At issue was an amendment to a single budget bill, House Bill 2189, which contains the state’s capital construction budget, including the road construction program.
In an attempt to leverage more spending before lawmakers adjourned May 31, Senate Democrats amended HB 2189 to include more than $430 million in additional expenditures and sent the bill back to the House for concurrence.
House lawmakers refused to accept the additional spending, and Senate Democrats refused to back down. Senate Republicans unanimously opposed the additional spending as well as the effort to hold construction projects hostage for extra spending that the state cannot afford.
A June 15 meeting between the Governor and the state’s legislative leaders about the capital construction program brought no resolution, and the Governor told the leaders that a shutdown of construction projects could begin as early as June 20 if an agreement wasn’t reached by the Governor’s self-imposed June 17 deadline.
One day after the meeting with the Governor, a statement issued by the Senate President June 16 conceded that the capital jobs program “should continue uninterrupted,” indicating that Senate Democrats would withdraw their demand for more spending at this time.
BENEFIT CHOICE PERIOD EXTENDED TO JUNE 20
A June 14 decision by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability will allow some state employees, retirees and dependents to stick with their current health care plans if a 90-day temporary contract is negotiated by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
At this time, the following vendors have signed a 90-day contract with the state and are now available as a Benefit Choice health plan option:
HealthLink OAP (CF) FY2012 Map Applies
Health Alliance Illinois (BS) FY2011 Map Applies
Health Alliance HMO (AH) FY2011 Map Applies
PersonalCare HMO (AS) FY2011 Map Applies
PersonalCare OAP (CH) FY2012 Map Applies
These options are in addition to HMO Illinois, BlueAdvantage HMO and CIGNA, which are also available. The State and Humana Health Plans were unable to come to an agreement on the terms of a 90-day contract.
The Benefit Choice Period has been extended to June 20 for employees and retirees to select a health care plan.
Confusion and concern has surrounded the proposed health insurance changes. The Governor’s office has said that information regarding the potential contracts will be posted to the CMS State Employee Web site. Employees and retirees should monitor the site for the most up-to-date information and any additional plans that may be available.
EDUCATION REFORMS NOW LAW
Also during the week, an education reform measure was signed into law, the result of lengthy negotiations between legislators, parents’ advocates, teachers and school administrators. Senate Bill 7 advances important improvements to Illinois’ education system, while saving taxpayers’ money.
While many say the legislation is not the final solution to all of our educational problems, it does add some accountability into Illinois’ educational system. The legislation outlines a number of performance-based initiatives that demand more accountability from educators and school administrators.
Included in the proposal are provisions to lessen the impact of a teachers’ strike through increased transparency and other requirements that will be required before a teachers’ union can strike; streamline the dismissal process of tenured teachers in situations related to conduct and performance; allow schools to place an emphasis on performance, rather than seniority, when considering teacher reductions; permit the Chicago School Board to increase the number of hours in the school day and the number school days in the year—and allows Chicago teachers to collectively bargain on these types of agreements; and allow for good teachers to be acknowledged through accelerated tenure.