Senate Week in Review: September 10-14
Springfield, Ill. – After years of preparation, video gaming is about to become available in hundreds of establishments across the state, according to State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris).
In other news, Illinois’ Health Care Implementation Council has set a Sept. 19 deadline for public comments on Obamacare coverage, while the loss of a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant to Iowa indicates that Illinois’ fiscal problems continue to make employers leery.
Earlier this week, Sen. Rezin held a Senior Health Fair in Peru with the goal to help attendees learn how to live a happier and healthier life through the resources available to them throughout the community. Over 300 attendees took advantage of free flu shots and free health screenings for blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat, bone density, pulmonary function, and pulse oximetry. Information on hospice, assisted living, adult daycare, financial planning, nursing homes and nutrition was also available among the 50-plus agencies and companies that participated in the fair.
Also this week, Sen. Rezin visited Grand Ridge School to meet with students and see first-hand how the Illinois Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program has been implemented in the school. Grand Ridge School was selected for the legislative visit based off of their implementation success of the PBIS system.
PBIS is a proactive systems approach to establishing the behavioral supports and social culture needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional and academic success. The program aims to enhance the capacity of schools to effectively educate all students by helping schools create and maintain safe and effective learning environments. They are trained to use early-intervention and proactive teaching techniques that encourages positive behavior among students. Schools that implement school-wide PBIS have consistently shown reductions in the number of discipline problems, increases in academic test scores, higher measures of school safety, and improved school climate.
To learn more about the Illinois PBIS Network, visit www.pbisillinois.org.
Sen. Rezin attended the Streator Fire Department’s 125th anniversary celebration this week, congratulating them on a long history of keeping the people and buildings of Streator safe. The fire department dedicated a memorial to all firefighters – those who have passed, retired, and still work today – as a part of the day long celebration. The memorial consists of a bell from a 1940s fire truck, a bench purchased with money donated from former firefighter’s widows, and several plaques with names of firefighters.
More than three years after it was approved by the Governor, video gambling is coming to Illinois.
According to the Illinois Gaming Board, testing of the electronic monitoring system is now complete and the Board has gone "live" at four locations for a two-to-three-week test of the full system. Following those tests, there will be a layered expansion of the system statewide.
The implementation of video gaming represents the latest legalized form of gambling in Illinois. Approximately 200 establishments have been approved by the Gaming Board and about 170 pages of pending applicants are still listed on the Gaming Board's Web site. News stories have estimated that up to 75,000 video gaming machines will be installed statewide once video gaming is fully operational.
Video gaming was passed in May 2009, as a funding source for a long-delayed capital construction program for Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn signed House Bill 255 into law on July 13, 2009; however, implementation was delayed when the Gaming Board was forced to re-bid the contract for the central communications system, due to errors with the first bidding process.
Within the next several weeks, many Illinois residents older than 21 will be able to legally bet on video games, such as poker, blackjack and "line up" at bars, truck stops and veterans and fraternal organizations.
CLICK HERE to view History of Gaming in Illinois
CLICK HERE to view Background on Video Gaming
However, while gaming may be expanding in Illinois, recent news reports indicate that some employers aren’t willing to gamble on Illinois. Sen. Rezin says the state’s financial problems have been a well-documented cause for concern, and Illinois’ mountain of debt and perpetual budget deficits make business leaders uneasy, as well. Most recently, it was reported that despite aggressively pursuing a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant project, Illinois lost the project—and the hundreds of associated jobs—to Iowa.
According to the company's CEO Nassef Sawiris, the state’s staggering overdue financial obligations undercut the tempting incentive package Illinois offered to Orascom Construction Industries. Media reports quote Sawiris as saying, “We were quite concerned, honestly with Illinois’ budget” and noting that though “The promises we got in Illinois were extremely attractive…[the offered incentives] “are not sustainable in our view given the balance sheet of the state of Illinois.”
Of note, Sawiris pointed to the pension reform issue, which left unresolved leaves current and potential employers wondering exactly how Illinois is going to address the state’s at-least $130 billion in liabilities. Sawiris joins other jobs providers who express concerns that as costs mount state leaders will once again look to tax increases as a way to reduce the budget deficit and pension liabilities.
Also during the week, Illinois consumers have been given a narrow window to offer their opinion on the benefits that should be included in basic health insurance plans offered under Obamacare in Illinois.
The state's Health Care Implementation Council has set a Sept. 19 deadline for the public to offer comments. The composition of basic insurance plans will be critical if the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is ultimately implemented.
A narrow selection of services will keep policy prices down and save consumers money, but may leave some patients without adequate coverage for some conditions. A broad range will assure that more conditions are covered, but would also drive up the cost of the insurance.
The standards will set only the baseline or "floor" of coverage. Insurers will be free to offer more comprehensive plans, and consumers would be able to spend more to secure broader coverage. But, since the standards will set the minimum coverage, consumers will not have an opportunity to select less coverage than what the state dictates. Gov. Quinn has already said he wants the plan to cover all the state's current insurance mandates, which are extensive.
Comments can be submitted through the state's Health Care Reform Implementation Website. Available at the Web site is a link for submitting comments, as well as background information including a chart that lists what benefits are currently offered by major healthcare plans.
DCEO announced the opening of the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Rebate Program for Fiscal Year 2013. DCEO is providing rebates toward the installation of Level II EV charging stations. Rebates cover 50% of equipment and installation (materials and labor) costs up to the following caps: $3,750 per networked single station; $3,000 per non-networked single station; $7,500 per networked dual station; and $6,000 per non-networked dual station. Please refer to program guidelines for definitions of these station types and details on technical requirements. The maximum possible total rebate award is $49,000 or 50% of the total project cost for up to 15 stations, whichever is less.
Eligible applicants for this rebate program include: units of government, businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, and individual residents. EV charging stations must be purchased and installed prior to submitting a rebate application. Rebate applications will be processed on a rolling basis. The deadline for rebate applications is 4:30 pm on Thursday, December 20, 2012.
The information is also available on the EV website, www.IllinoisEnergy.org/EV.