Political Rewind: Illinois Reacts to SCOTUS Ruling, Chicago NATO Costs Add Up
It's always good to be caught up on state politics. Here's an easy guide to what happened this week.
Editor's Note: This article was created by aggregating news articles from Illinois Statehouse News that were written by various Illinois Statehouse News reporters.
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois reacted to the U.S. Supreme Court upholding President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and a House legislative committee began looking at possible discipline against a colleague.
Quinn: Illinois will expand Medicaid under Affordable Care Act
Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday said he plans to carry out the full Affordable Care Act including expanding the Medicaid rolls in Illinois.
“The state of Illinois is going forward with the president of our country, President Barack Obama, to expand using Medicaid (to) those that would be covered under the Affordable Care Act,” Quinn said. “That is the law. We’re not backing down.”
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the national health-care law Thursday, but justices apparently left some wiggle room for cash-strapped states such as Illinois. The court said the federal government can’t take away Medicaid money states already are getting if they refuse to expand Medicaid programs, which the original law allowed.
But the court ruled the federal government can withhold money meant to help expand Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act if states decide against expanding their programs under the national law.
Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka predicts Illinois will have to find $2.4 billion over the next six years if it allows into Medicaid anyone who makes less than 133 percent the federal poverty level, as outlined in the act.
“Illinois is a textbook example of what can happen if financial challenges are not proactively addressed,” Topinka said. “The state needs to learn from experience, and take steps today to address the increased Medicaid costs that will occur in coming months and years.”
Quinn said the federal assistance provided for the expansion would prevent the state’s Medicaid system from becoming too costly.
The Illinois Legislature and Quinn worked this spring to cut $1.6 billion in Medicaid spending for the coming fiscal year, including kicking some people out of the program and ending services for others. The cuts came amid worries of skyrocketing costs for the health-care program – overdue Medicaid bills, without any action, would have topped $21 billion by 2017.
Illinois has about 2 million residents without health insurance.
NATO costs still being tabulated in Chicago
Chicago officials continue to compile costs associated with hosting the 2012 NATO summit in the Windy City in May.
Chicago, hometown of U.S. President Barack Obama, is the only American city besides Washington, D.C., to host the summit, a gathering of international heads of state.
The 2012 event occurred May 20-21 at McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, leading to the temporary closure of some buildings, attractions, streets and rail lines, as officials prepared for the possibility of violence by protesters who descended on the city. Police officers from across Illinois and other U.S. cities helped provide security for the event.
Chicago officials estimate the cost of hosting the event at $55 million, although they say that will be covered by a combination of federal money and private donations. A nonprofit “host committee” — the Chicago NATO Host Committee — was established to handle much of the planning and organization. A report last week in the Chicago Tribune indicated the host committee raised about $33 million from corporate donors for the event.
Among the costs that have been reported in various media accounts: an as-yet unreleased figure for pay and overtime for 3,100 city of Chicago police officers assigned to NATO duty; about $13,600 for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to have representatives in the area to assist with possible emergencies; $5.8 million for insurance coverage for 46 days leading up to and after the summit; $117,000 in overtime and expenses for the Evanston Police Department; $800,000 for Metra, the city’s commuter rail system, for added security and lost revenue; and $65,000 in lost parking meter revenue.
Smith attorney says House discipline committee process not ‘fair’ or ‘deliberate’
Illinois House lawmakers and the attorney for indicted Rep. Derrick Smith disagreed Wednesday on how quickly a committee should move in determining whether Smith should be disciplined by his colleagues.
Smith, under federal indictment for one count of bribery in his role as a state representative, has not gone to trial, and he still is receiving discovery information from federal prosecutors about their evidence, the attorney, Victor Henderson, said.
But members of the House of Representatives’ bipartisan Select Committee on Discipline, charged with deliberating possible professional punishment for Smith, want to move forward as quickly as possible, saying they can be ready as early as Friday. The committee’s first meeting was Wednesday morning in Chicago.
Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said no compelling reason exists to hold off on further hearings, because much of the evidence and the witnesses from the federal probe won’t be available to the committee.
“Much of what Mr. Henderson is referring to may be helpful to him in the criminal case but may not be useful to this committee and this proceeding,” Lang said.
Henderson countered: “Would you want a teacher to give you a grade before giving you a test?” and said moving forward that quickly would undermine the “fair” and “deliberate” manner in which the committee vowed to proceed.
Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, who leads the committee, said she would release a schedule for the committee in the coming days.
Sandusky-inspired legislation becomes law in Illinois
Legislation inspired by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case at Penn State University became law in Illinois on Wednesday.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed House Bill 3887, which requires coaches and university employees to report to authorities any suspicions of sex abuse and other forms of child abuse. The law is effective immediately.
“Young people place their trust in coaches and university officials, and it is (the adults’) responsibility to report any suspected abuse,” Quinn said in a written statement. “This is an important law that will help us continue to protect our children and youth.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, and Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, requires coaches, university employees and others to report suspected abuse. It passed unanimously in both chambers of the General Assembly this spring before landing on the governor’s desk.
Sandusky, a popular, long-time football coach at Pennsylvania State University, was convicted June 22 on 45 counts of sexually abusing boys. The abuse, which occurred over at least a 15-year period, allegedly was known but ignored or covered up by numerous people in Sandusky’s circle, including other coaches, university staffers and family members.
Tuition hikes cause Illinois’ prepaid tuition program to lose money
Illinois’ prepaid college tuition program has lost $68 million in a year, mainly because of the higher cost of tuition statewide.
The fund dropped from $1.13 billion a year ago to $1.06 billion at the end of May, despite investments turning a profit.
College Illinois! paid out $92 million for tuition during the past year, while making just $25 million on its investments, according to a report presented at a Monday meeting of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which oversees College Illinois!
The prepaid tuition program has been a source of consternation for legislators and parents because of controversial investment decisions and an unfunded liability of more than $500 million, or about 70 percent.
So far this year, investment returns are about 3 percent, much less than the 7.5 percent the fund predicted, according to John Samuels, spokesman for the student assistance commission. He attributed the underperformance to “the overall weakness of the market.”
College Illinois! will be undertaking an annual review of its assumptions at the end of its fiscal year, this month.
“It’s possible that we’ll be changing some of the assumptions in terms of what the market is showing,” Samuels said.
Additionally, tuition for a year at a state university has increased by an average of 12.5 percent annually during the past decade, outpacing any gains on investments.
— Jayette Bolinski