Friday, March 07, 2014
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Read the latest on The Peoria Pundit:
It seems like taxpayers are giving up a lot (their right to buy the water company every five years), while the water company is gaining a lot (the ability to NOT have to fight off a buy out over five years). But residents are getting a perky new “tax” in the form of higher water bills. I’m trying to figure out how taxpayers benefit at all.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Monday, March 03, 2014
Sunday, March 02, 2014
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Friday, February 28, 2014
Approved Illinois residents will soon be able to start carrying guns in public.
The Illinois State Police announced today that 5,000 concealed carry licenses have been approved. They have begun printing and mailing licenses as of today. The state police say residents could begin receiving licenses as soon as Monday.
Applicants are required to pass background checks and complete a 16-hour safety course, including a live-fire exercise. Licenses cost $150 and are good for five years. After five years, licensees must reapply and take a three-hour training course. So far, the state police have received more than 50,000 applications since they began taking them in early January. Supporters of the law say they are happy to see that the police are issuing licenses even earlier than expected. “The state police have done a fantastic job. ... We thought we’d be three months before we’d get a permit out. So they’re going to get these permits out a little early,” said Benton Democratic Sen. Gary Forby, who was a sponsor of the concealed carry legislation.
Law enforcement officials can object to applications, and so far the state police have objected to about 800. So far, none of those objections have been appealed. The state police plan to deny about 300 applications after they go through one final review process to ensure that the applicants are indeed ineligible.
Harrisburg Democratic Rep. Brandon Phelps, who also sponsored the law, urged gun control advocates and gun rights advocates to hold off on pushing for changes to the concealed carry law until it has been effect long enough to evaluate. “Let’s take a deep breath. Let’s try not to beat up this bill,” he said. “Let’s see how it works.”
Thursday, February 27, 2014
By Jamey Dunn
Illinoisans have signed up for Obamacare more quickly than the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services expected, Director Julie Hamos says.
Hamos told a House budgeting committee today that her agency had predicted about 509,000 people would enroll in Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. She said today that about 430,000 of them could be enrolled by the end of the calendar year. “We are actually seeing stronger numbers, larger numbers, earlier than we ever really expected.” Based on the applications that the department has on hand, Hamos said an estimated 315,000 Illinoisans who are newly eligible for Medicaid have applied so far. “We thought that we were going to be at 200,000 this year.”
Under Obamacare, the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the cost of patients who are eligible under the expansion of the law for the first three years. But HFS has predicted that some residents who are already eligible for Medicaid but have not applied will apply now because of the outreach efforts associated with the launch of the Affordable Care Act. The state would only get the standard 50-50 federal match for those enrollees. Illinois has received 82,000 applications from the federal online insurance marketplace and is sifting through them. Hamos said that until that job is done, there is no way to know how many of the applicants would fall under the lower funding match level.
Hamos also told the committee that the savings targets established under the 2012 Medicaid reforms (also known as the SMART Act) will not be reached. The original savings estimate was $1.6 billion, but Hamos said today it has been revised to $1.1 billion, which she called “still very significant for a program like this.” Hamos said several factors led to the savings being less than expected, including procurement timelines, pending litigation and delays in federal approval of same changes. The federal government also denied some of the proposals in the law. Hamos said the savings estimates tied to the state’s efforts to purge Medicaid of the ineligible enrollees was too high.
While Republicans have accused Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration of not being aggressive enough in implementing the Medicaid changes geared toward cutting costs, some said today they were glad to hear that the savings are still significant. “To be able to look at the savings from the SMART Act, [it] shows us that we did do something in government,” said Hinsdale Republican Rep. Patricia Bellock.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
By Jamey Dunn
Arthur Bishop, acting director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, resigned today after recent negative reports about his past.
Earlier this month, the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago public radio station WBEZ reported that Bishop pleaded guilty to stealing from clients of a social services agency where he worked in the 1990s. The story also said Bishop has a biological daughter who claims that he has not been a part of her life. “He’s supposed to be protecting the kids of the state — and you’ve got a kid out here you never done anything for,” Erica Bishop, who is 27 years old, told WBEZ in an interview that aired today. “He left me as a father, which I think that’s unfair to me and it’s unfair to my kids. ... As far as them wanting to keep giving him higher positions to look over people’s kids, I don’t agree.”
Gov. Pat Quinn tapped Bishop for the job earlier this year after the death of former DCFS Director Richard Calica. Bishop started working at DCFS in the 1990s. He most recently served as the director of the Department of Juvenile Justice before being chosen to head DCFS. Bishop had not yet gone through a Senate confirmation hearing. Quinn’s office declined to comment on the resignation. The governor reportedly chose DCFS administrator Bobbie Gregg to serve as acting director.
By Jamey Dunn
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten has begun issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples after a federal judge ordered Cook County to begin issuing licenses last week.
When state lawmakers approved the bill allowing same sex marriage last year, there were not enough votes to put it into effect immediately under the state's constitutional requirements, so the law’s effective date is June 1. U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin ruled in December that couples could wed if one of them had a life-threatening illness. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman took things a step further with her ruling last week that allows all couples to get married in Cook County. Coleman said that “there is no reason to delay further” on allowing gay couples to marry. Cook County Clerk David Orr began issuing licenses on Friday.
“On Friday, federal Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman held that the Illinois statute banning marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional and violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause,” Hulten, who is a Republican, said in a written statement. “The Illinois Attorney General and the Cook County Clerk were parties to the suit. The precise effect of the ruling on other Illinois counties is unclear. However, after consulting with State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, I have come to the conclusion that the rationale of the case applies to all citizens of Illinois and that Champaign County residents should have no fewer constitutional rights than those in Cook County. Furthermore, given the ruling, denying a license to a same sex couple would provide no benefit to the county and would likely result in litigation at taxpayer expense. Therefore, effective immediately, the Champaign County clerk’s office will issue marriage licenses to same sex applicants, in accordance with the 14th Amendment, and the Illinois and United States constitutions.”
Hulten told reporters in Urbana today that the office had received inquiries from same-sex couples since the ruling last week. He said that no couples had yet threatened to sue to try to get a license. “What I realized was that if somebody came into our office and asked for a same-sex marriage license in the wake of the Friday court decision in Chicago, we had two choices. We could either issue it or we could turn them away, in which their only recourse was to sue us, with the facts that would have been nearly identical to the case in Chicago. We figured going through litigation with a nearly foregone conclusion was a disservice to everyone.”
Advocates for same sex marriage applauded the move. “Clerk Hulten recognized both the humanity of helping gay and lesbian couples to fulfill their dreams and the legal soundness of following the decision of a federal court that denying marriage licenses was unconstitutional,” said Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive officer of Equality Illinois. “It is simply time for the other county clerks to follow suit,” Cherkasov added. “As we saw in the immediate rush to the Cook County clerk's marriage bureau after Friday's ruling, gay and lesbian couples are eager and ready to take the step that not only grants them and their family the legal benefits and rights of marriage but also bestows society's recognition that their love is equal.” He said that his organization is encouraging other county clerks in the state to begin issuing licenses.