Week in Review: General Assembly adjourns spring session


After an all-nighter, General Assembly adjourns spring session. The Illinois House and Senate held its final week of the scheduled 2022 spring session, and then adjourned in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 9. The General Assembly could come back prior to May 31, 2022, the constitutional adjournment date, in case of unusual circumstances or emergency.

Over the course of the truncated spring session, the General Assembly passed a total of 404 bills through both chambers. Key issues addressed in the flurry of activity at the end of session include a $46.5 billion State of Illinois Budget for Fiscal Year 2023, temporary tax relief for Illinoisans, nursing home rate reform, a modified hospital assessment program, a Medicaid omnibus bill, various public safety measures, and a partial repayment of the $4.5 billion Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund debt.

Unfortunately, the Democrat majority took little action to address skyrocketing violent crime, to bring meaningful changes to the failed leadership at DCFS that has resulted in the deaths of many children and eight contempt of court citations against DCFS, or make any effort to provide permanent property tax relief to Illinois homeowners. Despite the recent 22-count indictment against former Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan on racketeering, bribery and extortion charges, Illinois Democrats did nothing to address ethics reform or clean up political corruption.

Illinois Democrats pass flawed budget filled with federal COVID relief funds, election-year stunts. The Fiscal Year 2023 State Budget might be the most blatantly political budget we’ve ever seen.

In the waning hours of the final night/morning of session, Democrats approved a $46.5 billion budget. Due to the end of some federal benefits that were bolstering our state coffers, revenue is expected to decrease by just under 5.5%. Meanwhile, the operations budget passed by Democrats will increase spending by 10% over the same period.

It doesn’t take a mathematician - it doesn’t even take a 3rd grader - to understand that this spending trajectory is unsustainable.

This proposal was crafted with zero bipartisan input, and dropped at the last minute because Democrats don’t want the people of Illinois to know how they’re spending your hard-earned tax dollars.

While Illinois families, faced with record-high inflation and struggling to make ends meet were sleeping, what did Democrat lawmakers do? They gave themselves a pay raise.

It wasn’t so long ago that Governor Pritzker tried to bully Illinoisans into passing a graduated income tax – threatening huge cuts or huge tax increases if it didn’t pass. The people of Illinois called his bluff, resoundingly rejecting the graduated income tax.

But this year, Democrats are painting a pretty picture of our State’s fiscal health while ignoring the structural causes of Illinois’ many decades-long fiscal instability. It turns out the State didn’t need the graduated income tax to go on a massive spending spree like they planned because a pandemic hit and the federal government sent the State $12 billion in COVID cash, which Democrats have chosen to squander on billions of dollars in pork projects for their districts.

These federal dollars are temporary and won’t always be there. In fact, under the budget that just passed, the State will have less than $100 million left remaining.

Additionally, unprecedented inflation has filled the State’s coffers with unexpected revenues, but when that high crashes we will still be left with the same problems. No structural changes have been made. No permanent property tax relief has been enacted, and no regulatory relief has been implemented.

Instead of putting these temporary COVID-relief dollars to good use, Democrats are stuffing the budget full of more than $2.6 billion in election year pet projects for their districts. These election-year pork projects won’t provide meaningful relief to Illinois families in the face of what could be long term inflation and a possible recession.

Our constituents, our taxpayers are on to these budget games and Democrats will feel the full measure of the frustration of the taxpayers of this state because of this irresponsible budget and because of the dismissive attitude Democrats have displayed on crime, corruption, and the out-of-control cost of living driven by their reckless, corrupt, and irresponsible policies.

Demmer, Batinick react to Pritzker’s federally-funded budget. Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer and Republican Floor Leader Mark Batinick offered the following comments on Governor Pritzker’s federally-funded budget that ignores the financial pressures in Illinois’ immediate future.

Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer:
“A year and a half ago, Gov. Pritzker was threatening Illinois voters with draconian cuts or across-the-board tax increases unless they approved his $3.4 billion tax increase amendment. But voters said no.

“Now, as Gov. Pritzker is running for re-election, he’s used the avalanche of federal bailout cash to paint a rosy picture of the state budget.

“But the facts show a different story. This year’s budget increases spending by 8% on state operations, while revenues are projected to decline by 1% over the same period—which makes this budget framework untenable. The problem is that Gov. Pritzker’s budget spends as if voters approved his tax hike—but they didn’t. When the federal bailout runs out, Gov. Pritzker will revert to pushing his tax hikes, and voters will be threatened again.”

Republican Floor Leader Mark Batinick:
“This isn’t a triumph of good management; the state is simply experiencing an inflation-induced sugar high. When the state crashes we will still have the same problems, but without the federal funds to bail us out. No structural changes have been made. No permanent property tax relief has been extended, and no regulatory relief has been implemented. Eventually, the pressures of inflation will catch up to the expense side of the ledger. There are storm clouds on the horizon.”

Republicans pass legislation to help DCFS workers protect themselves. In response to the dangers faced by frontline Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) employees, including two high profile deaths in recent years, the Illinois General Assembly has passed new legislation to help those employees protect themselves in dangerous situations. The legislation was advanced by State Senator Steve McClure, State Representative Sandy Hamilton, and State Representative Tony McCombie.

“Frontline DCFS workers serve the people of this state by protecting vulnerable children,” said Senator McClure. “In Illinois, it is legal for adults to carry pepper spray for personal protection, but DCFS workers have not had that ability while on the job. This will allow them to carry pepper spray for self-defense purposes and ensure that they know how to properly use it.”

Senate Bill 1486, originally filed by Senator McClure, would allow DCFS frontline workers to carry pepper spray for defensive purposes while investigating child abuse and neglect. The employees would be required to complete a training program from the Illinois State Police (ISP) on the proper use of pepper spray.

State Rep. Sandy Hamilton says the measure is meant as a first line of protection for case workers that find themselves in dangerous situations while on home visits.

“Allowing DCFS case workers to carry pepper spray is a common sense step we can take as a legislature to show that we understand that these vital public service and child welfare employees are valued. We mourn the loss of Pam Knight and Diedre Silas, and we never want another DCFS case worker to die on the job while they are working to protect our most vulnerable children. I’m proud to have co-sponsored this critical public safety measure and to see it head to the Governor’s desk.”

The legislation also requires DCFS to work with the ISP to identify a list of approved protection sprays. It also lays out guidelines for tracking the usage of such sprays by employees.

“I appreciate Sen. McClure’s leadership on this vital piece of legislation,” said Rep. McCombie. “Our front-line workers are put into compromising and unsafe situations almost every day. This tool and training will give them the resources they need to de-escalate intense situations, providing them the opportunity to escape imminent danger.”

The legislation was inspired by the murders of two DCFS investigators. Deidre Silas was stabbed to death in January at a home in Thayer during the course of a child welfare investigation. In February of 2018, Pamela Knight died in the hospital from injuries sustained during a brutal attack that occurred while she was trying to take a child into protective custody.

SB 1486 passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming support and is now headed to the Governor for his signature.

House Republicans file resolution to audit DCFS’ performance. State Representatives Tom Weber, Chris Bos and David Welter have filed a House Resolution calling for a comprehensive performance review of the Department of Children and Family Services by the Illinois Auditor General to address child deaths and contempt orders against Agency Director Marc Smith.

“After three years DCFS administrators and the Governor need to take some responsibility for the state the agency is in,” Rep. Weber said. “DCFS’s annual funding has increased hundreds of millions of dollars since FY19. What do we have to show for it? Eight contempt of court orders and more senseless child abuse deaths.”

“The Illinois legislature needs to step up our oversight and an independent performance audit is needed because we cannot rely on the documents and words of agency administrators defending their own actions better than the children in its care.”

House Resolution 824 directs the Illinois Auditor General examination to include, but not be limited to:
  • The nature of changes made by the department in operating protocols and staff training intended to prevent further deaths of DCFS involved youth, better serve the best interests of system involved youth, and prevent any unnecessary stays in psychiatric facilities and temporary shelters
  • The nature and extent of monitoring conducted by the department to determine whether the improvements, safeguards, and protocols in place are effective to ensure the safety of children in care
  • The amount of state moneys received and expended by DCFS or any other State agency during FY20 and FY21 to address preventable deaths and unwarranted stays in psychiatric facilities
  • The efforts of DCFS to come into compliance with court orders holding Director Marc Smith in contempt and why DCFS continues to repeatedly be held in contempt
  • The amount of funds spent defending lawsuits and legal matters regarding court mandated compliance issues
“When we have caseworkers who say they feel they aren’t getting enough support from DCFS administration and that there are too many bureaucratic employees at the expense of not enough frontline employees, it’s no wonder we have problems,” Rep. Weber continued. “If DCFS has been doing everything in its power to help caseworkers and children as they’ve claimed and been court ordered to, then they should welcome this performance audit with open arms as it will vindicate them. However, I suspect this audit will uncover mismanagement and poorly allocated resources, which is why the legislature needs to step up and demand it.”

Rep. Weber concluded by saying, “April 15th is the 3rd anniversary of the death of AJ Freund. I’ve been fighting for changes at DCFS for three years and Governor Pritzker has been giving empty promises of change for just as long. Enough talk. Action starts here.”

One year after passage of their anti-police, pro-criminal package, Democrats engage in political posturing on crime. Faced with growing public anger over soaring crime rates, and with their anti-police, pro-criminal, justice reform law on the books, the Democrat majority scrambled at the end of session to take on the appearance of doing something about violent crime. With powerful voices in their own party demanding that key elements of the so-called “SAFE-T” Act remain untouched, Democrats engaged in political posturing by passing a series of weak crime bills that will do little to increase public safety. Some media sources, however, were skeptical of the Democrats’ attempted media “spin.”

Illinois Democrats touted a budget that would try to spend its way out of the crime wave. The FY23 budget includes money to hire social workers to provide assistance to troubled youth. This demographic group is deeply implicated in Illinois’ record number of carjackings. Meanwhile, many Illinois law enforcement officers are retiring or resigning from their services and some small communities no longer have police protection. During this latest crime wave, Governor Pritzker’s Prisoner Review Board has released murderers and cop killers back onto the streets. Nothing in the Democrats’ weak crime package increases criminal penalties for carjacking, or for other acts of violent crime that harm families and communities.

House Republicans point out serious flaws, a “disaster waiting to happen,” in Democrats’ weak crime package. State Rep. Patrick Windhorst spoke on the Illinois House floor during legislative action last week. Rep. Windhorst, a former state’s attorney, read a statement during debate on legislation contained in the House Democrats’ crime package. Windhorst has been a vocal advocate in favor of repealing the 2021 SAFE-T Act. Rep. Windhorst said the following:

“This bill is well intentioned, but it shows the dangers of the so-called SAFE-T Act and the elimination of cash bail. The bill creates a new offense, predatory vehicular hijacking, a Class 1 felony. That offense is commanding or coercing a minor under 18 years of age to commit vehicular hijacking, a serious and dangerous offense. But under the terms of the SAFE-T Act, this is not…is not…a detainable offense. Meaning, that after an individual is arrested for this offense, he would have to be released from jail pending trial within 48 hours. This is just one in a number of serious offenses, forcible felonies, that also require release pending trial. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a disaster…a foreseeable disaster waiting to happen on January 1st of 2023 if we don’t take action and repeal the elimination of cash bail. Thank you.”

On the final night of session, Rep. Windhorst again warned that the Democrats’ crime bill would still allow no cash bail for forcible felonies.

State Rep. Avery Bourne was not impressed with the Democrats’ crime-fighting measures.

“This does nothing to bring down crime, does nothing to promote public safety, and in fact, is not holding the criminals accountable for the laws that they broke along the way,” Bourne said.

During an appearance on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” earlier this week, Deputy House Republican Leader Tom Demmer stated the following:

“(W)hat is the message that the majority party today, Democrats who control the governor’s office, the Senate and the House, what’s the message they’re sending about how serious they are about addressing the public safety issues in Illinois? We’ve had a record level of retirements and resignations from police officers and sheriff’s deputies. We have a system in place right now that come January a carjacker will be back on the streets mere hours after they’ve committed their carjacking because cash bail has been abolished. We have to ask about what’s the longer-running narrative there. This was never an issue that was just related to the Prisoner Review Board. This is about a larger approach of what does it take to achieve public safety and which party is actually looking out for people every day.”

Nursing Home Rate Reform: House Bill 246 includes provisions for the Nursing Home Assessment redesign, a bipartisan negotiated package that implements the new assessment and rate reform on nursing homes. The legislation includes increased requirements for staffing levels and improved quality of care for patients. Negotiators have been working for more than two years to ease the severe staffing shortages that exist in many of the state’s long-term care facilities. An estimated 45,000 Illinois Medicaid recipients live in about 700 nursing homes throughout the state. HB 246 seeks to maximize federal funding related to the assessment. The total funding generated for the package is approximately $704 million, including $136 million in State General Revenue Funds. HB 246 passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

Hospital Assessment: House Bill 1950 includes the reauthorization of the Hospital Assessment Program (HAP) and hospital omnibus provisions. The Hospital Assessment generates over $3.8 billion annually in Medicaid funding for hospital services, but is currently set to sunset on December 31, 2022. The hospital omnibus provisions include: (1) $240 million tax holiday to be applied by June 30, 2022; (2) Continues the annual payment of $3.75 million to the Illinois Poison Control Center, for the duration of the HAP; (3) Creates the Safety Net Hospital Health Equity and Access Leadership Program (HEAL); (4) Requires HFS and DPH to issue a join report containing recommendations for a permanent HEAL program to replace supplemental grants to such hospitals; (5) Provides a one year extension of the ability for a reopened hospital to qualify for certain Medicaid adjustment payments for which the closed hospital had qualified; (6) Extends the Investor Owned Hospital Charity Care tax credit to December 31, 2027; and (7) Provides the sunset provision that applies to the sales tax exemption for non-profit hospitals be extended to July 1, 2027. HB 1950 is cost neutral with the exception of the tax holiday which has a fiscal impact of $240 million; the amount will require a GRF “backfill” to the Hospital Provider Fund. HB 1950 passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

Medicaid Omnibus: House Bill 4343 includes the Medicaid working group’s omnibus proposal, along with a controversial expansion of medical services to noncitizens. The omnibus provisions include: (1) Creation of a program for school based mental health screenings; (2) Coverage for midwife and acupuncture services; (3) Increases rates for prenatal/postpartum, behavioral and maternal health services, dental services, medi-car and service cars; (4) Creates an add-on for EAPG outpatient rates for hospitals serving more than 500 outpatient psychiatric services for children; (5) Creates a Certified Nursing Assistant Intern (CNAI) program to help with the CNA shortage; and (6) Authorizes HFS to provide medical services to noncitizens 42 years of age through 54 years of age.

The estimated net fiscal impact for the proposal is approximately $31 million, with the exception of the expansion of coverage for undocumented immigrants. This provision was not part of the Medicaid working group’s initial proposal. Illinois has provided health care coverage for undocumented immigrant children under the ALL KIDS program since the mid-2000’s, at a cost to Illinois taxpayers of more than $500 million. Illinois Democrats have expanded medical services twice since 2020, to add undocumented immigrants who are 55 and older, at a cost of more than $60 million. The expansion of Medicaid services to noncitizens is not covered under the federal Medicaid program. The State of Illinois and its taxpayers pay the entire cost for medical services to noncitizens. House Republicans opposed the last-minute inclusion of this controversial expansion, and HB 4343 passed the House on a concurrence vote of 71-42-0.

Rep. Bos advances bill to ensure no one is forced to die alone. The Illinois House of Representatives passed legislation sponsored by State Representative Chris Bos to ensure no one has to die alone, even in a pandemic. Senate Bill 1405, sponsored in the Senate by Republican Minority Leader Dan McConchie, ensures a family member may be by the side of their loved one in their final moments while in a healthcare facility.

“No one should have to die without a family member by their side. No one should have to learn their mother or their husband is suffering rapid decline but be denied the opportunity to give them love and compassion in their final moments,” said Bos. “Unfortunately, many were denied this opportunity.”

Due to executive orders in response to COVID-19, no exceptions existed to allow for end-of-life visitation with a family member in a healthcare facility. Even as mitigation rules were changed in response to the pandemic, residents in skilled nursing homes, extended care, or intermediate care facilities were denied even one visitor. Under SB 1405, at least one visitor, not including a member of the clergy, must be permitted to visit a loved one. Healthcare facilities are empowered to set safety guidelines and ensure that neither the patient nor visitor are endangered by the visit, but no longer could they be outright denied due to an executive order.

“This legislation recognizes the dignity of every life and ensures no one else will be forced to face death alone,” said Bos.