Capitol Update - May 10

Private foundation drive set to begin
The multiyear State Fair fundraising project will push to renew Illinois’ fairgrounds while minimizing taxpayer commitments.  The State owns fairgrounds in Springfield and in DuQuoin, in southern Illinois.  Taken together, both fairgrounds have compiled $185 million in unmet infrastructure needs at the two festival centers, including public safety, rebuilding, and building maintenance.  The main fairgrounds’ historic Coliseum, a 115-year-old structure used for arena events including horse shows, is no longer safe for public access and requires $3.7 million in urgent ceiling-beam and roof repairs.

The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation expects that a significant portion of the funds to be raised will be derived from public-private partnerships.  The Fairgrounds may be able to earn financial commitments from donors through package deals that will include specific buildings and locations within the Fairgrounds sharing their identity.  Governor Rauner, who is currently living at the Fairgrounds during the renovation work being performed on the State’s 162-year-old Governor’s Mansion, will be able to use his presence to spur the fundraising kickoff.

“Lifeline” budget would cover less than one-third of human service needs
An analysis, by the nonpartisan Civic Federation’s Institute for Fiscal Sustainability, contained severe criticism of House Bill 109.  The emergency appropriations bill, pushed through the House earlier this spring session on a partisan roll call, was touted by its sponsors as a “lifeline” to stretched providers of human services.  The bill was supposed to substitute for a full-year, constitutionally balanced budget.  Analysts for the Civic Federation, however, discovered that the bill would provide only 27.1 cents on the dollar for the human-services funding shortfall based on FY16 spending numbers.

The majority party’s “lifeline” plan has been proclaimed as providing rescue money to Illinois institutions of higher education.  The Institute’s analysts, after running the numbers, stated that the plan would provide only 56.2 cents of the dollars previously allocated by higher education and not paid in FY16.  House Republicans opposed the so-called “lifeline” plan as being both ludicrously inadequate to meet its proclaimed purposes and a distraction from the hard work of generating progress toward government reform and a constitutional balanced budget.

Illinois observes Motorcycle Awareness Month
The observance, sponsored by the bikers’ group ABATE of Illinois, urges motorists to “Start Seeing Motorcycles.”  Governor Bruce Rauner recognized the push for biker safety on Wednesday, May 3.  Motorcycle Awareness Month activities also encourage bikers to take steps aimed at increasing cycle safety, including taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation safety courses sponsored by the Illinois Department of Transportation.  The annual “Freedom Rally” in Springfield, held each May during the legislative session, is a gathering aimed at increasing the profile of motorcyclists and users of Illinois roads and highways. This year’s rally took place on Monday, May 8.

First Lady launches Illinois Family Connects program
The new program aims to create home-visiting opportunities for newborn babies and their families.  The first support visits implemented by the pilot program will be carried out by the Stephenson County Health Department, which is based on the northwestern Illinois city of Freeport.

Home visits are a way to help children remain healthy and thrive by providing personal contacts between a mother and a trained professional who can answer questions.  The program, which is being coordinated by the Illinois Home Visiting Task Force and by FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport, will be implemented by community nurses.  Visitation times will be as soon after birth as possible, to enable these questions to be rapidly asked and answered.  Illinois Family Connects also plans to create wellness checks for the baby and family, and to put the family in touch with any supportive resources that may be helpful.

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