Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: August 15 – 19

SPRINGFIELD –The Illinois School Funding Reform Commission met for a second time this week and Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the creation of a charitable foundation to provide additional financial support for Illinois’ two state fairgrounds.

In other state news, recently-signed laws create sepsis protocols that will save lives, assist veterans and their families, and allow police officers to adopt retiring K-9 police dogs.

School Funding Reform Commission meets for a second time

The Illinois School Funding Reform Commission created by Gov. Rauner to recommend a comprehensive solution to reform the school funding formula, met for the second time on Aug. 16.

During the meeting, Richard Laine from the National Governors Association spoke on the relationship between school funding and workforce readiness. Laine stressed that the challenge isn’t just funding schools, but creating an educational system that prepares students to enter the workforce. He also emphasized that training the US workforce to be competitive in a global economy is becoming increasingly important.

The Commission also reviewed the “evidence-based” approach to funding education. This model draws from research and evidence-based best practices to help identify how much money per pupil is needed to educate students in Illinois according to its proficiency standards.

Chaired by Secretary of Education Beth Purvis, the 25-member Commission includes five designees from Gov. Rauner’s Administration and five designees from each of the four legislative caucuses. 

The Commission’s report is to be presented to the Governor and General Assembly by Feb. 1, 2017. Lawmakers say the goal is to have the General Assembly take action on a proposal in 2017.

Gov. Rauner announces the creation of the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation

On Aug. 16, Gov. Rauner announced a newly-formed, not-for-profit Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation has been established by leaders in the agricultural community. Suitably, the announcement was made on the state fair’s Agricultural Day.

The goal of the charitable foundation is to promote, support, assist and sustain the Springfield and Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. The Foundation’s activities will emphasize capital improvements at these sites, with a focus on the restoration of buildings.

Combined, the two fairgrounds have approximately 200 buildings—some as old as 124 years. Many of these buildings are in dire need of repair including paint, plumbing, roofing and structural repairs. The Foundation hopes to ease the burden put on the state to fund the nearly $180 million in maintenance costs. In a time of uncertain budgets, the Foundation will provide additional support to the fairgrounds.

The Foundation Board is comprised of nine unpaid members representing the agriculture industry. Board members will develop strategies to raise private funds, coordinate with the Department of Agriculture to plan projects and determine the fairgrounds’ needs, and serve as ambassadors for the improvement of the fairgrounds.

Anyone can give donations to the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation. The Foundation will establish accounts that will be held outside the State treasury so donors know their donations will go to the intended purpose.

Gabby’s Law aims to save lives of those with sepsis

The tragic death of a five-year-old girl led to a new law that requires Illinois hospitals to be better prepared to recognize and treat patients with sepsis or septic shock. Gov. Rauner signed Senate Bill 2403/Public Act 099-0828 at a press conference Aug. 18 at the Presence Covenant Medical Center in Urbana.

Gabby Galbo of Monticello passed away in 2012 due to untreated sepsis. Since then, her parents worked to pass this legislation in honor of her memory.

“This bill is an example of good public policy, policy that will save lives,” said Gov. Rauner. “But we are saddened, because it was due to the loss of 5-year-old Gabby Galbo that this legislation was sent my desk. Gabby’s Law will save lives while honoring this little girl’s legacy. It will have a tremendous impact in Illinois for years to come.”

State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) sponsored this legislation and says the new law will improve the quality of care for all Illinoisans. “Early detection saves lives. If we can prevent just one family from having to deal with the pain that the Galbo family has gone through, then this law will have honored Gabby’s memory well,” said Sen. Rose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, sepsis is a progressive shutdown of the body’s organs and systems caused by systemic inflammation following infection that enters the blood or soft tissue. More than one million cases of sepsis occur each year, killing more than 258,000.

The new law went into effect immediately.

Recognizing Illinois veterans and their families

Legislation to assist and honor Illinois veterans and their families was signed into law this week during the Veterans Day program at the Illinois State Fair.

Every public state university will now be required to establish an admissions process in which honorably discharged veterans who were on active duty during the fall semester will be allowed to submit an application for admission to the university to enroll as a freshman student for the spring semester. House Bill 4627/Public Act 99-0806 was introduced in response to a request from an Illinois veteran who was unable to enroll for the spring semester because the school mandated that all entering freshman must first enroll for the fall semester. Now public universities in Illinois must accommodate those veterans and first-time college freshmen who want to begin their college career immediately.

House Bill 5938/Public Act 99-0813 renames and expands the eligibility pool for a program now known as the “Veterans’ Home Medical Providers Loan Repayment Program.” The eligibility pool for the program will now include physicians and certified nursing assistants, rather than just registered professional nurses. The goal of the legislation is to encourage greater numbers of more highly qualified professionals to apply for jobs at the state’s veterans’ home, which would hopefully translate into better care for Illinois’ veterans.

Also signed was legislation that will allow the family of veterans who were killed in action while on active duty to apply for a designation that would allow the placement of an honorary sign on roadways (HB 4344/PA 99-0802). The idea was brought forth by Denise Meehan, the mother of PFC Andrew Meari, who lost his life while serving in Afghanistan. Ms. Meehan said the new “Heroes Way Designation Act” is a way to ensure the names and service of Illinois’ fallen will be acknowledged and honored forever in their communities.

Another new law will establish an annual Gold Star Family Day (HB 4389/ Public Act  99-0803), while an additional proposal (HB 5003/ Public Act  99-0807) mandates establishment of a veterans court program in each judicial circuit  to provide veterans and service members with court programs better suited to serve their specific needs. In that same vein, SB 3401/ Public Act 99-0819 includes veteran assistance commissions as an alternative court-ordered assessment and treatment option.

Finally, two other new laws make changes relating to military license plates (HB 5402/ Public Act 99-0809) to state that individuals who qualify for the military specialty plates may reclassify their standard plate registration without paying replacement fees or the registration sticker cost, and to allow the surviving spouse of a deceased military service member to retain the special license plates if he/she is a resident of Illinois and if the transfer takes place within 180 days of the death of the service member (HB 4433/ Public Act 99-0805).

New law allows retired police dogs to be adopted by their handlers

A new law on the books created the Police Dog Retirement Act and gives retiring police dogs the chance to be adopted by their handlers.

Gov. Rauner signed Senate Bill 3129/Public Act 99-0817 during a ceremony at the Illinois State Fair on Aug. 13, which was First Responders Day. The new law will allow all K-9 police dogs that are used by a county, municipal or state law enforcement agency and is deemed no longer fit for public service to be offered first to the handler on the force. If the officer does not want the dog, it will then be offered to another officer or employee of the agency, a non-profit agency, or a no-kill animal shelter that may facilitate an appropriate adoption for the dog.

The Act takes effect Jan. 1, 2017.

Dave Syverson

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