Legislative Update: October 19, 2016

New Illinois Competitive Council Review of Agency Rules/Regulations Should Find Millions in Savings for Illinoisans by Cutting Through Red Tape
This week Governor Bruce Rauner announced a comprehensive plan to promote economic growth and job creation by cutting the red tape in Illinois. He signed Executive Order 16-13 to review all agency rules and regulations by the newly-created Illinois Competitiveness Council. The Illinois Competitiveness Council will be comprised of a representative of each of Illinois’ regulatory state agencies. Its goal is to save Illinoisans at least $250 million in direct license fee costs over the next decade, and save Illinois taxpayers and business owners at least 4 million pages in paperwork. It will work to ensure current regulations are up to date and relevant to today’s industries and practices; ensure the language in rules are easy to understand; reduce the amount of unduly burdensome requirements on businesses, social service providers, and citizens through both time and cost; and ensure there is a clear need for the regulation.

In addition, the Illinois Competitiveness Council will look for recommendations to improve Illinois’ licensing environment to promote job growth and job creation. Currently, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) has more than a million active licenses in more than 200 license categories, however for nearly a third, IDFPR has issued fewer than 100 licenses. The growth of these licenses has increased 184 percent in the last 20 years.

Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado, and Massachusetts have all successfully reviewed their rules and cut red tape to give their citizens a more competitive advantage over Illinois citizens. Burdensome and unnecessary regulations, policies and licensing requirements disproportionately impact small businesses, particularly minority-owned businesses.

In order to have the greatest impact, the Illinois Competitiveness Council is seeking input from the public on which rules and regulations are the biggest hindrance to people and businesses. Anyone can submit feedback to cut the red tape at www.illinois.gov/cut.

Hays Addresses Tourism Professionals at Fall Conference in Champaign
It was a treat last week to speak to an impressive gathering of tourism professionals at the Illinois Council of Convention & Visitors Bureaus at their annual fall conference in downtown Champaign. I’m pictured here with Cory Jobe, Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism; Jeanne Cooke, Executive Director of the Danville Area Visitors & Convention Bureau; and Jayne DeLuce, Executive Director of Visit Champaign County. Thanks to Jayne and her team for being such hospitable and gracious hosts.
Industry Hotline Offers Insurance Assistance
The Illinois Insurance Hotline is a free and valuable resource available to help Illinois residents make informed decisions about insurance-related issues. The Hotline is a non-profit industry-sponsored outreach that can answer basic questions, provide educational materials and offer direction for more intricate questions about property, casualty, life or health insurance. Residents can reach the Hotline by phone or email for guidance on a wide range of topics, including company contact numbers, financial ratings, complaint records, state mandates, options following a cancellation or non-renewal, the claim settlement process and more. You can contact the Illinois Insurance Hotline by phone at 1-800-444-3338, or by email at insurancehotline@illinoisinsurance.org. The Hotline is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM.

Hays Participates in Ceremony to Place Memorial Marker at Maplewood Cemetery
Earlier this month it was an honor and a privilege to participate in a ceremony placing the official American Legion marker for Sgt. Clyde Maham. Clyde served in the United States Marines in World War I, and fellow Marine George Heyworth recently came across the marker at an antique store. Determined to return it to its rightful place, George researched the individual and organized a beautiful ceremony at Maplewood Cemetery in Rantoul.

Safe Disposal of Prescription Drugs Event Set for October 22
Surveys of prescription drug abusers tell us that a majority of those with opioid addictions started by stealing unused prescription medication from friends and family. The Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) has taken action to educate Illinois physicians and the public on ways to curb this epidemic. Last week, in partnership with ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company, ISMS distributed more than 11,000 kits promoting the importance of disposing of unused medications. The disposal kit contains information for doctors and patient materials highlighting the importance of proper disposal and what should be done with unused medications. The kit is also accessible for free download by anyone at www.isms.org/Take-Back. The ISMS has also teamed up with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to promote its semi-annual Drug Take-back day on October 22. 

This Take-back initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

Help combat the opioid epidemic and keep your family safe by disposing of unused medication properly. The Vermilion County Sheriff’s Office at the Vermilion County Courthouse, located at 7 N. Vermilion Street in Danville, will serve as one of several safe disposal locations on October 22, from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM. You can find other participating locations for the October 22 event at this link.

Federal Government Confirms Illinois is Moving Toward Compliance with REAL ID Act
Compliance, or movement toward compliance, is required for a state ID card (such as a driver’s license) to be seen as adequate identification for federal security purposes, such as entering an armed forces base or the boarding area of an airport. Illinois is one of 14 states that have been officially ruled as out of compliance with the 2005 federal law. Congress enacted, and former President George W. Bush signed, the REAL ID Act after the events of September 11.

Under the terms of the federal law, applicants for a drivers’ license or official ID equivalent are required to present a variety of official documentation to confirm and re-confirm their legal status within the United States. In addition, the drivers’ licenses or equivalent state documentation must be produced in physically secure facilities and must comply with a series of federal mandates intended to reduce and eliminate counterfeiting. The eventual goal is to bring the 50 states’ drivers’ licenses closer to the level of identification and security that are imposed upon applicants for a U.S. passport. After a ten-year transition period, the federal government has begun to impose penalties upon the residents of states that remain out of compliance with the REAL ID Act.

The General Assembly responded to federal compliance issues in spring 2016 by enacting new legislation (SB 637) intended to move toward compliance with the REAL ID Act. Under this legislation, the offices of the Illinois Secretary of State are no longer allowed to print out and distribute plastic drivers’ license cards. Starting in summer 2016, Secretary of State employees who have undergone criminal background checks are now allowed to collect information from an Illinois resident. The State employee will then send digital information over a secure phone line to a facility in a secure location. The new drivers’ licenses, which are mailed to their recipients, are similar to the old drivers’ licenses in some ways and different from them in others. They contain features that are difficult to counterfeit.

Under the new legislation and technology, Illinois has now been re-ruled to be 84% in compliance with the REAL ID Act. This status will be valid until October 10, 2017. During the 12-month period preceding this deadline, Illinois drivers’ licenses and ID-card equivalents will be viewed as adequate to enter federal security-secured areas, such as federal facilities and airport boarding areas. The Department of Homeland Security is warning Illinois and 13 other states that they must take further actions in spring 2017 in order to move closer toward complete compliance with the REAL ID Act. Eight other states, including Kentucky and Missouri, have been ruled noncompliant with the REAL ID Act. Their residents could face identification-related sanctions as soon as January 30, 2017.

UIUC is now the Seventh-Largest Public University Campus in the U.S.
The 44,880-student enrollment figure for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reflects the number of students who have accepted enrollment or re-enrollment at UIUC and are taking classes in the 2016 fall term. Growing demand for the university’s historically STEM-oriented curriculum has made the University of Illinois’ flagship campus a highly desirable place of study for students worldwide. In 2016, 7,600 freshmen students enrolled in UIUC for the fall term.

Many professionals associated with the campus and its infrastructure report that UIUC enrollment is at or near physical capacity. The university’s future expansion plans include areas outside core college education, such as online education and graduate schools. For example, the new Champaign-Urbana-based Carle Illinois College of Medicine will train physicians at teaching-hospital locations affiliated with, but separate from, the current campus.

Corn Harvest Passes 50% Mark
With continued dry weather in much of Illinois, farmers have reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the statewide corn harvest is more than 50% complete. As of Tuesday, October 11, 62% of the Illinois corn harvest was in. This progress in Illinois contrasts with rain-hit Iowa, where muddy fields have prevented full output from farm harvest machinery and where the harvest is only 19% complete. Soybeans mature later in Illinois than corn, and if a farmer is growing both, the protein-rich crop is likely to be harvested second in line. The Illinois bean harvest was reported to be 39% complete as of the end of last week.