Weekly Senate Update 8-1-2014

Don’t forget the Boone County Fair begins next week . I plan on being there much of the week so if you go I hope you can stop by my booth and say hi.

Legislation that seeks to reduce the risk of serious allergic reactions is just one of a number of bills signed into law in recent days, according to State Senator Syverson (R-Rockford).

House Bill 5892 allows for anyone at a school who is trained in how to recognize and respond to severe allergic reactions to administer an epi-pen (epinephrine auto-injector) which is used to counteract allergic reactions. Previously, only nurses could administer the drug.

It will also allow schools to maintain a supply of epi-pens that are “undesignated” but available for use in an emergency, and allows students to carry an epi-pen as long at the parent or guardian grants permission and the school is given information on the prescription. 

Also among bills approved was an advisory referendum for the November ballot that will ask if the state constitution should be amended to allow for a 3% additional tax on incomes over $1 million. The question authorized by HB 3816 is advisory only and would not actually amend the constitution.

Chicago-area manufacturing examined

Chicago may no longer be the “Hog Butcher for the World” and the “City of the Big Shoulders” as poet Carl Sandburg wrote in 1914, but manufacturing remains the region’s number one industry according to a new report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and HSBC Bank.

“Revival in the Heartland: Manufacturing and Trade in Chicago” provides an overview of the city’s current place in manufacturing, while outlining challenges and opportunities for the future. 

Giving a generally positive picture of Chicago’s role as a manufacturing center, the report also contains sobering messages about the challenges the region faces. Chicago “lags behind its potential” the report states, declaring: “Manufacturing in Chicago is an old heavyweight slugger, punching below its weight.”

The authors also point out that exports and employment fell in 2008 and 2009 with the onset of recession and while exports have recovered, Chicago’s employment levels remain below 2007.

In 2001, there were 329,229 manufacturing jobs in Cook County, the largest number of jobs of any industry. By 2012, the number had shrunk to 194,189 jobs, a loss of 135,000 jobs or 41%. In the meantime other areas, such as health and social administration, retail trade and tourism have surpassed manufacturing employment.

Senior Hall of Fame

The Illinois Department of Aging is now accepting nominations for older adults to be recognized for the 2014 Senior Illinois Hall of Fame awards

The annual award, established in 1994 by the General Assembly, recognizes residents of the state, ages 65 and older, who excel in the categories of Community Service, Education, Performance and/or Graphic Arts and the Labor Force.  Nomination forms must be postmarked or faxed by Friday, Aug. 22.  

Nominations forms may be mailed to the Illinois Department of Aging, Division of Communications and Outreach at One Natural Resources Way #100, Springfield, Illinois 62702-1271 or faxed to: 1-217-785-4477.

Eligibility is based on the nominee’s past or current accomplishments in the category of choice.  The candidate must be a current Illinois resident or a former resident who lived in the state most of his or her life.  Posthumous nominees are considered.

Beer-Gate?

Soliciting free beer tickets from vendors has gotten two fair directors in trouble.

The Illinois State Fair’s current director, Amy Bliefnick, and the DuQuoin State Fair’s former director, John Rednour, Jr., received fines from the Executive Ethics Commission for accepting  hundreds of free beer tickets from vendors at the fairs.

According to a 10-page report, Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza said both had been in their jobs long enough that they “should have become familiar with the Ethics Act gift ban provisions.” The Ethics Commission office said the state’s Ethics Act “sets clear standards for what state employees may solicit and what they may not solicit or accept.”

Both said the tickets were distributed to others.

Medicare outlook improves

The federal government says the outlook for Medicare funds has improved over the last year.

Instead of running out of money in 2026, it’s now estimated the system’s hospital trust fund won’t be exhausted until 2030. In addition, Social Security is expected to remain solvent until 2034. Social Security’s finances are relatively unchanged from a year ago. Medicare’s improved finances are largely due to a continuing slowdown in health care spending, the report said.

The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare issued their annual report July 28 on the financial health of the government’s two largest benefit programs.

Bills signed into law recently

The following bills have been signed into law in recent days:

Grease/Oil Collection (HB 4505/PA 98-0785): Provides for the licensing of grease and oil collectors to transport grease and oil to processors for uses such as biodiesel conversion.

Science and Math Partnership (HB 4522/PA 98-0786): Lowers the minimum threshold of school districts that are required for the Science and Mathematics Partnership School at Aurora University from four to two. This legislation would accommodate a school district that may opt to join the partnership, and would ensure that other participating districts could still continue to participate if that occurs.

Uninsured Motorist Verification (HB 5692/PA 98-0787): Creates the Uninsured Motorist Verification Advisory Committee Act. Requires the Secretary of State to establish and appoint an Uninsured Motorist Verification Advisory Committee consisting of representatives of the Department of Insurance and the insurance industry. This committee will issue a report with recommendations to the General Assembly by January 31, 2015.

University Appropriations (SB 230/PA 98-0788): This legislation amends the higher education appropriations statutes to enable university presidents to be the sole authority to accept state monies. Prior to this legislation, Boards of Trustees and university presidents were both required to sign off on accepting appropriations from the state.

Revitalizing Vacant Property (SB 336/PA 98-0789): Creates the “community stabilization assessment freeze pilot program,” under which the assessed value of improvements on residential property may be reduced to 10% for vacant properties, if an owner-occupier takes possession of the property. This only applies in census tracts in the county where at least 10% of the homes have been foreclosed on. For the first seven years, the assessed value of improvements are reduced by 90% of the difference between the base year assessed value and the assessed value in the current year. The credit is then gradually reduced the next two years and disappears after that.

Civic Education (SB 2728/PA 98-0790): Moves the reporting date for the Task Force on Civic Education from May 31, 2014 to December 31, 2014. Moves the repeal date for the section creating the Task Force from May 31, 2015 to December 31, 2015.

Railroad Police (SB 2791/PA 98-0791) – Clarifies that railroad police have the authority to issue citations. This is being sought to clarify the authority of railroad officials to eject passengers on METRA trains.

Distance Learning (HB 3441/PA 98-0792): Creates the Higher Education Distance Learning Act which authorizes the Illinois State Board of Higher Education to participate in a state authorization reciprocity agreement (SARA) on behalf of the state.  Provides that the Board of Higher Education shall be the lead agency in coordinating interstate reciprocity for distance learning for participating institutions in Illinois. Sets additional parameters for distance learning programs.

State authorization reciprocity agreements (SARA) establish reciprocity between willing regional compact member states that accept each other’s approval of accredited institutions that operate within their states and offer distance learning services beyond state boundaries.  SARA under this program will be voluntary.

Holocaust Commission (SB 3129/PA 98-0793): Amends the Illinois Holocaust and Genocide Commission Act to increase the Commission to 22 members, including a student member.  Also allows former members of the House and Senate to advise the Commission, allows an ex-officio member to designate a subject matter expert to serve in the member’s absence, provides for the re-appointment of initial members, provides the new members’ term duration, and clarifies what a full term is on the Commission. 

Millionaire Tax Advisory (HB 3816/PA 98-0794):  Places a statewide advisory question on the November ballot asking if the Illinois Constitution should be amended to require that each school district receive additional revenue, based on their number of students, from an additional 3% tax on income greater than one million dollars.  The question is non-binding.

Epi-Pen Administration (HB 5892/PA 98-0795): Expands the authorization of epi-pen administration to anyone trained on how to recognize and respond to anaphylaxis. A school nurse or trained personnel is authorized under HB 5892 to administer an epi-pen to anyone (not just a student) who they believe in good faith is having an anaphylactic reaction on school grounds or at a school function. Also provides for the self-carry and self-administration of epi-pens as long as the parent/guardian grants permission and the school is provided with information on the prescription.

Community Health Advisory Board (HB 5412/PA 98-0796): Creates a Community Health Worker Advisory Board to develop recommendations for certifying community-health workers.

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