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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.
State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin), a vocal supporter of the Illinois businesses that drive the state’s economy, proved through his voting record last year that it is possible to be both pro-business and pro-environment.

The Illinois Environmental Council has listed Hays as having a perfect voting record for 2016 and the Lame Duck Session of January 2017 with regard to 11 bills the Council included on their scorecard. “Over the last year lawmakers had several opportunities to support bills that were supportive of our environment without having a negative impact on Illinois businesses,” said Hays. “I was proud to support these bills and consider it an honor to be recognized by the IEC for my support of their scorecard initiatives.”

Illinois Environmental Council Executive Director Jen Walling praised Hays for his support of the IEC’s 2016 scorecard items, saying, “Representative Chad Hays voted 100% of the time with the environmental community on all pieces of key legislation that promoted clean energy and safe drinking water. We are especially grateful to Rep. Hays for his support of clean energy job growth in Illinois.”

A list of the bills included on the IEC scorecard can be found here.

When State Representatives considered the Rules that will govern the movement of legislation for the 100th General Assembly, State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) spoke about the oppressive nature of the rules and how they strengthened the power of Mike Madigan while muffling the voices of his constituents in the 104th District. In spite of Hays' and other lawmakers' testimony against the proposed rules, all but two members of the majority party voted in favor of the rules and they were approved in a 63-53 vote. You may listen to Hays' floor comments here.
Claiming the 100th General Assembly House Rules proposed by House Speaker Mike Madigan represented “an end-run around democracy,” State Representative Chad Hays (R-Catlin) joined all Republican legislators on Tuesday in voting against the rules. In spite of the unified opposition by House Republicans, the rules were approved in a 63-53 vote.

“My constituents in the 104th District essentially lost their legislative voice due to the passage of those House Rules today,” said Hays. “I was elected to represent them and bring forward their priorities through legislation. When one man can decide whether my bills are heard or buried, our representative form of government is severely crippled.”

Through the rules approved on Tuesday, Madigan will retain a 3/5 majority on his House Rules Committee. Consisting of his most loyal stalwarts, no bill will be assigned for a hearing before a substantive committee without the support of his appointees. Additionally, if an attempt to discharge a bill from the Rules Committee is made, one legislator out of the 188-member chamber can object and prohibit the bill from being discharged.

“No other state in the union has rules that are this oppressive,” Hays said. “Even across the hall in the Senate, where Republicans are in the super-minority, Republicans can get their bills heard. Our rules are unfair, they’re overbearing, and a slap in the face of how we should be conducting business in this building.”
Hays Sworn Into Office for 4th Term in General Assembly
On Wednesday, January 11, I stood with House Republicans and Democrats from across Illinois as we were sworn in to office for the 100th General Assembly. The two-hour inauguration ceremony was held at the University of Illinois Springfield campus. As my first vote of the 100th General Assembly, I voted for Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) to serve as Speaker of the House for 2017-2018. While all 51 Republicans supported Durkin in the House Speaker vote, 66 of the 67 Democrats voted for Mike Madigan to retain his position of power. As a result, Speaker Madigan will now become the longest-serving Speaker of the House in the history of our nation. While disappointed with the final choice for Speaker, I look forward to working in a bipartisan fashion with all members of this new General Assembly.
Jim Durkin will continue in his role as House Republican Leader. In his inaugural remarks, Leader Durkin redoubled his call for budget reforms to end the current fiscal crisis facing the State. Durkin also demanded that urgent attention be given to the current wave of homicides and violent crime in Chicago. In this new General Assembly I will also be continuing in my role as Assistant House Republican Leader. It is my pleasure to be a part of the 10-member leadership team that sets the House Republican agenda and determines how our caucus will respond to damaging legislation that would be harmful to Illinois taxpayers.

The House Republican Caucus contains 10 new members who attended their first session days last week. These are freshman members who were elected by their neighbors throughout Illinois, including the Chicago area and Downstate, to fight for economic growth and a taxpayer-friendly government that can live within its means. After the ceremony I was interviewed and asked about my goals and hopes for the new 100th General Assembly and also about rumors of a budget package taking shape in the Senate. You can listen to that interview here.

New Law Requires Testing of Many Illinois School Buildings for Lead in Tap Water
SB 550, signed into law this week as Public Act 99-0922, creates a statewide system for all school systems, other than Chicago, to test the water of each school building. The Chicago Public School system says they have tested their schools already. Other school systems that have already tested their water would also be exempted from this state mandate and lead testing results would have to be made public.

Studies show that Illinois has one of the largest number of lead service lines in the United States. A lead-in-water scandal in Flint, Michigan has earned substantial news coverage throughout the Midwest. Both Illinois and Michigan underwent fast economic development and boom conditions in the first three-quarters of the 20th century. During this period lead pipes and fittings were standard building supplies in building projects of all sorts, including school buildings.

The cost of testing, which would be borne by school districts, would be from $500 to $5,000 per school building. 2,500 elementary schools and 11,000 licensed day care centers and homes would be covered by the legislation.

General Assembly Passes Bill to Extend Life of Job-Creation Program
During the “lame duck” session of the 99th General Assembly last week, I was pleased to support a short extension of the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) program until April 30, 2017. The passage of SB 513 was necessary due to a sunset date of the original program of December 31, 2016. Creation of a new sunset date of April 30, 2017 means that the program has come back to life and can be used once again to create new Illinois jobs. During this time the legislature will also review the program and make some changes before approving any possible extension beyond the end of April. One proposal calls for replacement of EDGE by a new job-creation tax incentive program, to be called THRIVE. The provisions that could become part of the new THRIVE law will be discussed in the spring 2017 session. The EDGE program extension law was approved by the House and Senate on Tuesday, January 10. The House vote was 101-12-0. The extension bill is awaiting the signature of the Governor.

Hays 2017 Legislative Agenda Taking Shape
So far, in this first week of the 100th General Assembly, House members have already filed more than 450 bills for the new General Assembly to consider. Two of my own bills are included in this initial grouping. While I still have a few other initiatives that are not yet in final form for filing, the following bills are awaiting assignment to a substantive committee for initial consideration:
  • HB 275: Requires every toll booth in Illinois to have a “cash” lane where motorists may use coins to pay tolls. This bill addresses a current issue for people who do not own an IPASS. 
  • HB 304: Imposes longer sentences for those who are found guilty of killing a person under the age of 18 when the cause of death was related to child abuse.