NEW LAWS HELP VETERANS
Independence Day became the backdrop for signing legislation to benefit Illinois veterans.
Senate Bill 2837 adds a veteran designation to driver’s licenses and other state-issued ID cards to help state agencies more easily and more quickly identify a veteran when the person applies for services, such as healthcare, student loans/grants or employment.
House Bill 4586 expands a conservation jobs and training program for youth to allow veterans to participate. Under the new law, unemployed Illinois veterans and members of the Illinois National Guard are eligible for job opportunities with the Illinois Veteran Conservation Corps and Illinois Veteran Recreation Corps.
Senate Bill 3689 expands the allowable uses for proceeds from the state’s special Veterans Cash lottery tickets, so that funds can be used to support veterans’ employment and employment training. Funds are already used to provide grants to nonprofit organizations for health care and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, housing assistance, disability benefits and other services to Illinois veterans.
GOVERNOR CUTS FUNDING FOR FACILITIES
On June 30, the day before the state’s new fiscal year started, Governor Pat Quinn signed most of the state budget, cutting $57 million in General Funds out of a $33.7 billion budget.
The largest reduction came by eliminating funds the Legislature had added to try to keep several state facilities open, including state prisons in Tamms and Dwight, and mental health and developmental centers in Jacksonville, Tinley Park, Centralia and Rockford.
Also tagged for closure were adult prisoner transition centers in Carbondale, Decatur and Chicago and youth centers in Joliet and Murphysboro.
In all, the Governor said he intends to close 57 state facilities.
FUNDING STILL IN FOR CONTROVERSIAL PROGRAMS
In signing the budget, the Governor also complained about the General Assembly’s cuts to education and the Department of Children and Family Services.
However, the Governor left intact a number of controversial and questionable funding programs, including a $1 million earmark for the failed “Grow Your Own Teachers” program. That program has spent more than $19 million in its first six years and produced only 29 teachers – at an average cost of $662,000 per teacher.
Also untouched by the Governor’s veto pen was a $1 million appropriation to pay parents $4,000 to “volunteer” at their children’s schools.
GOVERNOR LOBBIES FOR PENSION CHANGES
The Governor used his budget veto message to again lobby for changes to the state’s pension programs.
The Governor and four legislative leaders have been meeting to try to hash out an agreement on pension reforms.
However, the discussion has bogged down because the House Speaker and Governor have linked reforms to funding changes that would shift major pension costs onto local property taxpayers.
FAMILY WHO HELP CRIMINALS FACE PROSECUTION
Also signed into law during the week was a bill to allow police to arrest family members who help a relative flee the country to avoid arrest or prosecution.
Senate Bill 2520 closes a loophole in state law that protected immediate family members from prosecution. Now, family members who aid in such cases will be subject to a prison term of one to three years and/or a $25,000 fine.
Illinois was one of only 14 states to exempt family members.