Week in Review: State budget, flooding, broadband & more

Illinois House prepares for submission of FY21 budget. Illinois enacted a balanced FY20 budget in June 2019 for the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2019. International credit-rating agencies accepted Illinois’ FY20 budget, which moved Illinois closer to fiscal stability. The Illinois House must prepare for the challenges of the FY21 budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. Governor Pritzker will give his Annual Budget Address to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, February 19.

House, Senate observe deadlines for introduction of substantive bills for 2020 spring session. The bill filing deadline on Friday, February 14 means that the window has closed on bills to change the law in Illinois in the first half of 2020. There is a separate window for constitutional amendments. Starting next week, House members will scrutinize, look at, hear testimony on, and work with existing bills, including amendments to these bills. House committees will continue to meet and intensify their hearing schedule next week. The House session calendar includes all of the deadlines for the 2020 spring session. The deadline for Illinois House committee action is Friday, March 27.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin asks that children with severe pain challenges be granted access to palliative care. Pain management skills, including proper dosages and the correct administration of prescription pharmaceuticals, require the coordinated work of a professionally-trained and supervised medical team. There is a nationwide shortage of specialists trained in pain management, and most of the people who are qualified for this challenging work are detailed to the work of providing care to senior citizens. While this is valuable and necessary work for seniors that brings help to many people and their families, children are often lost in the cracks.

Leader Durkin’s HB 4913 will expand juvenile access to palliative care. It will grant standing to qualifying children to receive community-based pediatric palliative care from a trained interdisciplinary team. The bill contains language clarifying that children and their caregivers will have standing to ask for this care in all cases of severe illness, not just life-limiting illness (traditionally, palliative care is reserved for persons who face life-limiting conditions). The access will include a pathway under Illinois Medicaid. HB 4913 was filed on Thursday, February 13.

Grain Bin Safety Week February 16-22, 2020. The Illinois Department of Agriculture reminds all farm workers to stay safe when working in and around grain bins as part of Grain Bin Safety Week. The annual period for awareness runs from February 16 through February 22.

With 2019 crop conditions drawing comparisons to 2009 when crops were stored in relatively wet conditions, this year’s safety week takes great importance. The 2009 crop led to a dangerous environment surrounding grain bins in 2010. According to Purdue University, 2010 was the most hazardous year on record for grain bin accidents, with 59 entrapments and 26 deaths nationwide.

Several training resources are available:
The Grain and Feed Association of Illinois
The Grain Handling and Safety Council
University of Illinois Extension

Mississippi River communities prepare for repeat of last year’s flooding. Severe high waters caused major property damage on both sides of the Mississippi River in spring 2019. Now, the National Weather Service, urging preparedness for Illinois communities such as Moline and Rock Island, says there is a 95% chance of a major Quad Cities flood in spring 2020. New flooding would be caused by familiar elements in the northern Midwest: heavy snowfall, a projected warm spring and rapid thaw cycle, and improved farm drainage to shoot meltwaters downstream. Farmland conditions in states like Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have an effect on Mississippi River communities like the Quad Cities.

Authorities declare a “major flood” on the Mississippi at the Quad Cities whenever the river tops the 18-foot level. Authorities see the amount of snow that has fallen so far in the Upper Mississippi watershed, and have calculated how much water will be produced by the snow when it melts. Floodwater preparedness efforts are led in Illinois by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

Representative Demmer fights for affordable prescription drugs. One of the biggest elements faced by health care patients and their insurance companies is the cost of prescription pharmaceuticals. Many drugs, including those that some patients require for health or even survival, cost many thousands of dollars per year in the marketplace. There are many reasons why patented pharmaceuticals cost as much as they do, but one of the major reason is the existence of so-called “patent trolls” – aggressive entities that stake out as many intellectual properties as they can.

When an invention comes to market that shares elements with the patent troll’s patent, such as a new drug, the troll will immediately start up a “patent infringement” legal action against the drugmaker. All too often, the drug industry’s custom is to pay off the troll, because U.S. case law supports intellectual property rights and the drugmaker cannot afford the risk of having the sale of its drug be stopped by a court while the clock is ticking. Industry analysts say that pharmaceutical patent trolling accounts for a significant percentage of the overall price of drugs in the United States.

Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer’s HB 4822 will enact the Preserving Access to Affordable Drugs Act. The new Act provides that a patent infringement case settlement is presumed to have anticompetitive effects if certain conditions apply. The conditions enumerated in the Act match the elements of the act of pharmaceutical patent trolling. Rep. Demmer filed HB 4822 on Tuesday, February 11.

Broadband initiative may help rural job creation and economic development. Job creators and entities with investment capital often express reluctance to invest funds in geographic locations with non-first-line access to online communications. Even when an office or headquarters complex has access to high-speed Internet, the geographic area in which it is located may be seen as sub-par for development, particularly in industries where it is expected that key personnel will be available to work from home.

The FY20 State budget enacted by the General Assembly includes provisions for the Illinois Broadband Grant Program, an application of up to $50 million in State grant moneys to local telecommunications service providers that pledge to use the money to “Connect Illinois.” The grant window opened on February 5. Applications to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will be due no later than April 3, 2020. Successful application teams will include not only telecommunications service providers, but also local 9-1-1 service centers, schools and businesses with plans for Illinois job creation and development.

Ugaste’s Legislative Agenda Focused on Property Tax Relief. In an effort to reduce property taxes in Illinois, State Representative Dan Ugaste has filed six bills to provide necessary property tax relief for Illinois taxpayers and businesses.

Rep. Ugaste’s legislation will allow taxpayers to consolidate government entities that are too expensive and to ease the high property tax burden weighing on residents in his 65th community and statewide.

“The Democrat-controlled Property Tax Relief Task Force failed to produce any solutions to help our taxpayers,” Ugaste said. “Our high property taxes are forcing too many families and businesses to leave, and residents are fed up. The bills that I have filed are a step forward to provide the real relief the task force failed to do.”

Rep. Ugaste’s 2020 agenda includes the following bills:
  • HB4493: Requires elementary and high school districts to form new unit districts together, instead of having separate school districts for each.
  • HB 4494: Limits local units of government and their ability to continue bonds. 
  • HB4495: For redevelopment projects, “blighted areas” must have a household median income of 100% or less of the area median income, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • HB4496: Allows voters to consolidate townships if other units of government can operate more efficiently.
  • HB4498: Limits tax increment financing (TIF) to 15 years.
  • HB4762: Prohibits taxing districts from holding more than 150% of the previous levy year’s property tax collections and requires excess amounts to be refunded to taxpayers.
Butler, Bourne call for AVR fix, end to FOID delays. Assistant Republican Leaders Avery Bourne and Tim Butler talk about the need to eliminate mistakes in Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) and to fix bureaucratic processes causing long delays for Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card applications and renewals.

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