MOVING PRIMARY BACK TO MARCH
On March 17, the Governor signed legislation that will cut the cost of elections, give elected officials more time to do their jobs and encourage better voter turnout. Senate Bill 355 moves Illinois’ primary election from the first Tuesday in February to the third Tuesday in March, in even-numbered years.
The state’s primary was moved from March to February several years ago to accommodate then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. According to the State Board of Elections, voter turnout in the February 2 primary was only 23 percent. We hope that moving the primary closer to the general election will save time and money, and improve voter turnout with a better chance for warmer weather.
QUINN ADMINISTRATION CRITIZED FOR NOT REVIEWING CONTRACTS
The Quinn Administration was criticized this week for the Department of Health Care and Family Services’ (HFS) decision to renew a contract related to administering the state’s Medicaid dental plan, without opening the contract up to the bidding process.
With its massive deficit, state government officials should always try and re-bid high-dollar state contracts, in hopes of saving money.
There are also questions about the no-bid contract renewal for DentaQuest, because the current HFS director once was employed by a legal firm that lobbied on behalf of the company.
REQUIRING APPROVAL FOR NEW LEASES
The Senate approved legislation that requires the Procurement Policy Board to approve all new state leases for properties with rent payments of $100,000 or more and that are larger than 10,000 square feet.
Senate Bill 2887 was introduced in response to a recent situation where the Illinois Department on Aging attempted to vacate a rent-free, state-owned building and sign a new lease for a building with an annual cost of $532,000.
The attempted move was halted and is now pending review by Central Management Services. Considering the state’s multi-billion-dollar budget deficit, all new, high-dollar state leases should be subject to review.
CARE FOR SICKEST PATIENTS
Lawmakers also approved legislation that would help provide specialized, high-quality care to Illinois’ sickest patients. Senate Bill 3743 is expected to not only improve health outcomes for these patients, but reduce Medicaid spending by almost $10 million annually.
Senate Bill 3743 creates the Long-Term Acute Care Hospital Quality Improvement Transfer Program, which would create access to beds in long-term acute care hospitals (LTACH), which specialize in treating patients who need ventilators, wound care, and who have medically complex conditions. The LTACHs must meet strict requirements to receive an increased supplemental rate of payment; however, the rate paid to these specialized hospitals would be less than payments to short-term acute care hospitals.
LETTING PUBLIC KNOW ABOUT EARLY-RELEASE INMATES
Also passed was a measure requiring the Department of Corrections (DOC) to post on the Internet the pictures and identification of former inmates who are released early from prison.
In response to the recent problems with the Quinn Administration’s early release program, Senate Bill 3411 would require DOC to place a recent picture of the inmate on its Web site within three days of the inmate’s release.
The Web site would include the inmate’s name and age, physical attributes, address, the offense that was committed and the county where the conviction took place. DOC would be required to leave the information on the Web site until the inmate successfully completes the first year of mandatory supervised release, or the inmate is returned to the custody of the Department.