The Rising Cost of State Budget Chaospic 1

As Illinois nears the two-year mark without a budget, the impact of the political stalemate becomes more obvious and far-reaching with each passing day.

Domestic violence shelters
For many abused women, domestic violence shelters are the last refuge from which they can begin to rebuild their lives. Those shelters are now on the verge of closure due to the state’s ongoing budget impasse. In recent Senate hearings, experts have testified that Illinois' budget gridlock puts the safety and well-being of abuse victims in danger.

"Approximately 40,000 fewer Illinois students received prevention education programs last year," said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "Rape victims are hurt by the impasse as waiting lists for crucial counseling and advocacy services expand."

HIV/AIDS treatment, cancer screenings
During a recent Senate Appropriations I Committee hearing, the Illinois Department of Public Health came under fire for proposing spending reductions that would disproportionately affect minority communities including cuts to HIV/AIDS treatment and screenings for prostate, cervical and breast cancer. IDPH Direcotr Nirav Shah testified on possible ways to close a $5 billion gap in Rauner's unbalanced budget and took criticism for staging an event to celebrate National Minority Health Month while pushing service cuts that would most hurt minorities.

Colleges and universities
Northeastern Illinois University has announced it will cut three days of classes to cut costs, a direct response to the state's failure to produce a budget that funds higher education. Northeastern is no different than schools across Illinois that are issuing staff furloughs, laying off faculty and losing students to other states. Northeastern's decision to cancel classes comes after the Chicago campus furloughed employees who typically work during spring break and let others go altogether.

Stadelman speaks candidly on budget impasse

pic 2At three Town Hall meetings in a week, Senator Steve Stadelman told citizens he fears deep political divisions in Springfield will prevent Illinois from passing a budget until after the 2018 election for governor, when the state's backlog of bills will approach $24 billion.

Stadelman explained to two audiences in Rockford and a third in Machesney Park that 90 percent of state spending is on auto pilot through court orders, contractual obligations and special legislation to keep public schools open. With fallout confined to the remaining 10 percent of the budget, there hasn't been sufficient pressure to break the two-year long impasse. Higher education and social services such as Meals on Wheels for seniors, after-school programs for at-risk teens and domestic violence shelters are going unfunded or underfunded.

"When you deal with ideology and 'my way or the highway,' nothing gets accomplished in government," Stadelman said Tuesday evening during the third gathering at the Rockford Public Library East Branch. "What's happening now isn't good for anybody, no matter what your political leanings are. The negative headlines don't make Illinois an attractive place to locate businesses, which prevents us from growing the economy and creating jobs."

Stadelman said he had high hopes for a bi-partisan Senate compromise, which incorporated some of Rauner's self-titled "turnaround agenda." But the compromise collapsed after Rauner called off Republicans as they were about to approve the most critical parts of the multi-bill deal.

Although Stadelman isn't opposed to some of Rauner proposals, several -- such as property tax relief, independent political mapping and term limits -- have "zero impact on the state budget." He also questioned why Rauner has avoided using the line-item veto to amend budgets sent to him previously by the General Assembly, rather than issue a blanket rejection..
"The governor has this amazing tool that he chooses not to use," Stadelman said. "Why? Because as soon as you mention specific cuts in the budget, people get upset."

Citizens asked about issues ranging from restoring passenger rail service to Chicago and fully legalizing marijuana to pension reform and gun legislation, with Stadelman drawing the biggest applause for his strong opposition to any attempts to limit voting rights in Illinois.

Elected in November 2016 to a second term, Stadelman also discussed legislation that is working its way through the General Assembly, despite the budget gridlock, including legislation he passed in the Senate to let pharmacists to refill prescriptions without doctor authorization if abruptly discontinuing a medication could cause medical harm. Stadelman introduced Senate Bill 1790, now pending in the Illinois House, after his son, a Type 1 diabetic, ran out of insulin and needles while on family vacation at a time when his doctor could not be reached.

Category: Week in Review

300pxStadelmanStadelman moves to protect online customers

Senator Steve Stadelman has introduced legislation in committee that would protect the rights of consumers to leave honest online reviews of products and services without fear of retaliation. The measure prevents companies and service providers from enforcing non-disparagement clauses when included in sales contracts. Such clauses typically contain language prohibiting consumers from leaving negative feedback about the retailer. Oftentimes, particularly online, a consumer must accept the terms of a contract before completing a purchase.
“Although I understand that businesses don’t want to be unfairly criticized, it is important to protect the right of the consumer to voice their opinion,” Stadelman said. “In many cases, people might not even realize they signed a non-disparagement agreement until a company takes action against them.”  

Only two states – California and Maryland – have laws in place banning non-disparagement clauses. Illinois has general consumer protection laws in place that prohibit unfair business practices and fraud but do not specifically address non-disparagement clauses. SB 1898 passed the Senate judiciary committee and will move to the full Senate for consideration.

Stadelman invites public to three Town Hall meetings

Senator Steve Stadelman has scheduled three Town Hall meetings to listen to concerns of the citizens he represents and answer questions about Illinois’ budget process and legislation pending in Springfield. A representative from the state’s I-Cash program will be available April 11 and 18 to conduct data base searches for Illinois residents who may be eligible for millions of dollars in unclaimed funds.

Tuesday, April 11
5:30-7 PM
Rockford Public Library – Montague Branch
Constance V. Lane Community Room
1238 S. Winnebago St.
Rockford, IL
Thursday, April 13
5:30-7 PM
Machesney Park Village Hall
300 Roosevelt Road
Machesney Park, IL
Tuesday, April 18
5:30-7 PM
Rockford Public Library – East Branch
Community Room
6685 E. State St.
Rockford, IL
Former Senator Holmberg honored with Senate Resolution

Joyce Holmberg, who represented the 34th District in the Illinois Senate from 1982 until 1992, has been honored with Senate Resolution No. 356, which mourns her passing March 20 at age 86 and commends her many accomplishments as a teacher and public official.

The resolution, introduced in the 100th General Assembly by Senator Steve Stadelman, was presented to her family during a memorial service last week at Zion Lutheran Church in Rockford.

Holmberg was a graduate of East High School in Rockford and earned education and counseling degrees from Northern Illinois University and Adler School of Professional Psychology. Before her election to the Illinois Senate, Holmberg hosted a weekly cable television show on parenting in her position as parent-community coordinator for Rockford Public Schools. She also was a Rock Valley College instructor.

As a state lawmaker, Holmberg created the Illinois College Savings Bond program and secured funding for the NIU campus in Rockford. She served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1984, 1992 and 1996.

"Joyce Holmberg was a passionate advocate for public education and a trailblazer for women in government," Stadelman said. "I'm honored to serve in the seat she held with distinction."

Category: Week in Review

Fishing buddies honored for river rescue of capsized kayaker

State Senator Steve Stadelman presented Certificates of Recognition from the Illinois Senate to Jake Kaltved and Logan Bohnenkamp for their heroic efforts last month that saved a kayaker who had tipped over and become trapped in the current below the Fordam Dam on the Rock River.

Kaltved and Bohnenkamp explained to Stadelman how they spotted the distressed kayaker while fishing during their lunch break from their metal fabricating jobs, hurried to the other side of the river and dropped a chain to the kayaker until a rescue squad arrived. The coworkers were able to point to the scene from the windows of Stadelman's office in the nearby Zeke Giorgi Center.

"Listening to what they went through and how they acted so quickly is amazing," Stadelman said. "They saved a life."

•    WIFR-23 News Report on Stadelman's presentation

Stadelman backs rebooted automatic voter registration bill

Senator Steve Stadelman continues to push to bring automatic voter registration to Illinois.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation last year despite bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

Under the latest proposal, which Stadelman supports, qualified voters would be automatically registered to vote when they visit driver services facilities or other state agencies for services. Voters could opt out of the system, and a series of checks would ensure no one is registered to vote who should not be.

Stadelman said the new legislation addresses concerns the governor cited in his veto message last year.

Seniors full of questions during legislative update

Senator Steve Stadelman offered a legislative update this week to residents of Spring Ridge Senior Housing and answered questions on topics ranging from presidential politics to local development proposals.

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Category: Week in Review

300pxStadelmanClose call leads Stadelman to introduce emergency prescription refill legislation

State Senator Steve Stadelman realized the importance of allowing pharmacists to fill dispense prescription drugs on a family vacation a few years ago, and he is now advancing legislation to allow emergency refills in Illinois.

Stadelman’s son, who was 13 at the time, has Type 1 diabetes. During their vacation, he realized that he had no insulin or needles. Because it was a Saturday, the pharmacy was unable to reach the doctor to authorize a refill.

“This really drove home to me that getting a prescription filled quickly can be a matter of life or death,” Stadelman said. “I started to do research and saw that many other states allow emergency refills to take place.”

Stadelman’s legislation would allow pharmacists to refill a prescription without a doctor’s authorization if abruptly discontinuing the medication would cause medical harm or danger to the person. It would not allow emergency refills of controlled substances. Pharmacists could fill a prescription for a time deemed reasonably necessary.  

Senate Bill 1790 passed the Senate Licensed Activities and Pensions committee this week and will move to the full Senate for consideration.

Stadelman advances bill to direct federal funds to at-risk students

State Senator Steve Stadelman advanced legislation through committee to prevent federal funding for low-incoming students from being diverted to pay teacher pensions. The measure could free up millions of Title 1 dollars for classrooms in the Rockford School District.

“Right now, school districts are being required to use federal funds that are meant to go to students to pay down the state’s pension debt,” Stadelman said. “This disproportionately affects at-risk students in the districts that need help the most.”

Dr. Ehren Jarrett, the superintendent of Rockford's public schools, testified in favor of the legislation.

“What we’re advocating for is to let those federal dollars go to what the teachers and the principals in those schools say they need most, which is support for struggling students,” Jarrett said. “This is an opportunity for equity for those schools.”

Senate Bill 195 would allow school districts to pay into federally funded teachers’ pensions at the same rate as all other teachers, cutting the districts’ contribution from 45 percent to 7 percent. Individual teachers’ pensions would not be affected.

The legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Licensed Activities and Pensions committee and now heads to the Senate floor for consideration. Stadelman is a sponsor of companion legislation that passed in the House of Representatives this week.

Rauner demands cuts but can't name any

More than a dozen of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s agency directors testified in Senate committees last week about cuts they would make to reduce the $5 billion hole in the governor's budget proposal. The grand total of the Rauner administration’s savings proposals: $0.

Agency directors were unable, unwilling or unprepared to offer any savings or program cuts. Worse, the governor’s prison system director didn’t even show up to answer budget questions. This comes as a new state financial report shows Rauner’s budget is more unbalanced than initially feared – the deficit is now just short of $5 billion.

The Rauner administration’s inability to point to cuts presents a confusing scenario for lawmakers. For the third year in a row, the governor has asked lawmakers to give him the power to make cuts to balance spending. But when asked to identify reductions, his handpicked agency heads balk.

Senators constructed a budget and reform package containing a dozen proposals. Nearly half won bipartisan approval, but the governor pulled Republican votes off the final deal even as he publicly acknowledged that he was relying on it to balance his own budget.

At the moment, the Senate budget solution remains on hold while Senate Democrats await word that there is Republican support for the proposals the GOP helped put together. On several occasions this year, the Senate has been poised to vote on the budget compromise, only to have Republicans bail out at the last minute.

Category: Week in Review

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Contact Info

Springfield Office:
Senator 34th District
121A Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8022
District Office:
200 S. Wyman St.
Rockford, IL 61101
(815) 987-7557
(815) 987-7529 FAX