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House Begins Taking Action on Senate Bills
We have reached the point of spring session where members of the House of Representatives are now reviewing Senate Bills that have moved to our chamber for consideration. Similarly, members of the Senate are now deliberating on House Bills that were approved prior to our April 28 deadline.

In addition to legislation I have pending in the Senate, I will now be serving as the Chief House Sponsor of at least three Senate Bills. They include:
  • SB 268: Provides that the moneys in the Octave Chanute Aerospace Heritage Fund shall be paid as grants to the Rantoul Historical Society and Museum (rather than the Octave Chanute Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Illinois).
  • SB 1746: Makes technical changes to the Children and Family Services Act to update the definition of "fictive kin" to align with current practices. 
  • SB 2057: Clarifies in the statutes that local food handling regulations do not apply to communal kitchens such as a communal kitchen within a student housing environment. 
SB 1746 and SB 2057 were both approved unanimously in the House today and now move to the Governor’s office for final action.

Hays to Sponsor Series of Three Town Hall Meetings in June/July
As your voice in Springfield, your opinions are important to me. Please mark your calendars and join me for a series of Town Hall meetings that will be held in June and July at various locations throughout the 104th District. I will provide a brief presentation about the issues that are most pressing in our state and then open the floor to hear your questions, comments and suggestions. Town Hall meetings are scheduled on the following dates:
  • Wednesday, June 28: 6:00-7:30 PM: Rantoul Public Library Community Room, 106 West Flessner Avenue, Rantoul
  • Monday, July 17: 6:00-7:30 PM: Village of Savoy Community Room, 611 N. Dunlap Street, Savoy
  • Monday, July 31: 6:00-7:30 PM: Danville Area Community College Bremer Conference Center, Rooms 109-110, 2000 E. Main Street, Danville
Please make a note of the date and location that works best for you, and I hope you’ll join me for a frank discussion about issues that affect Illinois residents and people who live in the 104th District.

EIU Tuition Affordability Discount Program Extended through 2026
Earlier this week the House approved important legislation that will extend the “Panther Promise” program, an initiative that provides up to $10,000 in tuition assistance over four years ($2,500 per year) to reduce college costs for low-income students. SB 930 is specific only to Eastern Illinois University, and eligible students must meet all of the following requirements:
  • Available to students from households earning 151%-300% above the poverty level (roughly $30,000 to $73 ,000 annually)
  • Maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or better
  • Maintain consecutive semester enrollment (fall and spring semesters with 12 or more enrolled hours each semester)
  • File a FAFSA each year
For qualifying students, Panther Promise funds can be received in addition to other scholarships and grants. The Panther Promise program is a tool that truly enhances college access and affordability for many students, and I was extremely proud to support the extension of the program.

Hays Attempts to Jump-Start Budget Process by Co-Sponsoring Three Revenue Estimate Resolutions
Nothing is more important in Springfield right now than the adoption of a full and balanced budget. I have said repeatedly that they need to lock lawmakers in their respective chambers and refuse to open the doors until budget agreement is reached. Budget implementation is a multi-step process, and step one involves lawmakers coming to agreement on a revenue estimate, which, believe it or not, has not been done. To that end, I am co-sponsoring three pieces of legislation that provide revenue estimates that can be used as the starting point for the creation of a full budget.

The Illinois Constitution is clear; the responsibility for adopting a budget rests with the General Assembly, and that process begins with the approval of a revenue estimate that tells us how much money we have to spend. HJR 49 uses the non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) FY2018 revenue estimate of $31.147 billion, HJR 50 uses the FY2018 estimate published by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) of $31.476 billion, and HJR 51 utilizes an average of the COGFA and GOMB revenue estimates, or $31.312 billion, as the starting point for the creation of the FY2018 budget. Our schools, colleges and service agencies are relying on legislators to do their jobs and get a balanced budget put in place prior to our scheduled adjournment date of May 31. We need to take this first step without delay.

Hundreds of Elementary Students Visit Springfield for TECH Day 2017
Last week, hundreds of students from across the state spent the day in Springfield for TECH Day 2017, where they showcased projects that illustrate the critical role technology plays in today’s educational environment. I had an opportunity to view displays and visit with students from a few schools located in Illinois’ 104th District. In this photo, I’m shown with students from Judith Giacoma Elementary School in Westville.

Technology is a vital tool that helps prepare students to succeed in the digital world that awaits them when they enter the work force as adults, and the projects on display at the Capitol last Tuesday offered students throughout the state an opportunity to demonstrate innovative uses of technology in their schools. It was clear from the several booths I visited that technology expands the boundaries of classroom learning, while allowing students to refine collaboration and critical thinking skills. I was truly impressed with the quality of the work on display.

Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) to be Expanded to Cover all Schools
As research evidence expands to show the importance of early education on adult outcomes, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is rolling out implementation of the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) program. The ISBE received approval for the administrative rules that will implement the KIDS expansion from a General Assembly rules coordination panel on Tuesday, May 9. This clears the way for the KIDS rules to become part of Illinois administrative law.

Under the KIDS program, early childhood educators are trained to observe, assess, document, and report on children’s development, using objective measuring sticks. Much of the training is done by taxpayer-friendly webinars. The goal of the KIDS program will be to collect data for all kindergartners to measure their readiness to start the educational process. Preschools, home child care centers, Head Start centers, family homes, and every other provider of life training for kindergartners are urged to participate in the KIDS assessment process, with the focus being on group-preschool care settings and the professionals who staff them. The KIDS rules were developed with continuing advice and input from First Lady Diana Rauner, a leading advocate of early childhood education.

Hays Meets with Advocates for Rape Crisis Services
I always enjoy visiting with local constituents when they visit the State Capitol. On May 17 I had a very productive and informative discussion with Marcie Sheridan and Tara Wright of the Rape Crisis Center of Vermilion County (RCCVC), who were in town to advocate for state funding for important services they provide. Located in Tilton, the RCCVC serves area victims of sexual violence by providing counseling and legal and medical advocacy services. They also promote awareness and prevention through educational programs.

Illinois Awarded $16 Million Grant to Fight Opioid Crisis
The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) was recently awarded a federal grant for over $16 million to fight Illinois’ opioid crisis. The grant is funded through the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes an estimated $1 billion to states over the next two years to combat the nation’s opioid crises. Grants will be administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration under the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant program.

The grant supports new treatment and recovery services, including the establishment of an Opioid Crisis Line and expanded medication-assisted treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder. The funding will also support opioid-related enhancements to the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), the launch of a statewide opiate awareness campaign, new pilot programs to provide medications to treat opioid use disorder, and pre-release and post-release services for individuals who are incarcerated in county jails. In addition, this award will support a widespread expansion of the training of first responders to an opioid overdose and the availability of the overdose reversal medication Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan.

Drug overdose deaths in this country nearly tripled from 1999 to 2014. Among the 47,055 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2014, 28,647 (60.9 percent) involved an opioid. Like many states, Illinois has recently experienced a notable increase in drug overdose deaths that can primarily be attributed to an increase in opioid overdose deaths. Provisional death records data obtained from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) show 2,278 drug-related overdose deaths during 2016. This represents a 44.3 percent increase over the 1,579 drug-related overdose deaths that were reported by IDPH for 2013. Through the Illinois Opioid Crisis Response Advisory Council, The Illinois Department of Human Services and many other state agencies are coordinating the state’s efforts to develop a statewide opioid epidemic preparedness and prevention strategy.
Lawmakers in Springfield today approved landmark legislation that will improve adequacy and transparency of health insurance coverage for all Illinoisans.

According the State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin), who serves as a Chief Co-Sponsor of HB 311, the bill offers significant protections and remedies to the serious problems that are caused by the increasing use of narrow preferred provider networks in Illinois. “As a legislator from the central part of the state, I can tell you that the health insurance issues we face here are very real,” said Hays. “I hear all too often from constituents who believe they are scheduling appointments with ‘in-network’ physicians and specialists, only to learn when they arrive at an appointment that the professional is no longer on their insurance plan. In central Illinois it is not unusual for patients to drive an hour or longer to an appointment, and the provisions in HB 311 will go far in establishing new standards to protect consumers in these instances.”

Specifically, HB 311 seeks to protect Illinois patients in the following ways:
  • Insurance companies will have to make sure their networks meet patients’ needs. That means insurance plan networks must have enough doctors, including specialists, in close proximity to where their polcyholders live.
  • It will bring transparency. Patients will know which doctors are in-network. If a doctor is dropped from the network, the insurance company will have to notify patients in a timely fashion and offer an option for patients to switch plans to stay with a preferred doctor.
  • Patient care will not be disrupted due to changes in health insurance networks. A patient’s doctor may be dropped from the network, but pregnant women or anyone with certain complex conditions will be able to stay with their doctor long enough to make a smooth transition – without getting charged extra.
“This bill does a lot to protect the doctor-patient relationship, which is, in my opinion, one of the most sacred relationships that exists between a consumer and a professional,” Hays said. “I was pleased to see wide, bipartisan support on this bill, because we need to put a stop to situations where patients are forced to make abrupt changes in the doctors and specialists they see.”

The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration.
This week State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) welcomed to Springfield the Class 4A State Champion 8th Grade Boys Basketball Team from North Ridge Middle School in Danville. The team, along with some coaches and family members, were recognized as members of the House of Representatives approved House Resolution 187, which congratulated the team on their February 16 win over Flossmoor Park Middle School to claim the 2017 title.

“These young men posted a perfect 28-0 record this year,” said Hays. “But in addition to excelling as athletes on the court, they are to be commended for displaying exemplary sportsmanship during their games and for their performance in their classrooms.”

Members of the North Ridge Middle School Ridgerunners include: Devin Miles, Nathanael Hoskins (Captain), Keyshon Hampton, Amari Mayfield, Tomas Reed, Joshua Pasigna, Anthony Gouard, Camarion Halthon, Martez Rhodes, Trayvion Brigham, Anterrius Turner, Ahmad Rogers, J'Than Ross, and Tevin Smith (Captain). They are coached by Ayron Worthington and Leonard Bryant.

“As this undefeated team moves on to high school next year, they will join a successful high school program that posted a regional championship this year,” Hays said. “I wish them all the very best as they continue with their athletics and their academics.”
Hays Joins Lawmakers and Judges for Swearing In of Newest Circuit Judge
I was honored last week to be in attendance as Charles Hall was sworn in as our area’s newest Circuit Judge. I have known Judge Hall for many years and have worked with him on a number of community-based projects. He was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Claudia Anderson and his appointment took effect on March 1, 2017.

Judge Hall received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1969. He then served on active duty with the United States Marine Corps and later in the Marine Corps Reserve. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Arizona in 1973. Judge Hall is a member and past president of the Vermilion County Bar Association and also a member of the Illinois State Bar Association. Congratulations Judge Hall and family!!

Rep. Hays Celebrates Reading with Local Schools
Last week I had a great time celebrating the brilliance of Dr. Seuss with Ms. Witzel’s 1st grade class at Southwest Elementary School in Tilton. I look forward to this visit every year, and I really enjoy reading from this great author’s magnificent collection. 

Dr. Seuss was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts and eventually wrote 44 children’s books that were translated into more than 15 different languages. More than 200 million copies of his books found their way onto bookshelves worldwide. He was the winner of two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Dr. Seuss died on September 24, 1991.

State Senate Passes Five “Grand Bargain” Bills
The measures were passed on Tuesday, February 28. House consideration could be delayed, however, by the insistence of many proponents that the bills be discussed as part of an overall package of spending and budget reforms. The Senate has not approved several of the key elements of the “grand bargain” reform package, including changes to future public-sector pension plans and benefits. Senate President John Cullerton, as the keeper of the Senate clerk’s desk, may choose to exercise his right to delay moving the bills over to the House for further action.

The Senate bills, if enacted into law, would appropriate some emergency spending lines for the second half of FY17, ending June 30, 2017. The bills are intended to raise money for these spending needs through various means, including a major expansion in legal gambling in Illinois. SB 7 would allow for the licensure of major new casino operations throughout Illinois, including in Danville. The familiar “video gaming” machines installed in many Illinois taverns and restaurants would be allowed to make jackpot payouts.

Budget challenges continue to affect the State of Illinois. The February 2017 monthly revenue report and estimate released by the nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) indicated a continued decline in State general funds tax revenues in February 2017. Personal income tax revenues decreased in February 2017 by $129 million from the same levels of taxes paid in one year earlier. Illinois corporate income tax revenues have practically dried up, with only $9 million (down 81%) received from this source in February 2017.

Hays Helps Honor State Champion Basketball Tem at Local Assembly
Last week it was a privilege to participate in an assembly honoring the North Ridge Middle School Basketball Team on their recent State Championship. I will host these young men, their coaches and their families in Springfield on March 14 for official recognition by the House of Representatives. Congratulations to these men on their 28-0 season which culminated with a State title!

Emergency Crews Respond to Damaging Storms
The powerful storms roared through Illinois late Tuesday, February 28. Several EF-3 tornadoes generated by the line of storms hit Illinois. The current Illinois death toll from these storms and associated tornadoes is 3 persons. At least 14 people were injured, and severe property damage was reported in and around Ottawa-Naplate in northern Illinois, near Christopher and Crossville in southern Illinois, and in other communities.

Governor Bruce Rauner toured the Ottawa area on Wednesday, March 1, and thanked the tornado first responders. The Illinois Emergency Management Authority continues to coordinate the State’s response to the storms.

Site Selection Magazine Honors Illinois as Potential Location for Job Creation
A magazine aimed at CEOs and corporate executives has honored Illinois as one of the top states in the U.S. with the most qualifying new and expanded facilities per capita. A total of 434 new job-creating projects of the types tracked by Site Selection were announced in 2016. In the eyes of the magazine, this made Illinois the No. 3 “site selection” state in the U.S. in 2016, with Texas and Ohio as #1 and #2.

Projects tracked by Site Selection include corporate headquarters, manufacturing plants, R&D operations, and logistics sites. They must involve a capital investment off at least $1 million, create at least 20 new jobs, or add at least 20,000 square feet of new floor area. Illinois House Republicans have made a specialty in recent years of pushing for new logistics sites, with the General Assembly enacting changes to Illinois tax law to encourage this class of investment and job-creating activity. Rep. Christine Winger’s HB 3245, scheduled for a hearing in the House Revenue Committee next week, is one of the bills that continues this push.

Site Selection noted that almost all of the private-sector investment activities they tracked in 2016 were concentrated in the Chicago area. Of the new Tier 1 job-creating projects noted by the magazine, 424 were located in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin expanded Chicagoland metropolitan area.
Governor Rauner Delivers Annual Budget Address
Each year in February the Governor is required to present to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate a budget address which is traditionally used as the starting point of budget negotiations for the upcoming budget year. With Illinois well into its second year without an agreed budget, Governor Rauner began his speech on Wednesday with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln: “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion… We must think anew and act anew.”

During the 40-minute address, the Governor spoke about the bipartisan work being done in the Senate to create a balanced budget built on compromise, and said he was pleased that for the first time, legislators from both parties are standing together to say that Illinois must have structural change to grow the economy and create good jobs. He also said the ultimate budget proposal must be “a good deal for taxpayers and job creators – a grand bargain that fully balances the budget once and for all, and really moves the needle when it comes to job creation.”

You can read a copy of the speech here, and you can view the accompanying documents included in the “Budget Book” here.

Hays Bills Begin to Move through House Committee Process
House members filed a total of 3,921 bills this year prior to the February 10 deadline. Only bills filed by that date may be considered in a House committee during the 2017 spring session. House bills filed after February 10 cannot be considered this spring as independent, free-standing legislation. I filed 10 bills this year as Chief Sponsor, and have signed on as Chief Co-Sponsor or as a co-sponsor of eight others.

Following the bill introduction deadline, State Representatives spend the next six weeks vetting bills at the committee level. The House has 57 permanent and special committees that will hear testimony and consider bills. Because no piece of legislation may reach the House Floor for a final vote until it receives a positive vote at the committee level, this time of year we spend most of our time in committee meetings.

Hays to Serve on Several Key House Committees for 100th General Assembly
Committee assignments were announced a few weeks ago, and for the 100th General Assembly I will continue serving on the House Executive Committee. I enjoyed serving on the Executive Committee in the 99th General Assembly and am pleased to continue with that assignment because the most pivotal bills that come to the floor of the House are vetted through the Executive Committee. It’s an honor to have a hand in the preliminary consideration of those initiatives.

I will also be serving as the Republican Spokesperson for the Community College Access & Affordability and Public Utilities Committees. These are excellent assignments because these are issues that have a direct impact of many of my constituents in the 104th District. As the cost of a college education becomes more and more out of reach for the average Illinois family, I look forward to helping shape public policy that can hopefully ease that burden for Illinoisans. In addition to those assignments, I will also be serving on the Environment and Insurance: Property & Casualty Committees.

Hays Signs On as Chief Co-Sponsor of Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Adequacy and Transparency of Health Insurance Coverage for Illinoisans
Spotty and disjointed access to in-network health care is a real problem not only for the people of the 104th District, but in many parts of Illinois. Living in a rural area should not prevent you from having access to top-quality health care. Gaps in health plan networks mean patients can get stuck driving for hours to get the care they need. In attempt to improve adequacy and transparency to health insurance plans for Illinoisans, this year I will be serving as the lead Republican sponsor of HB 311, which offers a remedy to these and other serious problems caused by the increasing use of narrow preferred provider networks. 

HB 311 seeks to create the Illinois State Network Adequacy and Transparency Act (NATA). The legislation establishes important standards for health insurance sold in Illinois, allowing consumers to make meaningful choices about purchasing health insurance and ensuring that patients can access healthcare professionals in their network for their medical needs. At a recent press conference about the bill in Springfield, Dr. Thomas M. Anderson, President of the Illinois State Medical Society said, “This legislation is necessary because people think they are playing by the rules when purchasing health insurance, but are often in for a surprise when they try to go to a doctor. Patients may have done their homework and checked that their doctor is in-network, only to show up to their appointment and find out the insurance company website was out-of-date and they won’t get the coverage they were promised.” 

Through HB 311, which was filed identically as SB 70 in the Senate, NATA will protect Illinois patients in three ways:
  1. Insurance companies will have to make sure their networks meet patients’ needs. That means insurance plan networks must have enough doctors, including specialists, in close proximity to where their policyholders live.
  2. It will bring transparency. Patients will know which doctors are in-network. If a doctor is dropped from the network, the insurance company will have to notify patients in a timely fashion and offer an option for patients to switch plans to stay with a preferred doctor.
  3. Patient care will not be disrupted due to changes in health insurance networks. A patient’s doctor may be dropped from the network, but pregnant women or anyone with certain complex conditions will be able to stay with their doctor long enough to make a smooth transition – without getting charged extra.
Newly proposed legislation offers a remedy to serious problems caused by the increasing use of narrow preferred provider networks. These narrow networks have resulted in a dramatic reduction in access to health care for many Illinois citizens. The Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) is pleased to support the Network Adequacy and Transparency Act (NATA), introduced as H.B. 311 in the House and S.B. 70 in the Senate. This legislation establishes important standards for health insurance sold in Illinois, allowing consumers to make meaningful choices about purchasing health insurance and ensuring that patients can access healthcare professionals in their network for their medical needs.

“This legislation is necessary because people think they are playing by the rules when purchasing health insurance, but are often in for a surprise when they try to go to a doctor,” said ISMS President Thomas M. Anderson, MD. “Patients may have done their homework and checked that their doctor is in-network, only to show up to their appointment and find out the insurance company website was out-of-date and they won’t get the coverage they were promised.” Narrow networks are a reality, regardless of what happens at the federal level. Illinois is not alone in our pursuit of enacting basic network standards. The American Medical Association expects at least 25 other states to pursue similar changes.

NATA has bipartisan support in the Illinois General Assembly. "This legislation gives new consumer protections for people across Illinois who have taken all the right steps to choose a health insurance plan for themselves and their family, and then suddenly find that their plan has dropped their doctors and hospitals," said sponsor Rep. Gregory Harris (D-Chicago). “Living in a rural area should not prevent you from having access to top-quality health care,” added Rep. Chad Hays (R-Catlin). “Gaps in health plan networks mean patients can get stuck driving for hours to get the care they need. We are putting a stop to that. It’s up to the insurance company offering coverage in an area to meet their obligation to patients by maintaining a robust provider network.”

In addition to setting standards for the adequacy of health insurance plans and the transparency of health care professional listings, NATA also contains important provisions that allow patients to stay with their doctor. Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) highlighted that NATA “will require patients be notified when their health insurance network drastically changes, which is important so consumers can make adjustments in getting the health care coverage they need.”

“Right now, many patients and doctors are frustrated and inconvenienced when insurance companies reduce network options with little to no communication,” Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Peru) said. “These decisions by insurers require patients to sometimes have to abruptly switch doctors and in turn, drive incredibly long distances just to see a physician in their network. This legislation protects these patients and doctors by requiring insurers to create networks so patients’ needs are met and communicate with patients when changes are coming to their network.”

NATA will protect Illinois patients in three ways:

1) Insurance companies will have to make sure their networks meet patients’ needs. That means insurance plan networks must have enough doctors, including specialists, in close proximity to where their policyholders live.

2) It will bring transparency. Patients will know which doctors are in-network. If a doctor is dropped from the network, the insurance company will have to notify patients in a timely fashion and offer an option for patients to switch plans to stay with a preferred doctor.

3) Patient care will not be disrupted due to changes in health insurance networks. A patient’s doctor may be dropped from the network, but pregnant women or anyone with certain complex conditions will be able to stay with their doctor long enough to make a smooth transition – without getting charged extra.
When lawmakers return to Springfield this week, Representatives will begin the process of vetting the hundreds of bills that have already been filed in the 100th General Assembly. State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) will return to his position on the powerful House Executive Committee and will also lend his talents as the Republican Spokesperson for two other key committees.

“I enjoyed serving on the Executive Committee in the 99th General Assembly and am pleased to continue with that assignment,” said Hays, a member of House Republican Leader Jim Durkin’s House Leadership Team. “The most pivotal bills that come to the floor of the House are vetted through the Executive Committee and it’s an honor to have a hand in the preliminary consideration of those initiatives.”

For the 100th General Assembly Hays will serve as the Republican Spokesperson for the Community College Access & Affordability and Public Utilities Committees. “These are excellent assignments for me because these are issues that have a direct impact of many of my constituents in District 104,” said Hays. “As the cost of a college education become more and more out of reach for the average Illinois family, I look forward to helping shape public policy that can hopefully ease that burden for Illinoisans.”

In addition to those assignments, Hays will also be serving on the Environment and Insurance: Property & Casualty Committees.