Week in Review for 8/18/14 - 8/22/14

Healthcare – Medicaid Audit

Audit finds Illinois overdrew federal Medicaid dollars. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General report found that Illinois overdrew its actual Medicaid spending by an average of $60 million per quarter during the three years reviewed due to “faulty” and “imprecise” practices. The federal government estimates it may have lost as much as $792,000 in interest from fiscal year 2010 through 2012 because Illinois was delayed two to six months in repaying the money.

Auditors discovered that the Medicaid money was deposited directly into the state’s general revenue fund, which is also used to pay transportation, education and pension expenses. The report found that the money was used to pay non-Medicaid expenditures, leaving insufficient funds to immediately repay the federal government the overdrawn amount.

According to Mike Casey, administrator of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ finance division, the state has properly justified all of the $23.3 billion in claims over the three-year period. Casey says the problem lies in the state’s use of a 30 year old Medicaid software system that is unable to provide real-time claims information. As a result, the state must use historical claims data to estimate the federal government’s share of the payments by quarter. As the audit shows, between fiscal 2010 and 2012, the state’s estimates missed the mark by at least $4 million per quarter.

Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos says the expansion of managed care in Illinois should allow for more consistent payment cycles and better estimates of the federal share of payments. Hamos also believes the implementation of a new information system, to be in place by 2017, will be able to more effectively calculate the federal government’s Medicaid.

Guns – Concealed Carry

22 states recognize Illinois’ concealed carry weapons permit. Since becoming law in January, an increasing number of states around the country are allowing the holder of an Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry License to carry a concealed firearm in those states.

States that are now honoring Illinois’ concealed carry weapons permit include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.

An Illinois licensee carrying in one of the above-listed states does so subject to the laws of that state. Before carrying in another state, an Illinois licensee should check that state’s laws to ensure that he or she obeys any and all applicable rules and restrictions.

While some states have reciprocity agreements with other states, which means that each state honors the other state’s concealed carry license or permit, the State of Illinois has not entered into a reciprocity agreement with any other state, and does not currently recognize any license or permit issued by another state.

To learn more about Illinois’ concealed carry law and find a list of certified instructors, visit the Illinois State Police concealed carry website.

Economy – Illinois’ National Rankings

New report compares Illinois revenue and spending categories. Since 2001, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) has issued an annual Illinois National Rankings report. The report compares State revenue related topics, including current overall tax levels in Illinois, changes in these levels, and how they compare to other Midwestern industrial states. The report also compares Illinois to the other 49 states in the various areas of state government financing.
In CGFA’s 2014 report, Illinois ranks 4th overall in gross State tax revenue and 14th in per-capita tax revenue. As the report points out, these areas have risen significantly over the past couple of years primarily due to the revenue impact from the 2011 Illinois income tax increase. Between 2010 and 2013, Illinois’ revenue total in this category has risen from $25.5 billion to $38.7 billion, moving Illinois from a ranking of 7th to 4th. Only California, New York, and Texas have higher dollar totals than Illinois.

The report also shows Illinois’ per-capita value has risen from $1,988 to $3,005, which has caused the per-capita ranking to rise from 34th to 14th. In 2010, with a per-capita ranking of 34th, Illinois’ ranking was behind several other Midwestern states. However, Illinois’ value of $3,005 now places Illinois as the highest ranking state in the Midwest in terms of tax revenue per capita.

State Government – Retiree Healthcare

State government retiree insurance premiums decrease. Despite doubling retiree health insurance premiums earlier this summer, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) has reversed course and will now revert back to collecting health insurance premiums from state retirees at their pre-July 1st levels.

On June 27th of this year, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) filed an emergency administrative rule to increase the percentage of annuity to be paid for retiree health insurance coverage. The emergency rule increased the percentage of annuity to be paid for retiree health insurance coverage from 1% (retirees, annuitants and survivors with primary coverage under Medicare) or 2% (retirees, annuitants and survivors with primary coverage under the state program) to 2% or 4% respectively. CMS withdrew the emergency rule on August 11th.

Beginning September 1st, premiums for state-subsidized health insurance will revert back to their levels prior to July 1st when the Department of Central Management Services had raised the rates.

Illinois lawmakers passed a law in 2012 allowing the state to charge premiums in an effort to reign in state health care costs. This summer, however, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the state cannot charge retirees premiums for their health care because it was deemed a protected pension benefit.

Economy – Illinois Jobs

Rockford airport announces $40 million jet repair and maintenance facility. AAR Corporation, based in Wood Dale, will open the new maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility at Chicago Rockford International Airport under a seven-year lease agreement beginning in early 2016. AAR, the largest aircraft maintenance company in North America, will employ about 500 people at its 200,000 square-foot Rockford location. Most of the employees will be aviation mechanics with a starting pay of around $50,000.

The MRO facility will be equipped with twin 9 ½ story hangers large enough to house the biggest commercial aircraft built in the U.S., the Boeing 747-8. According to Rockford airport director Mike Dunn, half of the funding for the facility will come from the city of Rockford, Winnebago County and the airport, while state and federal funds will cover the rest. Construction is set to begin next spring and promises to create 550 additional construction jobs.

Director Dunn indicated that the key to closing the deal with AAR Corp. was the expansion of Rock Valley College’s (RVC) Aviation program. Last month RVC broke ground on a $5.1 million, 40,000 square-foot education building that will graduate 150 aviation mechanics per year and be in close proximity to the airport’s MRO facility.

Downstate – Illinois State Fair Numbers

2014 Illinois State Fair attendance down from previous year. State Fair manager Amy Bliefnick reported that the 2014 Illinois State Fair attendance dropped 9 percent from 2013, in part due to rain on eight of the 11 days of the fair. The estimated attendance of 773,422 through the last Saturday of the fair was down from the 853,484 who attended through the same period last year. A State Journal-Register news story recapping the 2014 Illinois State Fair can be found here.

Education – Back to School

School tips for kids and parents. As children across Illinois head back to school, it is important that their transition is both safe and smooth. To assist with this, the Red Cross is offering some helpful safety tips, while the Illinois Association of School Nurses is sharing their back-to-school checklist.

Environment – Illinois Landfill Capacity

Illinois Landfills have a combined life expectancy of 21 years. This information was recently published in an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on the 42 landfills that received more than 45 million gate cubic yards of waste in 2013. The reported capacity for all state landfills is a little more than 947 million gate cubic yards.

The Illinois Solid Waste Management Act requires the Illinois EPA to publish this report annually, broken down by region. According to the report, Southern Illinois has the longest expected landfill life in the state with about 50 years, while landfills in the Chicago region have the lowest life expectancy in the state at 11 years remaining. As the report surmises, however, landfill capacity is subject to adjustments due to changes in waste generation rates, landfill expansions, and new landfills.

Lottery – Northstar Contract Terminated

Governor Quinn terminates Northstar Lottery Group’s Contract. Under-performing ticket sales, profits, and payments to the State for the third straight year ultimately led to the decision. Northstar, a private partnership 80% owned by international gaming firm GTECH, was selected in 2010 to manage the Illinois Lottery under a 10-year management contract. A Quinn spokesman cited the decision to end the partnership was based upon “serious concerns” about the firm’s performance.

Preliminary year-end figures showed that Northstar’s net profit was $738 million, nearly $250 million below its contractual profit commitment. In total, Northstar is around $480 million behind what it had agreed to raise during the first three years of its contract.

When the agreement was originally struck, Illinois was the first state in the nation to privatize the management of its public lottery. While transition plans have not been released, under current law, the lottery will have to seek bids for a new private manager. Lottery officials have assured that lottery products and services will continue uninterrupted.

A Chicago Tribune story on the Northstar situation can be found here.

Child Welfare – Sex Trafficking Law

Anthony law allows tattoo removal for underage victims of sex trafficking. Under current law, tattoo artists are prohibited from performing work on minors without the presence of a parent or guardian; including tattoo removal. Victims of sex trafficking are often tattooed against their will with tattoos resembling bar codes found in the retail industry.

House Bill 5858 will allow a person under 18 years of age who is a victim of human trafficking, involuntary sexual or other servitude, or those who have been a street gang member to seek removal of their tattoo(s) from a licensed tattoo establishment in the State of Illinois.

House Bill 5858 was passed unanimously by the Illinois House and Senate and was officially signed into law on Friday, August 15th as P.A. 98-0936.

Drugs – Kratom Law

Reboletti law prohibits the possession of controversial herb kratom by minors. With emergency room doctors reporting an increase in juveniles being treated for abuse of the opiate-like leaf from Southeast Asia, lawmakers passed HB 5526 to ban the substance among minors.

The new law prohibits a person under 18 from knowingly possessing kratom or using a fake ID to attempt to obtain a product containing kratom. It also prohibits any person from knowingly selling or distributing a product containing kratom to a person under 18. Penalty for violation would be a Class B misdemeanor (including minimum $500 fine for person convicted of unlawful sale or distribution to a minor).

HB 5526 was unanimously passed by the Illinois House and Senate and was officially signed into law on Monday, August 18th as P.A. 98-0981.

Drugs – Synthetic Hallucinogens Law

Reboletti law outlaws powerful new hallucinogenic synthetic drug. Psychedelic drugs chemically known as 25I-NBOMe, 25B-NBOMe and 25C-NBOMe are now on the list of Schedule I controlled substances in Illinois. Known to have caused overdoses and fatalities in youth, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has reported its sale online and through illicit channels, marketed as an LSD substitute.

This substance has been encountered as a powder, liquid, laced on edible items, and soaked into blotter papers. Small amounts of the drug can cause seizures, cardiac and respiratory arrest and death. According to DEA reports, 19 deaths of people aged 15-29 years in the U.S have occurred between March 2012 and August 2013.

Senate Bill 3275 was unanimously passed by the Illinois House and Senate and was officially signed into law on Monday, August 18th as P.A. 98-0987.

Education – Smoke Free Campus Act

Public college and university campuses go smoke free. Beginning July 1, 2015, smoking in both indoor and outdoor spaces on state-supported college and university campuses will be banned. Under SB 2202, the Smoke Free Campus Act, smoking will still be permissible inside cars traveling through campus. The law also provides exceptions for certain activities allowed under the Federal American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

By the end of 2014, each public institution of higher education is required to establish a community task force to aid in the implementation of the Act. Currently, all universities and community colleges comply with the Smoke Free Illinois Act. Some community colleges and universities have gone a step further and made their campuses totally smoke free.

SB2202 was officially signed into law on Monday, August 18th as P.A. 98-0985.

Military – Financial Support Law

Rosenthal law helps military service members and veterans. Military service members, veterans and their families will now have additional assistance navigating the “sea of goodwill” that is offered from numerous public and private sources. Senate Bill 3222, sponsored by State Representative Wayne Rosenthal, creates the public-private partnership Illinois Joining Forces Foundation. The new partnership allows the Illinois Joining Forces program within the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs to solicit, accept and disperse grants and donations on behalf of the state’s veterans. The Illinois Joining Forces network was originally created in 2012.

SB 3222 was unanimously passed by the Illinois House and Senate and was officially signed into law on Monday, August 18th as P.A. 98-0986.

Crime – Domestic Violence Law

Sosnowski law charges repeat domestic abusers with higher-level felony. Effective January 1, 2015 any prior convictions for domestic battery, or for any offense which is substantially similar, that occurs in another jurisdiction will trigger penalty enhancements.

Under current law, a prior conviction for domestic battery or a substantially similar offense within Illinois may trigger penalty enhancements; however, a prior conviction for domestic battery or a substantially similar offense that occurred in another state may not trigger the same penalty enhancements. This law change will make the statute consistent so that an alleged abuser's complete criminal history is taken into consideration when determining charges.

House Bill 4653 passed overwhelmingly in the Illinois House and Senate and was officially signed into law on Monday, August 18th as P.A. 98-0994.

Public Safety – Fire Dept. Grants

Small equipment grants for fire departments available. The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) has appropriated $1,000,000 for the State of Illinois Small Equipment Grant Program. The purpose of this program is to provide grants directly to local units of government for the purchase of small equipment by a fire department, fire protection district or township fire department. These grants may not exceed $26,000 to any fire department or fire protection district.

To apply, fill out the application and W-9 form by Tuesday, September 30th. Please note: The NFIRS requirement has changed as stated on the application. When downloading the application you will find examples of the NFIRS requirement (Monthly Incident Counts report) for your reference. These reports are required as an addition to the application. Please see the link below for examples.

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