Legislative Update: May 19, 2017

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.

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