This week, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner established a new working group to develop effective solutions to the issues of violence and public safety. Meanwhile, the Illinois Senate passed a series of controversial gun control measures. In other action, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a measure that will ensure continued federal support for quality healthcare to more than three million Illinois residents, as well as appointed a new Executive Inspector General.
Weaver appointed to Legislative Public Safety Group
Also during the week, Governor Rauner asked the leaders of the legislative caucuses to each appoint four members to a new Legislative Public Safety Group. Senator Weaver was appointed to the effort by Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady. The Group is designed to work with the administration to develop legislative proposals to support the following initiatives already underway in various agencies and units of the administration:
School Safety – The Illinois Terrorism Task Force has convened a working group of officials from schools, police and fire agencies and they are developing strategies to protect against mass shootings.
Mental Health – The Illinois Terrorism Task Force is also working to learn more about the complex intersection of mental health and gun violence, so parents, teachers, professionals and others can more effectively assess, detect, and report threats. The Public Safety Group will be valuable in ensuring the mental health community is fully engaged and legislation is sensitive to the complexities of dealing with diagnosis and treatment.
Interstate Crime Prevention Network – A wide ranging law enforcement partnership with surrounding states is being explored to clamp down on illegal cross border trafficking and straw purchases, provide enhanced data collection and sharing, and establish protocols for threat detection, surveillance, and criminal apprehension.
Repeat Gun Offenders – We must closely examine sentencing and bonding practices that allow repeat offenders to be released rather than incarcerated.
Concentrated Crime Force Deployments – The state needs to expand its program of deploying law enforcement resources in high crime areas so that they can mobilize for all-out attacks on the crime industry.
Economic Revitalization – The state’s most violent neighborhoods are also commercial deserts where the only discernible “business” is crime. As expanded force deployments push crime out of these neighborhoods, the state can direct focused business development resources on legitimate enterprise and job creation.
Weaver passes legislation to create Dual Credit Week in Illinois
Senator Weaver advanced legislation aimed at promoting awareness of the importance of the valuable educational opportunities afforded by dual credit programs.
“A student’s education is the foundation upon which they will build their professional career,” said Senator Weaver. “Dual credit programs allow students to save money while getting a head start on their college education.”
Senate Resolution 1411 establishes March 18 – 24 as Dual Credit Week in Illinois. The goal is to promote both the dual credit programs and to build interest among parents and students to encourage participation.
Dual credit programs allow high school students to earn college credits, which typically leads to substantial savings on college tuition later. Senator Weaver noted that the challenge of college courses also helps develop a globally competitive workforce.
During Fiscal Year 2016, there were a total of 54,871 high school students enrolled in one or more Illinois community colleges, which represents continued growth in the programs.
The senate resolution states in part that, “the Senate encourages four-year-colleges and community colleges to visit high schools and take action to help students register in dual credit courses.”
“I encourage parents and students to seriously consider dual credit programs,” said Senator Weaver. “Students today are facing the most competitive job market that we’ve ever seen. Dual credit programs represent a great way to get a head start on your college education and enhance your future career prospects.”
Senate passes multiple gun measures
This week, the Senate passed three gun control bills.
House Bill 1465 makes it illegal for anyone younger than age of 21 to purchase or posess "assault weapons" or magzines that hold more than 10 rounds. Opponents argued that the bill was written too broadly and would cause unintended legal issues.
House Bill 1467 bans bump-stocks and trigger cranks along with undoing a provision of the state's concealed carry law that would prevent concealed carry rules from changing between municipalities. Lawmakers weren't allowed to vote on other "clean" bipartisan bump-stock bans that wouldn't create problems with concealed carry. Opponents argued that this bill, unlike the other "clean" bills would likely lead to a confusing patchwork of firearm laws that would potentially endanger law-abiding concealed carry card holders.
House Bill 1468 requires a new, longer 72-hour waiting period to obtain certain firearms. Opponents argued the new rule would be confusing for businesses to determine which firearms were included.
Ensuring quality medical care for the most vulnerable
Gov. Rauner signed bipartisan legislation this week that protects safety net and rural hospitals while ensuring continued federal support for quality healthcare to more than three million Illinoisans.
Senate Bill 1773 ensures the state will continue to receive federal matching funds to offer services for Medicaid beneficiaries through the Hospital Assessment Program, which brings in $3.5 billion annually.
The Hospital Assessment Program is set to expire at the end of June. A bipartisan group of legislators worked with the Illinois Health and Hospital Association and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to redesign the program, create a more equitable reimbursement process, and ensure more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
The state currently uses old data sets, sometimes based on care that was provided as far back as 2005, to reimburse hospitals for Medicaid services. The new model will use updated data and also ensure that more of the reimbursements are based on actual services hospitals provide. It also dedicates more than $260 million to help hospitals transform their operations to better serve their communities, such as offering more urgent and outpatient care.
The Federal government will need to sign off on the new terms of the program before it can take effect.
Governor announces new Executive Inspector General
On March 14, Gov. Rauner appointed Susan Hailing as Executive Inspector General. Hailing was previously first assistant Inspector General in Illinois, racking up more than six years of experience in the Office of the Inspector General. She is also a former Assistant U.S. Attorney with more than nine years of experience.
Hailing will succeed Maggie Hickey who has served in the Office since 2015.
Around the 37th District
Ashley Capecci (pictured above), a senior at Bradley University, is currently serving as an intern in Senator Weaver's district office. Ashley was able to visit the state Capitol during the legislative session this week and assist Weaver on the floor of the Senate.
Members of Senator Weaver's district office recently returned from Springfield for legislative training. The staff learned the functionality of Illinois General Assembly web resources, Senate ethics and processes, constituent problem solving, and best practices. The training is part of the staff's efforts to improve their knowledge and service to you.
Senator Weaver offers his congratulations to the Richwoods Lady Knights who won the IHSA GIrls 3A Basketball Championship. The state title, which was the school's fourth, capped an impressive season with a final record of 35-1.