General Assembly – Veto Session
General Assembly prepares for second week of veto session.  The second week of veto session is scheduled to take place immediately after Thanksgiving.  The three days of active session will take place on Tuesday, December 2 through Thursday, December 4.  Issues to be discussed could include regulation of the ridesharing industry, the State school aid formula, and extension for one year of the Illinois Medical Practice Act.
General Assembly – veto session
Illinois legislature convenes for first week of “veto session.”  By constitutional law, the lawmakers must gather in November to consider vetoes by the Governor while addressing any pressing issues of public concern.  In all, eleven House committees held meetings to look at these bills and issues. 

This week they were joined by Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor, a new member who enjoyed her first session day in Springfield as the appointee to serve out the term of retiring Representative JoAnn Osmond.  The second week of veto session is scheduled to take place immediately after Thanksgiving.

General Assembly – Jim Durkin
Jim Durkin elected to full term as House Republican Leader.  On Wednesday, November 19, the House Republican Caucus of the 99th General Assembly – the incoming group of 47 men and women who will take the oaths of office on January 14 – met in Springfield.  Their unanimous choice for House Republican Leader was the 82nd District’s Jim Durkin, of Burr Ridge.

Durkin, in 2015, will enter into his second full year as leader of his Caucus.  The Illinois Constitution asks the House members of both political parties to choose a leader, and gives responsibilities to both.  He’ll be tasked with leading a fresh faced House Republican Caucus, more than a quarter of whom (12 of 47) were newly elected in November 2014.  The 99th General Assembly will serve from January 14, 2015, until January 2017.     

State Representative Sheri Jesiel attended her first session in the Illinois House of Representatives this week. Jesiel was welcomed to the chamber by her new colleagues and immediately took up her duties of the veto session concerning legislation vetoed by Governor Quinn this summer.

“I would like to thank my colleagues for their warm welcome to the chamber,” said Jesiel. “JoAnn Osmond was a wonderful Representative for the 61st District with big shoes to fill. I hope to carry-on in her foot-steps, and that of her husband Tim before her, in bringing sensible, fiscally responsible leadership to Springfield for the sake of the residents of the 61st District.”  Read more.

State Representative Jim Durkin (R-Burr Ridge) today has been re-elected unanimously by acclamation to the position of House Republican Leader by his peers. The House Republican Caucus for the incoming 99th Illinois General Assembly convened for the first time Wednesday for the vote, including 12 new members and 35 returning members. Inauguration of the 99th General Assembly is scheduled for January 14, 2015 at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Lawmakers return to Springfield this week for the 2014 Veto Session. Earlier this year, Governor Quinn issued either a partial or full veto of ten bills. He also issued a line item veto to HB3793, one of the FY15 appropriations bills.

Read more about the vetoes.

Budget – Medicaid
House Republicans again push to impose limits on the rate of Medicaid growth.  Medicaid patient headcounts and expenditures are shooting up nationwide. This pattern is partly due to the federal Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), which encourages the states to expand and enlarge their individual Medicaid programs.  In 2012, 72.2 million American residents – more than one-fifth of the nation’s population – were covered by Medicaid for at least one month.  In their story this week, “Reversing the Medicaid Tidal Wave in Illinois”, The Caucus Blog describes the national numbers.  
Rep. Patti Bellock
Every state is struggling with the explosive growth and cost of its Medicaid program. Illinois, however, found a way to reduce Medicaid spending significantly, freeing up money for other important projects—or better yet, tax cuts.

Medicaid, the government health-insurance program for the poor and disabled, covered 72.2 million people for at least one month in 2012, according to estimates from the Department of Health and Human Services.

But enrollment is growing quickly. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment is up by about 8.7 million people—nearly 15%—since the Affordable Care Act’s October 2013 rollout. Total Medicaid spending was about $432 billion in 2012. The federal government provided $250 billion, or a bit more than half, but states paid the rest.

For many states, Medicaid is already their single largest expenditure, and now it is demanding more, forcing state governments to limit or reduce spending in other important areas like education and welfare.

Enter the Illinois solution. In 2013, the state faced a Medicaid budget shortfall of $2.7 billion. Springfield had begun implementing some reforms, such as shifting more Medicaid recipients into private managed-care organizations, but that wasn’t enough.

So Illinois state Rep. Patti Bellock garnered bipartisan support to pass legislation in 2012 that included several Medicaid reforms. One of the most important was a provision to establish the Illinois Medicaid Redetermination Program to “redetermine” if Medicaid enrollees were still eligible to participate.Every state is struggling with the explosive growth and cost of its Medicaid program. Illinois, however, found a way to reduce Medicaid spending significantly, freeing up money for other important projects—or better yet, tax cuts. Read more by Merrill Matthews in the Wall Street Journal.
Energy – Fracking
Fracking rules approved; jobs and opportunity coming to Southern Illinois. The rules, from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), are a legally essential element for engineering teams to enter Illinois properties and drill for fossil fuels. Up until now, Illinois has not had rules or a permit structure in place to cover horizontal drilling in sedimentary beds of shale rock. A newly-invented segment of oil drilling technology, “fracking,” has sprung up to puncture these tightly-bound particles of rock and force them to yield their crude oil and natural gas. A significant deposit of New Albany shale, believed to be oil-rich, lies underneath many counties of southeastern Illinois.
Southern Illinois will soon witness the economic boom tied to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of natural oil and gas in Illinois.  On Thursday, the 12-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules issued a “certificate of no objection” to fracking regulations for the State of Illinois.  This historic milestone authorizes the fracking permit process to get underway, and in doing so, brings Southern Illinois communities one-step closer to a windfall of new jobs and revenue.

New natural gas production in Illinois could create more than 45,000 jobs and $9 billion in economic impact, according to an Illinois Chamber Foundation study.

State Representative David Reis (R-Ste. Marie), chief Republican negotiator and sponsor of the fracking legislation, praised the jobs measure: “Fracking has the potential to create thousands of jobs for downstate residents.  Local businesses, classrooms and government services, such as fire and police, could benefit greatly once fracking gets underway in our state.”

The economic opportunities associated with fracking are limitless.  Local businesses will witness new revenue with an uptick of clientele purchasing materials.  Thousands of jobs are anticipated in the workforce spanning from the fracking/drilling industry, transportation, as well as new retail employees to meet heightened demand for services.  Landowners can also move forward with leasing land for the fracking industry to drill on.

Reis continued, “With economic recovery being paramount to rebuilding our state’s fiscal health, we must forge ahead with innovative policies to fuel job growth and bring much needed resources to our local communities.”