Capitol Update - March 29

COGFA presents budget projections and revenue estimate
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) presented FY17 and preliminary FY18 budget projections to the House Revenue and Finance Committee last week.  COGFA presented a revised revenue estimate of $33.1 billion in FY17 general funds inflows, representing a significant reduction from the FY17 preliminary estimate of $33.9 billion published by COGFA in July 2016.

COGFA’s report that revenues are falling short of projections by approximately $800 million adds to the fiscal burdens facing the State. COGFA also warned House Revenue Committee members that further extensions of these fiscal trends could further worsen this picture in FY18, the fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2017. Fiscal trends listed in this context include disappointing income tax receipts due to high unemployment and stagnant Illinois job growth, disappointing sales tax revenues, rising pension costs due to low interest rates and revisions to pension fund rates of annual return, and continued increases in the costs of Medicaid and health care for state employees.

New school accountability plan approved
A new school accountability plan retains reliance on standardized test metrics, but moves away from “No Child Left Behind.” The new plan approved by the Illinois State Board of Education creates a revised grading system to assess public school districts on their performance. While “No Child Left Behind” was widely criticized for its concentration on imposing proficiency guidelines on challenged school districts, the 2017 ISBE plan concentrates on academic growth metrics.  Schools and school districts will be positively reinforced for showing healthy movements, including movements from a challenged or low baseline.

The ISBE plan follows the replacement of No Child Left Behind by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. Illinois, like other states, has been asked to adopt a plan that sets long-term goals, determine metrics for measuring progress towards these goals, and create a system to identify and support challenged schools and school districts. By 2032, the ISBE plan looks forward to at least 90% of children and adolescents meeting a series of age-appropriate goals. At least 90% of high school graduates should leave school in a state of readiness for college and career.  

The ISBE’s reliance on standardized tests will continue to be key factors in determining whether these age-appropriate goals are being met. The ISBE will continue to use standardized tests to determine whether third graders are reading “at or above grade level” and fifth graders are “meeting or exceeding expectations” in math.

New ID cards for persons with disabilities
The ID cards, which eligible persons can show to law enforcement, contain an official notification that the bearer is age 16 or older and has a medical condition that may impair his or her ability to communicate with others.  The new ID cards will be made available at all Drivers Services facilities operated by the Illinois Secretary of State. 

The ID card was developed by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS).  Approximately 100,000 of the cards have been printed for distribution, matching estimates of the number of Illinois residents who may face challenges if encountered by police officers and other first responders.  Persons who are eligible for the card include persons with physical, developmental, visual, hearing, or mental challenges and disabilities.  The card application must be cosigned by a physician.  An application for the specialty ID card can be found here.

Illinois motorists reminded of safety laws.  
A one-page guide from the office of House Republican Leader Jim Durkin summarizes the safety laws to follow when in the presence of highway workers and work zones. Increased fines can be imposed for speeding in a work zone, including during hours when workers are not present in the zone.  The fines for speeding in a construction zone/work zone start at $375 for a first offense. Photo speed enforcement machinery may be used. In addition, Scott’s Law requires a motorist to slow down and change lanes, if possible, to make way and create a zone of safety around emergency, construction, and maintenance vehicles. Additional fines are imposed for violations of Scott’s Law.

Spring 2017 undergraduate enrollment drops at most state universities
Eleven of twelve Illinois public universities showed declines in 2017 spring term undergraduate enrollment in comparison with spring 2016.  The statewide decline in student numbers was 2.8%, with every campus showing decreases in enrollment except the largest, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where undergraduate enrollment rose by 2.4%.  The enrollment numbers were reported by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

House directs Auditor General to audit oversight of group homes for developmentally disabled
The Illinois House of Representatives approved legislation directing the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) program administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). The resolution (HR 34) sponsored by State Rep. Charlie Meier was introduced in light of the abuse and neglect which took place throughout the state in group homes for the developmentally disabled dating back to 2011.

The tragic reports of abuse and neglect came to light thanks to the Murray Parents Association’s work with the Chicago Tribune, sparking an investigation by the newspaper, then followed by the Tribune publishing its story earlier this year titled “SUFFERING IN SECRET: Illinois hides abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities,” in which the newspaper “identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 and determined at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years.”

“The audit unfortunately can’t undo the abuse and neglect which occurred; however this audit will help us learn more about what went wrong and how Illinois can improve the quality of care for our most vulnerable,” said Rep. Meier. “DHS has already made improvements, though I am optimistic this audit will further improve how the State properly cares for the developmentally disabled.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services has seven State-operated developmental centers (SODCs) serving approximately 1,800 residents. Individuals also receive services in community-based settings through Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs), which house one to eight residents each, otherwise called “group homes”.

A separate bill, HB 740 from Rep. Patti Bellock, is meant to create a secure “paper trail” for each individual resident of Illinois CILA group home care for persons with developmental disabilities.The paper trail should include a current photograph, personal contact information, family contact information, and a log of off-site overnight visits.

Day to commemorate the Illinois State Police
HB 769 declares each April 1st to be Illinois State Trooper Day. Sponsored by Rep. John Cabello, the bill creates a commemorative date to remember the members of the Illinois State Police. The commemorative language draws particular honor and attention to those state troopers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. A commemorative date designation does not mandate the creation of a State holiday, but authorizes group and private acts and ceremonies of remembrance.

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