The 4-3 decision, which fell along partisan lines, found that the Independent Maps amendment to govern the way Illinois draws its lines for General Assembly seats should not appear on the November 2016 ballot. The decision, which cannot be appealed to any higher panel, will make it impossible for Illinoisans to speak out on the process used to elect members of the Illinois General Assembly.
Three members of the Supreme Court, speaking out in dissent, strongly criticized the majority decision. Justice Robert Thomas labeled the decision a “nullification” of plain language of the Constitution allowing the voters the right to circulate petitions to amend that article of the State’s fundamental law that governs the organization and operation of the General Assembly. This limited initiative right was inserted in the Constitution of 1970 as a common-sense response to the likely conflicts of interest to be faced by future General Assemblies when looking at questions involving the Legislative Article of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court majority, led by Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride, said that Illinoisans can circulate a petition to change the way that Illinois legislative districts are mapped whenever they want to do so, but the Supreme Court will not advise them in advance of what the language on the petition should say if the amendment is to be drafted properly; and the Supreme Court reserves the right to throw out any language that it likes if it believes that the language has been drafted improperly. Persons who commented on the Supreme Court decision were left puzzled as to what kind of recourse is provided by current case law to voters who are not satisfied with the current system of drawing legislative maps in Illinois.
Governor Signs Key Tryon Bills into Law
During the summer months, the Governor takes action on the hundreds of bills that were approved during the previous spring legislative session. I was successful this year in passing some very good legislation that will have a positive impact on the people of the 66th Legislative District. A few of those bills that were recently signed into law include:
- SB 2806 (Public Act 99-0663): Doubles the fines for motorists who attempt to cross railroad tracks while the gate is down or lights are flashing. The new law is an attempt to reduce injuries and deaths at railroad crossings. In 2015, motorists who ignored rail road crossing signals and/or gates were involved in 140 rail crossing collisions which resulted in 24 fatalities and 79 injuries.
- SB 2186 (Public Act 99-0890): Requires school districts and their school boards to adhere to the zoning requirements of the municipality, county or township where the pertinent part of any new building, structure or addition is built. This new law was created as a direct response to the bleacher fiasco between Crystal Lake South High School and the City of Crystal Lake.
- HB 4627 (Public Act 99-0806): Requires each public state university to establish an admissions process in which honorably discharged veterans are permitted to submit an application for admission as a freshman student enrolling in the spring semester if the veteran was on active duty during the fall semester. This law responds to an incident where a Crystal Lake veteran was denied admission to the University of Illinois at Chicago as a freshman starting school during the second semester because the school only allowed freshman to start school in the fall semester.
For these final months of my final term in the Illinois General Assembly, I will be serving as the Republican Spokesperson and Co-Chair of the State’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).
I was appointed to this key role by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and am replacing former JCAR Co-Chair Ron Sandack, who resigned from the General Assembly at the end of July.
JCAR is a bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislative oversight committee that oversees the rule-making process by state agencies, making sure proposed rules abide by the original intent of lawmakers. The commission is composed of 12 legislators who are appointed by the legislative leaders of the House and Senate, split equally between Republicans and Democrats. It is co-chaired by one member from each political party.
Algonquin Native to be Honored with Resolution Sponsored by Tryon
When lawmakers return to Springfield in November, one piece of legislation we will consider is an honorary resolution, HR 1390, congratulating Algonquin native Evan Jager for his silver-medal-winning performance in the 3000-meter Mens Steeplechase in Rio. Jager, a graduate of Jacobs High School in the heart of District 66, was a standout distance runner during high school. After just one year at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he began training professionally, and came in 6th place in the 2012 London Olympics in the steeplechase. On August 17, Jager took second place with a time of 8:04.28, the second-fastest time in Olympic history for the event. Congratulations Evan, and I look forward to presenting your honorary resolution in November. You can read the resolution here.
ACA Rates soar for Obamacare Customers in Illinois
The Illinois Department of Insurance announced this week that Illinois residents and households who buy individual health insurance on the Get Covered Illinois ACA insurance exchange will face major increases next year. Rates for a typical health insurance plan are set to increase by an average of 43%.
The rate increases follow a major shakeout in the Illinois ACA marketplace, with co-op Land of Lincoln Health liquidating its coverage rolls and for-profit giants Aetna and United Healthcare withdrawing from the market. Remaining participants in the Illinois ACA exchange face less competition and will be able to dictate more terms to potential patients and health care providers. Rate increases could be especially high in Downstate Illinois, where much of the effects of this shakeout are concentrated. For example, ACA customers in the Metro-East could see “silver-plan” increases as great as 70%. According to the Department of Insurance, patients in eight Illinois counties are going to find that only one insurance firm will be willing to sell ACA-compliant policies to them.
Enrollment for Winter Heating Assistance Program Opens on September 1
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will begin accepting applications for winter heating assistance on Thursday, September 1. The program makes heating bill payments on behalf of households.
September applications to the program are welcome from seniors and persons with disabilities who meet the income guidelines included in the program. Persons with income challenges who are eligible for LIHEAP through other pathways, such as households with young children and households that have had their utility services disconnected, will be asked to wait until a second series of application opportunities opens staring October 1.
The LIHEAP program is operated by the Office of Energy Assistance within the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Illinois residents who need guidance on whether they are eligible for the program, or who wish to apply for admission to the program, should contact the Office of Energy Assistance. In many cases, applicants will be asked to make a contribution toward the total energy bill under the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) program within LIHEAP.
Walgreens Sets up Safe-Disposal Bins
Both law enforcement and environmentalists have expressed concerns about the safe disposal of prescription pharmaceuticals. These chemicals are, in some cases, controlled substances that are prescribed only to patients that have conditions that warrant taking them. In other cases, prescription pharmaceuticals are being disposed of in ways that can pollute the environment and cause human hazards. In a few cases, some over-the-counter pharmaceuticals may fall into this second category.
In some cases, people do not know what to do with old and unused pharmaceuticals. The most common example of this situation involves drugs that have expired and should no longer be safely taken for the purpose for which they were prescribed. Other examples include the contents of a medicine cabinet of a person who has died or moved to a care facility. Too often, drugs like these are thrown into the standard waste stream; in a few cases, they may be resold on the street.
Walgreens has taken steps to install more than 500 “Safe Medication Disposal” kiosk bins in drugstores across the U.S., including 45 bins in Illinois. The kiosk bins will offer friends and family members of persons who no longer need their drugs a safe place to dispose of the special waste. The automated bins will create an opportunity for the secure removal of dangerous drugs, such as opiate painkillers, from a household that no longer needs them. Both prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter) medications may be disposed of in the bins.