Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: Oct. 20 – Oct. 24, 2014

Judge orders appointment of federal hiring monitor at IDOT

A federal judge sided with a longtime anti-patronage crusader, ruling that hiring practices at the state’s Department of Transportation have been so corrupted by political influence under Governor Pat Quinn and his predecessor that a federal monitor is now needed.

“The mission of state agencies is to do the work of the people, not serve as a way to reward political allies,” said State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). “I applaud this ruling and hope we can finally root out this corruption that started under Rod Blagojevich and continued under Pat Quinn.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier ruled Oct. 22 that a hiring monitor must be appointed to ensure compliance with anti-patronage rules.

The request for federal intervention came from Michael Shakman, a longtime crusader against political hiring. Shakman is best known for a series of court orders issued in 1972, 1979 and 1983 that bear his name, the Shakman Decrees.

Shakman sought the hiring monitor, arguing that the Quinn administration as well as the Blagojevich administration, filled positions based on political ties, rather than job qualifications. A report by the state’s Executive Inspector General later confirmed much of what Shakman claimed.

Quinn boosted political hiring

Political hiring has soared under Quinn. In 2011 alone, his administration placed 104 persons in staff assistant positions exempt from anti-patronage rules. That is double the peak number hired under now-imprisoned former Governor Rod Blagojevich. In all, more than 60% of those hired illegally were hired under Quinn.

“Not only did these hires skirt the standard hiring process, jumping in line in front of the majority of applicants, but it allowed Quinn to bypass hiring standards which help ensure that our veterans find jobs,” said Senator Syverson. “Now we are faced with yet another embarrassing blemish on the honor of our state from the actions of our Governor in another scandal where the feds have to come in and take action.”

Quinn had initially sought to lay the blame on former state Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider, who he forced to resign.

But, in August, Schneider said she and her staff received hiring recommendations directly from the Governor’s office and had to submit requests to approve hiring in the disputed positions to the Governor’s office.

Medicare and ACA open enrollment begins

It’s once again time for Medicare participants to consider changes to their healthcare plans. The annual open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage and “Part D” prescription plans is now underway.

Also fast approaching is the open enrollment period for Marketplace insurance coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is also commonly known Obamacare. 

While a lot of options are available, the process can be confusing. Compounding the problem are continued issues with government websites, government help lines that don’t always give the best or correct information, and some in the insurance field that don’t fully understand the complexities of which product is actually best for a consumer.

 

If you have questions regarding private insurance coverage or Medicare plans for yourself or a family member, please feel free to contact Senator Syverson’s office. In addition to serving for 20 years on the Health and Human Services Committee as well as the Insurance Committee, in his private sector life he has worked in the insurance field for over 30 years. Senator Syverson has gone through all the certification processes to work with people on ACA and Medicare issues.  

Medicare-eligible persons have until Dec. 7 to enroll or modify their drug benefit (Part D) coverage or their Medicare Advantage plan – which offers an alternative to regular Medicare coverage through Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) or Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs).

Persons receiving health insurance under an Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace Plan must either renew their coverage or choose a new plan during the open enrollment period which runs from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15. Those who fail to enroll in health insurance by the end of the ACA enrollment period face an increased penalty next year – the higher of 2% of income, or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child.

Senator Syverson and Winnebago County Board Chairman Christiansen host Veterans Town Hall with Senator John McCain and Congressman Adam Kinzinger

A packed room of over 300 veterans from around the region had a chance to meet with and discuss veteran issues with Sen. McCain and Congressman Kinzinger. As veterans themselves, both of these leaders being have a keen understanding of the problems and abuses that are currently going on with the VA. They promise that they will not allow the mistreatment of veterans that has occurred to be swept under the rug, and they vow to make sure that people are held accountable for their actions.

Sen. Syverson welcomes Sen. McCain to the Veterans Town hall

Large crowd of veterans gather to see Sen. McCain.

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