The Illinois House and Senate held its final week of the scheduled 2022 spring session in the first full week of April. We adjourned in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 9th. The General Assembly could come back prior to May 31st, 2022, the constitutional adjournment date, in case of unusual circumstances of 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 majority party took little action to address skyrocketing violent crime, bring meaningful changes to the failed leadership at DCFS, or make any effort to provide permanent property tax relief to Illinois homeowners. Additionally, 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.
Below is a wrap-up of what we worked on in session and I encourage you to reach out to my office at any time at (815) 254-0000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or would like to discuss these issues further. Stay tuned for my next Batinick Bulletin coming next week to kick off May!
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. 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 the majority party will increase spending by 10% over the same period.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to understand that this spending trajectory is unsustainable.
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 was signed into law, the State will have less than $100 million left remaining.
This isn’t a triumph of good management. The state is experiencing an inflation-induced sugar high, but when the state crashes, we’ll still have the same problems. What we won’t have is the federal funds to bail us out. No structural changes were made, no permanent property tax relief was extended, and no regulatory relief was implemented. The pressures of inflation are going to catch up to the expense side of the ledger and 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 Children 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. Senate Bill 1486 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.
The legislation also requires DCFS to work with the ISP to identify a list of approved protection sprays and lays out guidelines for tracking the usage of such sprays by employees. It 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 1468 passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming support. It’s now headed to the Governor for his signature.
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, the majority party 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, the majority party 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.”
While the budget was touted as a way to spend our way out of the crime wave, nothing in the Democrats’ weak crime package increases criminal penalties for carjacking, or for other acts of violent crime that harm families and communities. Additionally, many Illinois law enforcement officers are retiring or resigning from their services and some small communities no longer have police protection.
Health Care Updates
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. HB 246 seeks to maximize federal funding related to nursing homes throughout the state and maximize federal funding related to the 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.
House Bill 4343 includes the Medicaid working group’s omnibus proposal, along with a controversial expansion of medical services to noncitizens. The estimated net fiscal impact 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 and the expansion of Medicaid services to noncitizens isn’t 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. 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 Rep. 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.
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.