State Roundup: Rauner continues “Turnaround” pitch

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Crisis gives way to opportunity. That’s the sentiment Governor Bruce Rauner shared Wednesday with the state’s business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce lunch in Springfield. During the annual event the Governor pitched his “Turnaround Illinois” agenda, asking for their support in getting local and state lawmakers on board.

“Come knock on the doors of Speaker Madigan and Speaker [sic] Cullerton, let ‘em know, show. And talk to your mayor, talk to all of your mayors, talk to your county board, talk to your school superintendent. Go on the radio, get them to go on the radio. Study our agenda.”

Rauner pushed bringing about reforms to workers’ compensation, insurance costs and other measure he says will make the state more business friendly. Senate President John Cullerton also addressed the Chamber’s luncheon answering questions about some of Rauner’s proposals. Cullerton said he disagrees with the Governor on term limits and also said he doesn’t think the right-to-work zones proposal will get very far.

Rauner on CPS

Meanwhile, Rauner says he isn’t interested in saving Chicago from financial ruin. The Governor talked about the dire financial straits in the city of Chicago, including their public schools.

“Chicago has in deep, deep yogurt. Worst in the state. Really big problems. I think when you look at the numbers, and you look at the issues, I think Chicago Public Schools could well need to go bankrupt to restructure. I think extremely likely.”

Rauner called the Chicago machine “a government union machine” and says taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to provide a bailout. Meanwhile Cullerton reiterated the severe financial problems plaguing the city’s pensions and the city’s schools. In related news Chicago media reports federal officials have opened up an investigation into CPS but details about the scope and who is being interviewed have not been released.

City of Springfield hold minimum wage measure in committee

Aldermen in the capital city are holding off on voting for a measure to increase the minimum wage within their city limits. During a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday outgoing Alderman Sam Cahnman pushed for passage of his measure to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour. But, several other aldermen asked if there was a fiscal impact note because of the increased cost for seasonal help. The city’s chief lawyer, Corporation Counsel Todd Greenburg, said there would be other costs to enforce the measure.

“It’s not going to be self executing. If this is passed we will need to hire staff to enforce this because the state of Illinois will not enforce this on our behalf.”

Meanwhile Dan Johnston, the owner of Sunrise Cafe in Springfield, says he only has one minimum wage employee but if he has to increase that employee’s wage, workers he pays above the minimum wage would feel cheated.

“If you raised minimum wage to $10 dollars an hour these guys are gonna feel like they’re getting nothing. They’re gonna be wanting $15 to $16 an hour.”

Johnston says if someone want skilled wages they need to learn a skill. The council decided to hold off on pushing the ordinance out of committee so the sponsors could compile information on what kind of fiscal impact an increase of the minimum wage would have on the city. The City of Chicago passed a minimum wage increase last year. Several different state wide minimum wage increase proposals are pending in the General Assembly. And Governor Rauner has proposed a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $10 an hour over several years.

House passes back pay to tune of $63 million

State employees could see money they are contractually owed from as far back as 2011 with a bill that passed the House Wednesday. The measure, House Bill 3763, proposes to pay the additional earnings for state employees that was agreed to four years ago, but not appropriated by previous general assemblies.

Bill sponsor, Democratic Representative Sue Scherer (shear), says the measure should pass–not only to pay employees what was promised, but also to save the state from court imposed interest. Republican Representative Dwight Kay asked a pointed question about where the money would come from.

“Would it have been easier to pay this bill if the Governor, previous Governor, hadn’t spend $55 million on the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative? Would it have been easier to pay this bill if we hadn’t been paying deceased people $60 million dollars since 2009?”

Scherer fired back saying the question is unrelated.

“But I guess it’d be easier to pay this bill if we did something with corporate tax loopholes and the list could go on and on.”

The measure, which would pay state employees from a variety of unions a combined back pay of $63.2 million, passed the House with 23 representatives voting against the bill. The state has already paid 45 percent of the back pay.

Right to try passes House

Terminally ill patients wanting to try experimental drugs will have that right under a bill that passed the House Wednesday. House Bill 1335 found bipartisan support and would allow eligible patients with a terminal illness to go through treatment or take drugs that are in clinical trial but have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for general use. The measure also says that the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation may not revoke, suspend, or take any other disciplinary action against the license or permit of a physician based solely on their recommendation to an eligible patient regarding the use of investigational drugs. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Monthly DHFS reports passes House

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services must report monthly numbers of people in the state receiving state public aid under a bill that passed the House Wednesday. House Bill 2731 also requires the monthly reports on total enrollment and the number of people getting medical assistance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Annual report publications on the quality of outcomes would be required for Medicaid Managed Care entities. If passed in the Senate and signed by the Governor the reports would begin in July of this year. The bill passed unanimously.

Bill requires state’s fleet to include alternative fuel vehicles

By the first of the year, fifteen percent of passenger vehicles purchased for the state’s fleet would have to use alternative fuels. That’s if a bill that passed the House Wednesday makes it through the Senate and is signed the by the Governor. Vehicles for State Police, the Department of Corrections and the Secretary of State would be exempt from the bill. Meanwhile the House passed a measure that creates a task force to investigate renewable energy options for state-owned property. House Bill 3560 requires the task force to report recommendations to the general assembly by January of next year. Both bills now head to the Senate. Lawmakers are back in session Thursday.

Senate passes at large school board elections bill

A measure to allow voters in school districts to elect school board representatives at large passed the Senate Wednesday. The bill from Senator John Sullivan would allow at large elections for school districts, combined school districts and community consolidated school districts, instead of voters electing board members within a specific sub district, but the there would have to be a two-thirds vote in a referendum to allow for at large elections. The measure passed unanimously and now heads to the House. Meanwhile, organizations wanting to create a charter school would have to disclose any known active civil or criminal investigation into their organization when they apply for a charter with the state under a bill that passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday. The measure says the investigation can be an interview, subpoena, arrest or indictment. Such disclosures must be submitted 10 businesses days prior to the potential charter’s decision date. Senate Bill 1591 now heads to the House.

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