House passes McCombie bill to combat fentanyl epidemic. In March, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation sponsored by House Republican Leader Tony McCombie to combat Illinois’ fentanyl epidemic and save lives.
McCombie’s bill, HB 3203, allows pharmacists and retail stores to sell potentially life-saving fentanyl test strips over the counter. The test strips will be able to identify if fentanyl is present in any drug, which is essential considering only a small dose (only 2 milligrams) of fentanyl can have fatal consequences.
At a press conference earlier in March in the State Capitol, Leader McCombie stood with Republican lawmakers to talk about the fentanyl epidemic, its effect in Illinois communities, and how her legislation will help provide a solution to a problem that too many families are experiencing across the state.
“This bill will help save lives,” said Leader McCombie. “Fentanyl is a deadly drug that is taking far too many lives and as we continue to take steps to address the opioid epidemic affecting Illinois families, our priority with this legislation is to single out fentanyl.”
The legislation McCombie is backing will make a significant stride to protect kids from unintentionally ingesting a deadly drug. High schools across the state have had issues with fentanyl laced in other drugs like marijuana, which has spurred even more attention to the deadly consequences.
“As lawmakers, when we see a problem as deep as this one, it’s our public duty to try to solve it and I believe my bill is a viable first step forward in combatting this epidemic,” continued McCombie.
Soaring death rates associated with Illinois drug use are strongly associated with fentanyl. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that in 2021, the most recent year for which numbers have been collated, there were 3,013 fatalities due to opioid overdoses in Illinois. These Illinois death numbers were up more than 38% from the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
Illinois counties lead the U.S. in corn and soybean production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported the final numbers for crop year 2022. According to the USDA, the top eleven U.S. counties for soybean yield per acre were all in Illinois when measured on a county-by-county basis. In central Illinois’ Piatt County, farmers brought in 74.2 bushels of beans per acre. Other high-ranking soybean yield counties, headed by Decatur’s Macon and Springfield’s Sangamon, are also located in Central Illinois.
With regards to Illinois’ 2022 corn crop, Illinois counties took America’s #1 through #5 honors in terms of total production in bushels. With 71 million bushels of corn produced, Bloomington-Normal’s McLean County grew more corn than any other county in the 50 states. The nation’s top-five corn list also included Iroquois, Livingston, and LaSalle counties, and was rounded out by Champaign-Urbana’s Champaign County.
In terms of statewide figures, Illinois was #1 among the 50 states in total soybeans grown and was #2 to longtime rival Iowa in total corn production.
Rainy Day Fund moves upward past $1.2 billion. House Republicans have repeatedly urged Illinois, one of the lowest-ranked U.S. states in terms of credit ratings, to change its budgetary ways in preparation for harsh times ahead. In March 2023, House Republican Leader Tony McCombie became one of the chief voices in Illinois calling for Illinois to build up a pool of money for future Illinois budget stabilization.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced the payment of $150 million into the State’s Budget Stabilization Fund, a rainy-day fund intended to create a cash cushion in preparation for future changes in the State’s cash flow. With this deposit, the rainy day fund will now have $1.22 billion in it.
Although this is a significant sum of money, Illinois’ high spending could outrun this resource in the next recession. With vast cash flows demanded for health care, education, pensions, and many other spending programs, the current $1.22 billion rainy day fund balance is equal to less than six days of Illinois general funds spending.
Sanalitro passes legislation to crack down on deceptive mortgage marketing practices. State Representative Jennifer Sanalitro celebrated the unanimous passage of her first bill through the House of Representatives. Her legislation, HB 2094, aims to protect homeowners from deceptive mortgage marketing practices. The bill cracks down on bad actors who take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners, specifically those who are new to the home-buying process and seniors who may be more vulnerable to deceptive marketing tactics.
Under Sanalitro’s legislation, no business can send marketing materials to a consumer indicating that they are connected to the consumer’s mortgage company unless they are employed by the mortgage company directly or an affiliate. Any marketing materials from a mortgage company not connected to the consumer’s mortgage company must comply with specific requirements laid out in the legislation.
Rep. Sanalitro said, “It is our responsibility to protect vulnerable consumers from deceptive marketing practices of all kinds. Specifically, this bill offers essential protections to prospective home buyers who may not be familiar with the home-buying process and seniors who are more susceptible to deceptive marketing material of all kinds.”
Illinois House approves Rep. Hammond’s proton therapy cancer treatment legislation. Legislation sponsored by State Representative Norine Hammond that requires health insurance plans to provide coverage for proton beam therapy cancer treatment has been approved by the Illinois House of Representatives.
Representative Hammond has spent the past two years working on legislation to make it easier for cancer patients to receive proton beam therapy as part of their treatment plan. Hammond said that while proton beam therapy is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, insurance companies often restrict or refuse coverage for the treatment.
“Proton therapy is a very effective treatment for certain types of cancer,” Rep. Hammond said. “The legislation that I introduced last year was for a constituent that had brain cancer. She was told that proton therapy was the option that she should take for her treatment. However, it was not an in-network expense so they paid tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket. That being said she is doing wonderfully as a result of the treatment.”
House Bill 2799 would require that a health insurance policy provide coverage for medically necessary proton beam therapy for the treatment of cancer. The bill further provides that the policy shall not apply a higher standard of clinical evidence for the coverage of proton beam therapy than for any other form of radiation therapy treatment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, proton beam therapy uses positively charged protons that release their energy within the tumor. There is a small amount of entrance radiation, but virtually none travels beyond the tumor. Because the beams can be finely controlled, higher doses of radiation can be delivered to a tumor. Traditional X-ray treatment delivers radiation to everything in its path. That means tissue in front of and behind the tumor receives some damaging radiation.
An initiative of Northwestern Medicine, House Bill 2799 passed the House on March 22 by a vote of 111-0-1.
Keicher’s bill supporting human trafficking victims receives unanimous support. In March, the Illinois House of Representatives gave unanimous approval to legislation sponsored by State Representative Jeff Keicher. House Bill 2418 creates a pathway to expunge criminal records for victims of human trafficking as they seek to recover from the trauma they have experienced and pursue a normal life. Human trafficking victims are often forced to participate in unlawful activity by their traffickers.
“Human trafficking is a much more pervasive problem than many of us realize, and it can happen in any community regardless of size or location,” said Keicher. “Even though sex trafficking is most common, this form of modern-day slavery traps victims for many reasons, and they are often forced to engage in criminal behavior under threat to themselves, family or friends they may be trying to protect.”
“If the trauma of being trafficked wasn’t bad enough, victims often face legal penalties themselves for the actions they were forced into by their abusers. House Bill 2418 helps us support victims through the recovery process by creating a pathway to expungement.”
As Keicher referenced, HB 2418 helps trafficking victims by allowing them to petition for vacation, expungement, or immediate sealing of their sentence. It also allows the victim making the petition to attend hearings remotely to avoid undue hardship or create a risk of harm. In addition, the bill allows the petition to be filed under seal if a public filing may expose the victim to future harm. These steps help ensure a victim is able to avoid future victimization from their former abuser or abusers.
Keicher credited reporting by WNIJ and the work of the Polaris Project, a nonprofit non-governmental organization that works to combat and prevent sex and labor trafficking in North America, for raising awareness about the difficulties survivors face once they escape their abuse. This led him to work with state and local resources to bring HB 2418 forward.
“I want to thank many partners for helping us make this legislation a reality, including the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, and my policy staff,” said Keicher. “I hope to see it receive unanimous support in the Senate and be signed into law by the Governor.”
Madeleine Behr, policy director for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), which provides free legal services to trafficking survivors who need criminal records relief, said, “Our attorneys see the hardships survivors face as they rebuild their lives, including trying to clear criminal records they received while being trafficked. HB 2418 is a terrific step forward. It adds protections for confidentiality and privacy as survivors undergo this process. We urge the state Senate to support this critical legislation.”
Illinois unemployment rate steady in February 2023, remains unchanged at 4.5%. The jobless numbers were reported on March 23 by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Although statewide nonfarm payroll numbers increased by 10,700 jobs in February, a comparable increase in the overall Illinois labor force meant that the unemployment rate remained unchanged from January. Illinois’ unemployment rate continued to be higher than the national rate of 3.6%. Illinois continues to have a higher unemployment rate than most U.S. states, and the highest rate of State and local taxes in the nation.
Total nonfarm jobs increased in thirteen metropolitan areas and decreased in one for the year ending February 2023, according to data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Over-the-year, the unemployment rate decreased in seven areas, increased in five areas and was unchanged in two.
The metro areas which had the largest over-the-year percentage increases in total nonfarm jobs were the Bloomington MSA (+4.8%, +4,500), the Peoria MSA (3.9%, +6,400), and the Champaign-Urbana MSA (+3.4%, +4,000). Total nonfarm jobs in the Chicago Metropolitan Division were up +2.1% or +77,500. Total nonfarm jobs were down in the Illinois section of the St. Louis MSA (-0.4%, -1,000).
The metro areas with the largest unemployment rate decreases were in the Chicago Metropolitan Division (-0.9 point to 4.1%), the Rockford MSA (-0.8 point to 6.3%), and the Decatur MSA (-0.6 point to 5.9%). The largest unemployment rate increases were in the Lake County-Kenosha County Metro (+0.4 point to 5.4%), the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island IA-IL MSA (+0.3%, +4.6%) and the Elgin Metro (+0.3 point to 5.9%). The unemployment rate was unchanged in the Bloomington MSA (4.0%) and the Champaign-Urbana MSA (4.1%).
John Deere parts distribution announcement in Mattoon, Illinois. The east-central Illinois community will be getting a John Deere parts distribution center. The center, to be operated by America’s largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment, landscaping machinery, and related products, could employ more than 200 workers. Located strategically adjacent to Interstate 57, Mattoon is part of the Charleston-Mattoon metropolitan area.
The Mattoon parts distribution center is slated to reoccupy a site that was, until recently, used to print paper documents. The former LSC Communications Printing Co. plant closed in 2020.
WalletHub survey finds Illinois scores 50th of the 50 states in terms of state and local tax rates. The survey performed by WalletHub, a private-sector database and analysis firm, calculated the composite of the total State and local tax rates charged within each state. To make this number meaningful to families, the tax number was then contrasted with median U.S. household income.
When state and local taxes are added together, the effective state-by-state rate ranged from 6.05% to 15.05%, depending on state lines. Illinois scored dead last, with the tax burdens faced by Prairie State families taking up 15.05% of the income of a typical American household. This was 50th among the 50 states.
As in previous surveys, many of the lower-taxed states are located in the West or the Sunbelt. States like Nevada (4th), Florida (6th), and Colorado (9th) are able to utilize their overall population growth (including urban population growth in fast-growing cities like Las Vegas, Tampa, and Denver) and their economic prosperity to reduce their tax burdens. The five states that border Illinois all have a lower tax burden than Illinois. Examples include Indiana (35th in WalletHub), Iowa (46th), Kentucky (40th), Missouri (30th), and Wisconsin (42nd).
Rosenthal legislation to support veteran-owned small businesses passes House. In March, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation filed by State Representative Wayne Rosenthal to improve opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses. The legislation, House Bill 2288, updates the Illinois Procurement Code so veteran-owned small businesses are more able to compete for state contracts.
“The Veterans Business Program exists to give our veteran-owned small businesses the chance to compete for state contracts,” said Rosenthal. “When the program was established it set limits for gross sales that are so low today that very few of our veteran businesses are now able to qualify for the program. This legislation doubles the limit to expand access for our veteran businesses.”
As Rosenthal referenced, the number of veteran-owned small businesses who qualify for the Veterans Business Program had fallen to only 15% of previously eligible businesses by FY21. To improve eligibility for the program, HB 2288 increases the limit for a business’s annual gross sales to less than $150 million, rather than less than $75 million as established back in 2011. This change reflects the increase in construction prices of 50-70% that has taken place since 2011.
“When our veterans have more job opportunities after their service, it’s good for our state and our economy,” said Rosenthal. “I want to thank my colleagues in the House for supporting this legislation with unanimous support and I look forward to it passing the Senate with strong support as well.”
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