Week in Review for August 30, 2019

Honoring Illinois State Police Trooper Nicholas Hopkins. Trooper Nicholas J. Hopkins was shot and killed while serving a search warrant at a home in East St. Louis on Friday, August 23.

Hopkins and other members of the Emergency Response Team were making entry into the home at 5:30 am when he was shot by an occupant during an exchange of gunfire. Hopkins became the fourth ISP trooper to die in the line of duty in 2019.

Trooper Hopkins had served with the Illinois State Police for 10 years. He is survived by his wife, three children, and brother. The family released a statement saying he had a "lasting impact on the lives of everyone who knew him."

Trooper Hopkins’ name will be added to the “End of Watch” Memorial Wall at the Illinois State Police Memorial Park near the State Police headquarters in Springfield, Illinois, and to the Illinois Police Memorial on the State Capitol grounds.

Final tally of 599 bills enacted in spring 2019 shows that almost 99% of them became law. Of the 599 bills sent to the Governor by the House and Senate after passage in spring 2019 by both houses, 591 bills were signed into law. Eight vetoes will be on the House and Senate calendars in November 2019 when the two chambers reconvene in veto session. Seven vetoes are “total” vetoes, which means that three-fifths majorities of both houses will be required to override the veto. Gov. Pritzker also issued one “amendatory” veto, which initiates a process by which the General Assembly may scrutinize the Governor’s changes and accept them by simple majority. In addition to veto actions, the General Assembly may take other legislative actions during the fall Veto Session.

September is National Child Passenger Safety Month. The first full back-to-school month has been designated as National Child Passenger Safety Month for drivers and families. Each year, agencies and organization around the country take this opportunity to help educate and promote child safety in vehicles. Education efforts are organized by the SafeKids consortium. Federal laws, which are enforced by local law enforcement, require children to be protected by child seats adapted to their age and size. SafeKids events help parents learn how to install and use car seats, including parents and families who are transitioning from one car seat to another. SafeKids Illinois affiliates include coalition affiliates in Chicago, the Metro-East, Peoria, Rockford, and many other regions.

Smoking in cars will soon be illegal with passengers under age 18. House Bill 2276, signed into law on Friday, August 23, will become effective next January 1. The “don’t smoke in cars when children are present” law will supplement other Smoke Free Illinois Act laws and ordinances that forbid smoking in almost all enclosed public spaces, as well as outdoors within statutory distances of a public door or window or in almost any outdoor location on the campus of a college or university.

The new law applies to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, cannabis, and other devices in a vehicle that is stationary or in motion. The fine for violation of the smoking-in-motor-vehicles law will not exceed $100, plus court costs and fees, for a first offense. An escalating fine will be imposed for a second or subsequent offense.

Reps. Bryant and Windhorst get law signed to help Tamms in Southern Illinois. The shuttered Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) facility in Tamms, Illinois is no longer being used as a prison. Changes in correctional policy have moved its maximum-security inmates out of Southern Illinois. Seeking help with their economy and unemployment situation, local constituents asked Representative Terri Bryant to lead their fight to reopen the Tamms facility as a work camp for minimum-security inmates. Making Tamms into a work camp simply means reopening the Minimum Security Unit of the existing facility.

Reopening Tamms could bring jobs to southern Illinois. Rep. Bryant and her colleague, Rep. Patrick Windhorst, pushed HB 210 through the Illinois General Assembly.

“As the chief co-sponsor of HB 210, I want to thank Representative Bryant and Senator Fowler for their leadership and assistance in passing this very important piece of legislation unanimously through both the House and Senate,” Windhorst said. “The task force will study the feasibility of repurposing the shuttered Tamms Minimum Security prison into a vocational training facility for the Department of Corrections.”

Windhorst says the task force’s creation is a vital first-step in determining how best to use the vacant facility.

“Right now the facility has untapped potential,” Windhorst said. “If the Task Force determines it to be feasible, I can see a great potential for positive outcomes for repurposing the minimum security facility into a place where incarcerated individuals can learn important life skills that will help them transition back into being a productive member of society. Reopening Tamms minimum security facility could also help to alleviate overcrowding, make our correctional officers safer, and provide good paying jobs to an area that has been economically devastated.”

New Enterprise Zones approved. In a move spurred by House Republican advocacy, the Illinois Enterprise Zone Board approved the creation of fourteen new Enterprise Zones throughout Illinois. The Enterprise Zone Act contains many provisions intended to encourage the creation of jobs and capital investment in designated Enterprise Zones, including tax breaks on goods and energy sold for job-creating use within the Zones.

The Enterprise Zone Act enumerates economically-challenged regions within Illinois that are ripe for redevelopment. Each Enterprise Zone is formed through a partnership between a jurisdictional local government and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Until 2019, the number of Illinois enterprise zones had been capped at 97. In a move pushed by House Republicans, the General Assembly amended the Act to work with DCEO to designate a significant number of new Zones.

The list of new zones was released by DCEO on Tuesday, August 27. A wide-ranging variety of localities were offered the stimulus designation, including Coles County in eastern Illinois; Jacksonville, Ill. west of Springfield; Western Hoffman Estates in Cook County; and Zion Benton in Chicago’s outer suburbs on the Wisconsin state line.

Gov. Pritzker requests federal disaster declaration in wake of historic spring floods. With the state's disaster assessment concluded, Governor JB Pritzker has officially requested a federal disaster declaration be issued for Illinois due to the devastating floods that plagued our state since February 2019. In his request, Governor Pritzker requested Individual Assistance (IA) for 22 counties and Public Assistance (PA) for 32 counties. If approved, a federal disaster declaration would help local governments, residents and businesses affected by this historic flood recover from the disaster by allowing them to apply for grants and loans to assist with storm-related expenses and losses.

Counties included in the Public Assistance (PA) request: Adams; Alexander; Bureau; Calhoun; Carroll; Cass; Fulton; Greene; Hancock; Henderson; Henry; Jackson; Jersey; Knox; LaSalle; Lee; Madison; Mercer; Monroe; Morgan; Peoria; Pike; Randolph; Rock Island; Schuyler; Scott; St. Clair; Stephenson; Tazewell; Union; Whiteside; and Winnebago counties.

Counties included in the Individual Assistance (IA) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans request: Adams; Alexander; Calhoun; Carroll; Hancock; Henderson; Henry; Jackson; Jersey; Knox; Madison; Mercer; Monroe; Peoria; Pike; Randolph; Rock Island; Stephenson; Union; Whiteside; Winnebago; and Woodford counties.

To support this request for a federal disaster declaration, documentation was included from the recent joint damage assessment, conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and affected communities. This assessment illustrated the devastating effects of this flood event:
  • More than $69 million in direct losses, including over $8.2 million in losses for individuals and $61 million in losses for units of state, county and local governments. This does not include the millions in other economic impacts, such as lost wages to individuals, lost revenue for businesses, and lost tax revenues for impacted governments. 
  • Over 1,000 miles of roadway and bridges were damaged or left inaccessible, affecting some of the most vulnerable populations. Many still are. This disruption forced residents to travel up to two hours to receive healthcare or basic necessities like groceries.
  • More than 1,400 homes and 2.1 million people were impacted by this flood event. Of that, 42 homes were destroyed, 178 sustained major damage, 419 were listed as having minor damage and another 708 were impacted by rising floodwaters.
  • An SBA Survey Team identified 76 businesses and non-profits with major impacts from this disaster and 217 with minor impacts, which directly impacts the amount of tax revenue available for affected communities to devote to recovery, making federal assistance all the more necessary. 
Additional information about the state's storm response efforts is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.

Keicher bill signed into law to broaden the availability of mammogram screening. Legislation sponsored by State Representative Jeff Keicher to broaden the availability of mammogram screening for women across the State of Illinois was signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker on Monday in a ceremony at the Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Health & Wellness Center.

Specifically, Senate Bill 162 requires coverage for comprehensive ultrasound screenings if a mammogram demonstrates heterogeneous or dense breast tissue, or when medically necessary as determined by a licensed physician. The new law also requires coverage for diagnostic mammograms. The new law was an initiative of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

“My family, like so many others in our community, has been impacted by women battling breast cancer,” Representative Keicher said. “As a husband and father of a college age daughter, women’s health issues are a kitchen table issue in my house, just as I’m sure it is in homes across the State of Illinois. I would like to thank the breast cancer survivors and advocates whose support was pivotal in getting this new law passed. Together we will continue to make major strides to prevent breast cancer and ensure that women have access to the screenings and life-saving care they need.”

Governor signs Davidsmeyer’s prescription drug affordability law. Legislation co-sponsored by Assistant Republican Leader C.D. Davidsmeyer and signed last Friday by Governor Pritzker will give those who take pharmaceutical drugs relief at the cash register.

House Bill 465 (Public Act 101-0452) will give customers more options for cheaper drugs, prevent the denial of emergency medical treatment to expecting mothers, allow pharmacists to recommend less expensive drugs, create a state registration for Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) and hold those PBMs accountable.

“Almost everyone takes some sort of prescription drug to maintain their way of life. And many times patients, especially senior citizens, are forced to decide between basic necessities like food, housing and utilities or their monthly prescriptions. My legislation protects patients and gives them and their pharmacists more rights to treat disease,” said Davidsmeyer, chief co-sponsor of HB 465.

“Pharmacists will now be allowed to inform patients of cheaper drug options. Drug lists and the maximum allowable cost charged will be updated every seven days – giving consumers real-time pricing for their drugs. Patients will not be forced to pay a co-pay when the out-of-pocket price is less than the co-pay. Denial of emergency care will be much harder; especially when that denial is for pregnant women who are having contractions, but are sent home from the hospital.”

Property Tax Relief Task Force holds first hearing. The bipartisan Task Force, which first convened and organized itself on August 12, held its first hearing this week. The Task Force heard on Thursday, August 29 from the Department of Revenue (IDOR) on the current Illinois property tax system that levies taxes from 5,675,466 enumerated parcels of Illinois property that have an equalized assessed value (EAV) of more than $352 billion. As Illinois property owners and property taxpayers know, EAV values can differ in complex ways from market values, and can differ from the value that any parcel of property had when it last changed hands.

IDOR reported this week that from this $352 billion in assessed EAV, 6,047 separate taxing bodies try to extract more than $30.8 billion per year. Well more than half of this total Illinois extension goes to Illinois’ public school districts. Municipalities, special districts, counties, and tax increment financing (TIF) districts also demand large shares of the total extension. The bipartisan Task Force has eight co-chairpersons, including two House Republicans: Rep. Deanne Mazzochi and Rep. Joe Sosnowski.

The Property Tax Relief Task Force has been asked to examine the root causes of high property taxes in communities across the state, and to look at other states’ legislative solutions to reduce property tax burdens in the short term and the long term. The Task Force has been asked to generate two reports – an initial report within 90 days of convening, and a final report by December 31, 2019.

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