BRADY INTRODUCES BILL TO FIX SWEEPS FOR MEDICAL DISCIPLINARY FUND
State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) has filed legislation to partially fill a $9.6 million shortfall in the Illinois State Medical Disciplinary fund by redirecting money from the Governor’s scandal-ridden Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
The Illinois State Medical Disciplinary Fund through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is responsible for supporting investigatory and disciplinary action within the medical community as well as licensure. The money in the fund comes from licensing fees for doctors and contains no taxpayer money. However, as a direct result of $9.6 million in fund sweeps over the last ten years, the fund has been left with a $9.6 million shortfall.
Due to the shortfall, the Department has already been forced to layoff investigators and staff (taking their headcount from 26 to 8) placing severe constraints on their ability to prosecute physicians that may pose a risk to the health and safety of Illinois’ citizens. Additionally, the Department states layoffs in licensing staff will cause delays of six months to a year in processing medical licenses. In that time physician’s licenses could expire and since it is illegal to provide medical services without holding a valid license, they would be unable to work until relicensed.
The Quinn administration bears the burden for its lack of action to correct this situation before it became dire. Senator Brady’s bill would transfer the remaining balance (currently $6.6 million) from the Governor’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative into the Medical Disciplinary Fund to correct this wrong.
The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, has made headlines in recent months after questions were raised about improper use of funds. Quinn announced the initiative to “take on the root causes of violence” by creating part time and permanent employment for roughly 3,000 young people.
A recent investigation by CNN found that the program has been used to employ people to do complete tasks like handing out fliers, attending yoga classes, and visiting museums. Perhaps most questionably, participants have also been paid to carry out political activities like walking in parades for Governor Quinn.
“The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative has produced no measurable outcomes. In fact, the murder rate in Chicago has increased by 20 percent,” said Brady. “These funds have been misused and misappropriated. We need to correct this immediately and redirect this money to fill the shortfall created by fund sweeps in the Medical Disciplinary Fund. We have an opportunity here to right two wrongs with one bill.”
APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEES MEET TO DISCUSS BUDGET
The state economy took center stage on Friday when the two Senate Appropriation Committees met Feb. 15 to hear economic assessments from the governor's budget office, the legislature's own financial forecasting agency and the state's Revenue Department.
Also this week the Illinois Senate approved HB 156 which will move the date of the Governor’s annual Budget Address. The Governor will now deliver his address to a joint session of the Illinois Senate and House on March 6. Senate Republicans are looking for clear indicators from the Governor that he plans to use the spring session push for pension reform and implementing the bi-partisan Medicaid reforms passed in 2012.
REPORT SHOWS IL LAGS BEHIND OTHER STATES IN KEY ECONOMIC AREAS
Moody’s analytics has released an extensive analysis painting a grim picture for Illinois declaring that it, “is one of just a handful nationally in danger of falling back into recession” also adding “Illinois has been among the Midwest’s weakest and is underperforming the nation in most economic gauges.”
A similar assessment was presented earlier in the month by the legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. That assessment revealed that the economic recovery from the 2007-2009 recession has seen the weakest growth since the World War II era.
The report from Moody’s reveals that in almost every economic indicator, Illinois lags behind the rest of the nation and faces significant hurdles to job growth. Moody's Analytics warned that as the rest of the nation recovers, Illinois will "trail the region and nation by an even larger margin in 2013."
However, the analysis was not all gloom and doom offering some bright spots in manufacturing and tech- and science-based industries.
In manufacturing, Illinois is recovering jobs more rapidly than the rest of the country and the state's percentage of manufacturing jobs is actually slightly higher than the nation's. Slightly more than 10% of the state's workforce is in manufacturing and outside Chicago, manufacturing accounts for 13.1% of the state's jobs. Yet, even in that sector, Moody's cautioned that most of the 305,000 manufacturing jobs lost since 1997 will not return.
Other key findings:
• Income in Illinois fell by more during the recession and has risen by less during the recovery;
• The national unemployment rate in January 2013 was 7.8%. Illinois’ rate was 8.7%;
• One of Illinois' greatest strengths is its skilled and educated workforce. About 31% of Illinois residents have college degrees and 12% have post-graduate degrees. Both figures are above the national average;
• The 2011 tax hike sent Illinois into the bottom half of the nation in terms of tax climate with the major increase in business taxes being "the single biggest reason for the recent slippage in the state's tax climate." Illinois now has the fourth highest corporate tax rate in the nation;
• Illinois is suffering from weak population growth and in 2012, a net 44,000 residents left the state. Even in the Midwest, Illinois is trailing its neighbors meaning "the state is losing out to its closest competitors to attracting and maintaining residents;"
• The state's largest number of out-migrants aren't moving to a sunbelt state, but rather to Indiana;
• Despite strong competition from South America and Asia, the outlook for Illinois agriculture is good, in part led by increasing demand for ethanol;
• Lake County and Rockford account for more than 90% of the state's foreclosed properties. The state's foreclosure rate is twice the Midwest average and second highest after Florida;
• Illinois' extensive transportation network is a key factor for economic growth. Illinois is the nation's top rail hub with more than 7,300 miles of track and 42 different railroads.
SENATE APPROVES MEASURE TO LEGALIZE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
This week the Illinois Senate made headlines when it approved Senate Bill 10, a measure to legalize same sex marriage. Proponents argued that giving same sex couples the right to marriage was a civil rights issue. Opponents focused primarily on concerns that the Illinois law could have unintended consequences for churches and religious institutions that view same sex marriage as contrary to their tenets.
Opponents raised concerns in debate that the broad language of the measure could open up churches that oppose same sex marriage to costly lawsuits simply for adhering to their beliefs.
Others questioned the priorities of the Senate President, who expedited consideration of the same sex marriage proposal while pension and workers' compensation reforms, which are critical to the state's economy, languish.