From the office of State Senator Heather A. Steans
98th General Assembly Legislation
Medicaid expansion (SB 26). Expands eligibility for Illinois Medicaid to non-disabled, non-caregiving adults between the ages of 19 and 64 and with incomes up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Limit. (Low-income children, seniors, adults caring for dependents and adults with disabilities are already eligible.) Under the Affordable Care Act, from 2014 to 2017 the federal government will reimburse the state for all covered costs of caring for this newly eligible population. The reimbursement rate will not fall below 90%. SB 26 also makes changes to long-term care and mental health rehabilitation facility regulations, expands a hospital assessment program and resolves some issues related to the implementation of last year’s Medicaid reforms. This bill awaits the governor’s signature.
Amending condo association bylaws (SB 1606). Clarifies that no condominium association may require amendments to bylaws to be approved by more than ¾ of members. This bill awaits the governor’s signature.
Increasing transparency for chain-owned nursing homes (SB 2353). Requires facilities that already submit certain operational and cost information (such as how much the facility pays in management fees) to the federal government to also submit these reports to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Because the reports can contain proprietary information, they will not be made available online, but they will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The legislation also increases the amount of information DPH must make available online about the nursing homes it regulates. Both chambers have approved this bill, and it now awaits the governor’s signature.
Urging campaign finance reform (SJR 27). Encourages Congress to send the states a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s rulings in Citizens United v. FEC and similar cases. The resolution supports allowing states to decide how best to limit the role of money in politics. Both chambers of the General Assembly adopted this resolution.
Sustaining services to seniors (HB 207). Made a supplemental appropriation of $173 million to the Community Care Program (CCP), which helps senior citizens stay in their homes by providing services such as housecleaning, meals and help remembering to take medications. CCP ran out of money in April and could no longer pay providers. Led by Sen. Steans, lawmakers kept the program afloat but also (see HB 2275) approved cost-saving reforms to CCP. The governor signed this budget bill into law on May 10 so services to seniors would not be interrupted.
Facilitating coordinated mental health care (HB 1017). Allows a health care provider to disclose a patient’s mental health information to other providers without the patient’s express consent in the same way medical records are currently shared in order to facilitate coordinated care. This is done through a secure electronic network called a Health Information Exchange (HIE). Providers must still abide by federal patient privacy rules, and patients may opt out of the HIE. This legislation awaits the governor’s signature.
More flexibility for Advanced Practice Nurses (HB 1052). Relaxes current restrictions on written collaborative agreements between Advance Practice Nurses (APNs) and physicians. APNs can provide primary health care services, offer any services within the scope of their training and experience and collaborate with a physician located anywhere in the state. The bill will become law once signed by the governor.
Sentencing Policy Advisory Council (HB 1533). Allows the Sentencing Policy Advisory Council to hire two research analysts to assist in its mission of reviewing Illinois’ sentencing policies and how they affect the criminal justice system. This bill has been sent to the governor’s desk.
Reforming the Community Care Program (HB 2275). Requires electronic verification of home services visits, requires the Community Care Program (CCP) to take advantage of federal incentives to offset state costs and improves the Medicaid claim process so the state receives all federal reimbursements to which it is entitled. This legislation was passed in April along with a supplemental appropriation (see HB 207) keeping the program afloat after it became clear that CCP had run out of funds and could no longer pay its service providers. The bill became law on May 3.
Urban composting (HB 2335). Exempts Chicago from a state requirement that composting operations be located at least 1/8 of a mile from the nearest residence. The bill also encourages urban farming by allowing a community garden or similar site to accept up to 25 cubic yards of off-site compost without obtaining a permit. This legislation has passed both houses and awaits the governor’s signature.
Trying 17-year-olds as juveniles (HB 2404). Keeps 17-year-olds charged with felonies in the juvenile justice system instead of holding, charging and trying them as adults. This change will give minors access to age-appropriate educational, counseling and rehabilitation resources. It will also segregate them from hardened adult criminals. Thirty-eight other states classify all 17-year-olds as juveniles for criminal justice purposes. This bill awaits the governor’s signature.
Screening newborns for heart disease (HB 2661). Requires hospitals to screen newborn infants for critical congenital heart defects. Congenital heart problems are the top killer of infants who die due to complications related to birth defects. This legislation has passed both houses and will be sent to the governor’s desk.
Comprehensive sex education (HB 2675). Requires any school that offers sexual health education to students in sixth through twelfth grades to provide comprehensive, medically accurate and age-appropriate information. Sex ed classes must inform students that abstinence is the only 100% effective way to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, but they must also give students reliable information about contraceptive options. Schools and districts may determine what kinds of curricula are “age-appropriate” for different age groups. This legislation awaits the governor’s signature.
State-operated health facilities (HB 2812). Exempts state facilities from obtaining approval from the Health Facilities and Services Review Board before undertaking renovations or new construction projects. They are still required to notify the board before the start of construction and to report annual data. This legislation streamlines the planning process for state agencies involved in health care. It will become law once signed by the governor.
Charter school funding task force (HJR 36). Creates a Task Force on Charter School Funding to study the way charter schools are funded in Illinois and approaches other states are taking. Charter schools are designed to close the achievement gap, provide families with free alternatives to traditional public schools, encourage innovation in education and give teachers and administrators flexibility. Ninety-one percent of charter school students are from low-income families, and 95% are minorities. Currently, districts are allowed to give charter school students anywhere from 75% to 125% of the per-pupil cost of educating other students in the district; they may also provide services such as transportation, meals or athletic programs. As the General Assembly considers the state funding formula for traditional public schools, this task force will also present findings and recommendations for changing the way schools in the growing charter movement are funded. This resolution has been adopted by both chambers; members of the task force will be appointed in June and begin meeting by the end of July.
97th General Assembly Legislation
I passed 35 bills during the 97th general assembly on topics ranging from the environment to health care and education. Excluding bills that relate to my new role as a Senate Appropriations Chair, legislation I moved includes the following bills.
- Tobacco Use Cessation (SB673). The bill requires insurance companies regulated by the State to offer optional coverage or reimbursement of up to $500 annually for effective tobacco use cessation programs. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is working with the Respiratory Health Association on a pilot to determine whether this program can reduce insurance costs as well. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
- Electric Vehicles (HB2903). Establishes a pilot program to assist car-sharing organizations in purchasing electric cars. The Governor signed this bill July 11, 2011.
- Medicaid Advisory Committee (SJR35). Creates a bipartisan, bicameral legislative committee to provide ongoing oversight of the State’s Medicaid program. Medicaid is the largest single budget item for Illinois, and with federal health care reform and our recent Medicaid Reform legislation that I sponsored, there are many changes coming.
- Nursing Home Reform Trailer Bill (SB145). Applies applicable provisions from the nursing home reform bill that passed last session to facilities that serve individuals with developmental disabilities. It also separates 5 nursing home facilities that are Institutes for Mental Disease and provide higher levels of care than other IMDs into a separate regulatory category. While no changes were made to how these facilities are regulated, this changes enables the provider assessment that was passed to receive federal approval. The Governor signed this bill July 14, 2011.
- Analysis of Services for Individuals with Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (SB1622). Requires the Department of Human Services to conduct a geographic analysis of supports and services for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health illnesses. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
- Community Mental Health (SB1623). Requires the Department of Human Services to report annually on the efforts to move persons with mental illnesses from institutional settings to more community-based settings and to issue a rule governing community-based residential settings. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
- Overhaul of Teacher Certification (SB1799). The Illinois State Board of Education negotiated this bill with all interested parties over two years. It creates a new license for educators, replacing the many certificate programs to streamline and update professional requirements of teachers and administrators. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
- Public Health Standing Orders (SB123). Enables public health professionals to provide vaccines under standing orders from physicians, thus allowing children to more easily get their back-to-school vaccines. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
- Nursing Home Infection Control (HB1096). Provides that a skilled nursing facility shall designate a person as Infection Prevention and Control Professional to develop and implement policies governing control of infections and communicable diseases. The Governor signed this bill July 14, 2011.
- Oral Cancer Medication Parity (HB1825). Requires health insurance policies that provide coverage for intravenously administered or injected cancer medications to ensure that orally-administered cancer drugs are covered in similar fashion, both financially and in terms of treatment limitations. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
- Public Private Partnerships (HB1091). Enables the Illinois Department of Transportation and State Toll Highway Authority to enter public-private agreements to develop and operate new transportation projects. There is a significant public review process, including analysis and hearings by the independent, bipartisan Commission on Governmental Forecasting and Accountability required for any project to be considered. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature and will likely have an amendatory veto and/or require a trailer bill.
- Coverage for Individuals in Clinical Cancer Trials (SB1191). Ensures that individuals who are in qualified clinical cancer trials continue to receive coverage for routine patient care. Governor signed July 11, 2011.
- Social Security Offset for Seniors (SB144). Currently seniors in Illinois are discriminated in their unemployment compensation benefits because payments due are reduced by their social security benefits due to them solely because of their age. Illinois is one of only 2 states that has not repealed this unfair practice. I was not able to the legislation passed because of the state’s “negotiated bill process” for unemployment compensation changes. I am working to get this addressed in the fall.
- State Charter School Commission (SB79). Establishes a quasi-independent Charter School Commission consisting of 9 members appointed by the State Board of Education. The Commission will authorize high quality charter schools throughout the state and provide greater oversight and accountability to charter schools. Local control over these schools continues to be honored as well. This bill awaits the Governor’s signature.