Shortly thereafter, we took the official steps necessary to prepare for the impeachment trial – formally accepting the House impeachment article, adopting rules to govern the impeachment process, being sworn in as jurors for the trial and officially serving the Governor with the legal papers necessary to begin the trial.
Impeachment is the first step in a two-part process and simply means the public official is charged with offenses that could lead to removal from office. The Illinois Constitution assigns responsibility for impeachment to the House. The actual removal from office occurs only if the Senate, by a two-thirds vote, finds the Governor guilty in a trial.
The impeachment trial of Governor Blagojevich is scheduled to begin January 26. Impeachment background, as well as a trial schedule and the Senate Impeachment Rules, are available at a special Senate Republican Web site: www.impeachment.senategop.net .
SENATE ELECTS NEW LEADERS
Senate Republicans also made history by choosing the first woman ever to lead a legislative caucus. Senator Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) was elected Senate Republican Leader following the Inauguration ceremonies of the 96th General Assembly.
Senator Radogno has served in the Illinois Senate since 1997. She is a longtime advocate for government reform, and on Jan. 14 charted a course for transparency in Illinois government.
Our new leader also announced her Senate Republican leadership team for the 96th General Assembly: Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), Deputy Republican Leader; Senators Brad Burzynski (R-Rochelle), John O. Jones (R-Mt.Vernon), Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) and Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac), Assistant Minority Leaders; Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), Republican Caucus Chair; and Senator Carole Pankau (R-Itasca), Minority Whip.
The Democrat Caucus picked Senator John Cullerton (D-Chicago) to lead them. Cullerton is a 30-year veteran of the General Assembly and has been a close ally of House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).
LEGISLATION PASSED IN CLOSING MINUTES OF 95TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Because legislation cannot be carried over from one General Assembly to the next, that meant voting on and approving several measures. Among the last bills approved by the 95th General Assembly were measures affecting:
Ethics (SB 761) – Brings Illinois’ new “pay-to-play” reforms into compliance with federal law, by creating exemptions for federal-aid road contractors from the political contribution ban. Federal officials had warned that Illinois’ new law could conflict with federal bidding requirements and that non-compliance with the federal ruling could have resulted in a loss of federal highway funding.
Supplemental funding (SB 1132) – Authorizes additional funding to reduce the backlog of bills owed to Medicaid providers, to pay military compensation claims to the families of service members killed in the line of duty, and to purchase medals for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
Bonding (SB 1511) – Authorizes $35 million in state bonds to begin the planning process for the proposed Taylorville Energy Center (Tenaska), a proposed 630-megawatt clean coal plant.
Breast cancer (SB 1174) – Increases Medicaid reimbursement rates for breast cancer screening and diagnostics, and requires insurance companies, the State’s Group Health Insurance program, and counties and municipalities to provide pain medication and therapies for the treatment of breast cancer. Prohibits private insurance from assessing co-insurance for breast cancer prevention services, such as mammography.
Cigarette tax (SB 801) – Establishes stricter enforcement provisions and penalties for those who sell contraband cigarettes.
Consumer protection (SB 171) – Provides new regulations for alternative gas providers to protect consumers from bad contracts with natural gas providers.
Criminal Code rewrite (SB 100) – Rewrites the Illinois Criminal Code to eliminate redundancies, inconsistencies and confusing language, and make it more cohesive and easier to understand.
FamilyCare (SB 1415) – Establishes the FamilyCare program at 185% of the federal poverty line, and increases the TANF cash grant by 15%.
Future care (SB 381) – Requires DCFS to establish a program for any person age 60 and older who may be in need of a future legal care or custody plan to adopt or take guardianship of children previously in the Department’s custody.
Insurance (SB 2173) – Requires the State Employees Group Insurance program to provide the coverage required for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility.
Military service credit (SB 2362) – Allows a firefighter to establish creditable service for up to 24 months of service in the military, naval, or air forces of the United States that was served prior to employment by a municipality or fire protection district as a firefighter.
Redeploy Illinois (SB 1013) – Expands the Redeploy Illinois Program, which reimburses counties who reduce their commitments of juveniles to the Department of Juvenile Justice by 25 percent annually, from its current pilot program status to make it available to more counties.
Smoking ban exemption (SB 2757) – Exempts health-related research facilities from the smoking ban, as well as common smoking rooms in Veterans’ long-term care homes and enclosed workplaces where tobacco is burned or smoked or tested in retail tobacco stores that manufacture tobacco products.
TIF projects (SB 826) – Allows municipal officials for a specified period of time to buy a home in a TIF project area.