variety of means, including licensed, private-sector LiveScan fingerprint submission offices (a statewide list of these vendors can be found here: http://www.isp.state.il.us/docs/livescanfpvendlst.pdf).

The State Police expects to receive approximately 400,000 electronic CCL applications.  As a result, they have stated they are not currently in a position to mail out, or accept, paper applications for concealed carry licenses.  In a public session of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), Deputy Republican Leader David Leitch asked the law enforcement agency to continue to work on an alternate pathway for Illinois residents to apply on paper for CCL status.  In response to this request, the State Police pledged to make a pathway for paper applicants available no later than July 2014.

Budget – Medicaid
Deputy Republican Leader Patti Bellock calls for immediate resumption of stalled Redetermination Project.  Implementation of this reform, key to meeting the State’s future Medicaid budgets, came to a complete halt in December 2013 as the Governor moved key Project database work into union hands.

The fast-growing  family of programs that make up Illinois Medicaid are responsible for paying medical bills for approximately 2.8 million Illinois residents who have qualified for Medicaid through as variety of pathways, including the new federal Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).  The State’s overall budgets, including the FY14 budget currently being spent in Springfield, have been negatively affected by the increases in medical costs incurred by these patients.

In an effort to reduce these rates of expenditure growth and budgetary pressure, House and Senate Republicans have taken the lead in enacting statutory language to implement the Redetermination Project, a long-term solution intended to scrutinize these 2.8 million residents to re-verify their household’s eligibility for Medicaid status.  Current practice does not provide a practical pathway for this scrutiny, and initial Redetermination Project works, begun earlier in 2013 by a private-sector contractor, have uncovered approximately 127,000 potentially ineligible Illinois cases, representing approximately 216,000 individual Illinois residents.   Continuing this scrutiny would have enabled significant savings for Illinois taxpayers.

The scrutiny of Illinois’ Medicaid patient database by Maximus Inc. stopped abruptly in June 2013 after a public-sector union launched a legal effort to persuade an arbitrator that privatization of this key project was a violation of current State labor-management contracts.   The Governor’s office has announced that they are now moving this work away from Maximus and into offices that have been organized by the public-sector union AFSCME, in line with the arbitrator’s decision but not in accordance with the timetable set forth in the FY14 budget that had been signed by the Governor.  The AFSCME/gubernatorial settlement was finalized by a supplemental order signed by the arbitrator on Tuesday, December 17.

The Governor’s move, which abandons the State’s right to appeal the arbitrator’s decision, will stall implementation of these Medicaid budget savings.  Simultaneously, Medicaid budgets are scheduled to soar again in FY14 and future years through a new influx of medical cost increases and eligible patients.  The move  negates a key segment of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, and calls into question its ability for expenditures to remain balanced (as is required by the Illinois Constitution) with scheduled FY14 State general funds tax receipts.  House Republicans, led by Rep. Patti Bellock, criticized the Governor’s move on Tuesday, December 17.

Criminal Code
Schmitz bill deletes statute of limitations for residential arson.  Arson and aggravated arson are serious crimes for which the penalty can be as high as a Class X felony (6-30 years in State prison), but until 2014 residential arson has been a crime that has been subject to the Illinois statute of limitations, a separate law that forbids prosecutors from bringing charges three years have elapsed.   Courts do not like stale or old testimony, but some crimes (such as first-degree murder) have always been seen as so bad that even delayed justice is better than no justice.    

Rep. Tim Schmitz took steps in 2013 to add residential arson to the list of crimes exempted from the statute of limitations.  The House vote on HB 3011 was 116-0-0.  As PA 98-265, its effective date was set at January 1, 2014 to give the courts and prosecutors time to familiarize themselves with the new law.

Health Care
Illinois officials advise 30,000 Illinoisans to retrace their Affordable Care Act enrollment from the beginning.  The new glitch in the Illinois “Obamacare” enrollment process came after the federal HealthCare.gov website uncovered a batch of enrollees who had signed in and submitted confidential personal information about their households, only to be incorrectly shunted by the federal government’s automated software to Medicaid.  In an effort to be helpful to lower-income households, the Healthcare.gov website has tried to refer as many households as possible to Medicaid, including approximately 30,000 Illinois households who may have been incorrectly referred.  Households with incomes above a complex ceiling – a set of numbers that shifts with household income, number of children in the household, and changes in the cost of living – are not legally qualified for Medicaid.

“Get Covered Illinois,” the Illinois state partner of Healthcare.gov, is now taking steps to try to inform these 30,000 households that they should undergo the entire ACA enrollment process from the beginning.  Upon re-enrollment, some Illinoisans may be automatically reclassified out of Medicaid.  Reclassification may sharply increase the household medical costs faced by thousands of affected households, as instead of Medicaid the household heads will be required to purchase private-sector medical care insurance.  In some cases, persons who enroll in private-sector insurance plans will have access to a larger number of health care providers than the shorter list of providers who accept Medicaid patients.  “Get Covered Illinois” stated on Thursday, December 19 they were implementing outreach online and by telephone.

The news that up to 30,000 Illinois households may have been incorrectly referred by the federal ACA website to Medicaid further increased the importance of scrutinizing the headcount of patients and households in the Illinois system.  The Redetermination Project, a statewide effort to look at Medicaid and non-Medicaid patients to see who should be where, is currently stalled after the private-sector firm that had been responsible for implementing key segments of the effort was largely dismissed from the project.

Identity Theft
Hatcher bill fights back against identity theft.  HB 3776 creates the Attorney General Identity Theft Database Act.  It authorizes a victim of identity theft to take a series of actions, including submitting his or her fingerprints, which shall be filed in a State database to reestablish the legal identity of the person whose identity has been stolen.  It directs the Attorney General to set up this database and to cooperate with the victims who request to be included in it.  Access to the database shall be limited to the victim, to law enforcement, and to private-sector entities who are authorized by the victim to gain access for the purpose of reestablishing the person’s identity.

The State of California has set up a California Identity Theft Registry under the office of its Attorney General.  Representative Kay Hatcher filed her bill on Wednesday, December 11.

Jobs – Archer Daniels Midland
Agricultural processor Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) finalizes plans to move global headquarters from Decatur to Chicago.  The anticipated plan became public on Wednesday, December 18.  A proposal, presented to the Illinois House on December 3, to offer income tax credits to ADM in return for holding harmless its overall Decatur-area employment headcount was not enacted by the Illinois House and did not become law.  Despite the terms of this announcement, ADM is expected to maintain approximately 4,400 jobs in Decatur relating to its North American regional headquarters and the actual operations of its industrial facilities.  ADM’s plants are supplied by Central Illinois cropland and agricultural production.  An estimated 60-75 jobs will move with CEO Patricia Woertz to Chicago.

ADM plants refine corn and soybeans into ethanol, animal feed, corn syrup, and many other products used worldwide.  In October 2013, company management informed a joint committee of the Illinois House that their approaching move to a location with international passenger air service was incentivized by the increasingly global nature of their customer base.  For example, widely-enjoyed soft drinks such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi use large quantities of high-fructose corn syrup refined by ADM and other suppliers.    

Archer Daniels Midland, a component of the widely-followed “Fortune 500” equities list, posted more than $89 billion in global sales in corporate fiscal year 2012. Its net income in the same year exceeded $1.2 billion.  Representative Bill Mitchell and other lawmakers fought to adjust the terms of this move to save jobs in Central Illinois.      

Speed limits will rise to 70 m.p.h. on many rural divided highways on Wednesday, January 1.  However, not all of the new highway mileage will be re-signed immediately.  Motorists are urged to keep within posted speed limits after New Year’s Day, because a complex formula will determine which stretches of road will see faster driving.

The new law, enacted in spring 2013 but not effective until January 2014, authorizes road authorities and law enforcement to keep the former 65 m.p.h. limits in areas of high population or traffic density.  Driving at “70” will become legal on inter-city stretches of Illinois limited-access highways, primarily highways designated as federal Interstates.  

The 70 m.p.h. bill, SB 2356 (PA 98-511), was co-sponsored in the House by Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer and many other House Republicans.

Hands-free cellphone requirement goes statewide on Wednesday, January 1.  HB 1247 (PA 98-506) expands an existing statewide ban on texting-while driving to include all forms of communication on a handheld electronic communication device, such as a cellphone.  The ban will not apply to the “hands-free” electronic communications circuitry included in many new motor vehicles sold in the U.S.

A first violation of this ban will draw a fine of $75, and a second or subsequent violation will draw an increasing fine schedule and will, in addition, be treated as a moving violation on the driver’s insurance record.  In addition to the statutory fine for this offense, the local circuit court will impose a lengthy schedule of additional penalties.

New disability parking law.  The new law responds to the needs of persons who are partly disabled, and to relations between the City of Chicago and its long-term parking-meter partner.  Briefly, Chicago’s budget takes a hit, under current law, which is proportional to the number of persons with disabilities that achieve exemption from parking-meter fees.  To limit this consequence, the General Assembly has now created a new, multi-category rainbow of disability parking rights.  Under some of the stripes of this rainbow, drivers will be allowed to park in spots reserved for persons with disabilities, and will be allowed to continue to park in metered parking spaces as well, but will be required for the first time to pay the standard fees for the metered spaces they occupy.

The highest-level category of disability parking rights will authorize a yellow placard-holder to not only park in disability parking spaces, but also continue to park in metered parking spaces in municipalities like Chicago for free.  However, well less than half of the drivers of the 765,000 Illinois vehicles with disability placards or license plates will meet the medical requirements for a yellow placard.  Disabled drivers should work with the office of the Illinois Secretary of State (http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/) to determine their eligibility status.  SB 1929 (PA 98-577) will go into effect on January 1, 2014.  

University of Illinois
Entire Urbana-Champaign campus to become smoke-free and e-cigarette free on New Year’s Day.  The ban was imposed by the university’s chancellor, Phyllis Wise, after receiving a recommendation from an advisory panel asked to examine the issue.  The ban will apply to all campus-owned property, including open spaces, parking lots, and vehicles parked in the parking lots, and will include e-cigarettes.  After a fourteen-month transition announced in October 2012, the ban will take effect on Wednesday, January 1, 2014.

The open-space component of the overall Urbana-Champaign ban is not required by current State law (the Illinois Clean Indoor Air Act applies to indoor public spaces and a “smoke-free zone” around their doors), and was imposed by the University itself.  The chancellor and her advisory panel examined the increasing trend towards complete “smoke-free” environments in places of higher education and health professionalism.  The American College Health Association has advised all U.S. campuses to take steps to prohibit tobacco use on all properties owned by institutions associated with higher education.  As of November 2013, these recommendations had been accepted by approximately 1,178 campuses throughout the United States.

The University states it has increased its commitment to provide stop-smoking supplies and counseling to members of the U of I community.  The Urbana-Champaign ban follows similar action taken on July 1, 2013 throughout the Near West Side campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).   A parallel ban has not been imposed on the campus of the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS), but a parallel advisory panel is examining the desirability of this move at UIS.  UIC and UIS are legally distinct institutions that operate under the overall umbrella of the University of Illinois system.