By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD – By a vote of 37 to 0, the Senate on Wednesday passed a measure to provide roughly $373 million in state funds for the Monetary Assistance Program, which provides need-based aid to college students in Illinois.
The amount is in line with Gov. Rauner’s budget proposal from February and will help from 125,000 to 135,00 students, said Sen. Don Kotowski, D-Chicago.
Deputy Republican Leader Matt Murphy of Palatine said there was no debate whether the MAP program was worthy of support, but he spoke against passing the legislation while the state remains without a budget.
“We’re talking about spending $38 billion when you have $32” billion, Murphy said.
Kotowski and other Democrats argued the program was worthy, keeps deserving students in school and should be funded in any state budget that is reached.
Senate Bill 2043 passed with 36 votes from Democrats and a vote from one Republican, Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville. Fourteen Republican senators voted “present.”
The measure now moves to the House.
By a vote of 36 to 2, the Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that its sponsor says would maintain services for an estimated 40,000 people as the state transitions to new Medicaid rules.
Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, said a current effort by the Rauner administration to lower Medicaid costs would change an important qualifying measure — the determination of need, or DON, score — from 29 to 37.
Biss argued that move could disenfranchise “tens of thousands” of elderly and disabled Illinoisans who currently receive at home or in-facility care by way of Medicaid.
The General Assembly in 2012 approved the potential change as part of the Saving Medicaid Access and Resources Together, or SMART, Act. The Rauner administration now asks the federal government accept the requested change.
The administration says the state must focus on rebalancing the system and ensuring that individuals receiving state- supported services actually need the level of support they receive.
Biss argued the administration’s transition plans are so lacking as to be non-existent, and that means those currently in the system and having DON scores from 29 to 36 need to be protected.
Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said the measure “absolutely stops any kind of meaningful reform dead in its tracks.”
Biss said the measure is necessary and a reasonable effort “to protect the people already in the system.”
The bill now returns to the House for a concurrence vote.
By a vote of 51 to 0, the Senate on Wednesday approved a measure to take control the number of Illinois specialty license plates.
The state now has more than 100 speciality plates, which causes confusion for police officers and others, said Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Loves Park.
Language in House Bill 1081 would establish a single, universal speciality license plate that would have space for groups requesting specialty designs to add their own decal.
Most of Illinois specialty plates are fundraisers for various causes, from autism awareness to wetlands preservation.
Pricing for a random-number specialty plate generally involves an additional charge of $40, $15 of which stays with the state so taxpayer dollars aren’t used to make the special plates. The remaining $25 goes to the motorist’s cause.
The bill now returns to the House for a concurrence vote. The House is next scheduled to convene Aug. 25.