Legislative Roundup: House overrides veto of heroin crisis bill

Also acts on child-care, Medicaid and DCFS issues

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — While Democrats’ failed bid to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the “no-strike/no lockout” or interest arbitration bill dominated the news from Wednesday’s House session, it was hardly the only news.

By a vote of 105-5, the House overturned Rauner’s amendatory veto of House Bill 1, the Heroin Crisis Act.

The bill championed by Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and cosponsors from both parties received overwhelming bipartisan support when it first passed the General Assembly.

However, it was red-penned by Rauner, who largely cited its potential cost to the state, which has been estimated at anywhere from $25 million to $60 million annually.

Rauner praised the bill, but struck a provision to require Medicaid funding for addiction treatment and other items. The override, if repeated in the Senate, would re-establish the funding obligation.

“In our zeal to save money, we must not forget about human life,” Lang told colleagues.

Just as Illinois has been Ground Zero in a nationwide heroin abuse epidemic, so should it be in finding and implementing solutions, he said.

Child-care subsidies

House Democrats came up one vote short in an attempt to reverse administration changes to the Child Care Assistance Program.

Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, said rules put in place by the administration eliminated child-care assistance for up to 90 percent of those previously eligible.

Democrats put up 70 “yes” votes , but needed 71, or a three-fifths majority. No Republicans supported the motion to override.

Senate sponsor Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, said the administration’s changes mean “a parent who works full time at minimum wage now makes too much to qualify for child-care help.” She and Gordon Booth vowed to make another effort.

Opponents said the bill effectively undermined the governor’s authority to limit spending during a fiscal emergency, and it also lacked any cost projections.

DON scores

The House passed HB 2482, which would overturn an effort by the Rauner administration to change a key Medicaid qualifying measure known as the determination of need, or DON, score.

Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and other supporters of legislation said changing the DON score standards would disenfranchise thousands of elderly and disabled Illinoisans who currently receive at-home or in-facility care by way of Medicaid.

Additionally, withdrawal of certain in-community care could force more people into institutions and cost the state more money in the long run, they said.

Opponents argued the state must focus on rebalancing the system and ensuring that individuals receiving state-supported services actually need the level of support they receive.

Opponents also said the  DON score change was consistent with the 2012 Saving Medicaid Access and Resources Together, or SMART, Act, which passed with support from both parties.

The bill passed on a vote of 74 to 13, 12 members voting present. A half-dozen Republicans joined Democrats in support of the legislation, which is sponsored by Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, in the Senate.

The measure previously cleared the Senate on a vote of 36 to 2 and now goes to the governor for consideration.

DCFS services

An effort to continue certain services for wards of the state from ages 18 to 21 failed in the House.

The motion to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 3507 received 66 votes in favor, five short of the 71 needed for an override.

Proponents of the bill argued the services — including counseling, job training and educational assistance — are vital for young people who have already survived a difficult start in life if they are to have a chance in young adulthood.

Opponents said the bill amounts to an unfunded mandate as it would cost $100 million or more that the state simply doesn’t have.

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