Motorists stopped for routine traffic offenses would no longer have to surrender their driver’s licenses as bail, rural residents could more easily improve their emergency response services, and permanently disabled veterans would no longer have to annually reapply for parking stickers, under new laws signed during the week.
New program contradicts Quinn claim
Also during the week, new evidence emerged to contradict Governor Pat Quinn’s claim that he shut down a failed and mismanaged Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI).
Senate and House of Representatives leaders and Legislative Audit Commission members are pointing to a last-minute $20 million lump sum allocation buried in the state’s Labor Department budget. They are calling for an accounting of what appears to be a virtually identical re-branding version of the scandal-plagued program.
As with the original Neighborhood Recovery program, administration of the new grant program was assigned to a state agency with no experience or expertise in grant management. The lawmakers are asking the Governor to provide a full accounting of how taxpayer money is being spent for the new program that purports to offer job training to at-risk youth.
It is essentially the same description that was used for the NRI, which ended up paying teens to march in a parade with Governor Quinn, attend yoga classes, go on museum field trips and hand out fliers. Further investigations have shown that the NRI awarded grants to political insiders and channeled money to a day care center for a non-existent program that was supposed to help former convicts transition to life outside prison.
That $20 million lump-sum earmark to the Department of Labor, identified in the state budget with only vague language, represented a 300% increase in the agency’s budget at a time when the state is facing major cuts in core programs and closing state facilities.
The revelation is the latest to emerge as several investigations into the failed program continue. A scathing audit of Governor Quinn’s NRI released in February has so far given rise to federal and state criminal investigations and an ongoing investigation by the Legislative Audit Commission, on which I serve.
Sign and drive
Beginning in January, motorists who are stopped for a routine traffic offense will no longer be required to surrender their license as bail. Senate Bill 2585 reinstates “sign and drive” which was the law in Illinois until 1986 and allows drivers to simply sign for the ticket.
Illinois is one of only six states which takes a driver’s license for a minor traffic offense. As part of the Nonresident Violator Compact, Illinois does not take the driver’s license of an out-of-state resident.
Rural emergency services
Two bills designed to help improve emergency response services in rural areas also became law.
House Bill 5828 and House Bill 4523 will allow greater access to life-saving equipment and supplies needed by first responders in rural areas.
House Bill 5828 will allow rural firefighters who are trained as paramedics to have better access to the equipment and supplies needed to utilize their skills in an emergency. Specialized emergency medical service vehicles and alternate response vehicles, such as those used by fire departments, can receive service-level upgrades similar to those received by ambulances, which will allow the trucks to carry supplies and equipment that might otherwise only be available on an ambulance. Many rural communities do not have an ambulance service, but most are part of a fire protection district.
House Bill 4523 allows an ambulance-service provider serving a rural population of 7,500 or fewer to request to upgrade the vehicle’s in-field service level based on the certification of a pre-hospital Registered Nurse staffing the ambulance. Previously, only an EMT license certification could be used to upgrade the ambulance’s service level.
Disabled veterans’ parking
Permanently disabled veterans would not have to continue to reapply each year in order to have their handicapped parking stickers, plates or placards renewed under Senate Bill 3255.
Once a doctor has determined a veteran to have a permanent disability, veterans could renew their placard or special license plate without submitting a doctor’s determination each year.
Bills signed into law
Bills continue to be signed into law as the annual deadline for Governor’s action approaches. Each year, the General Assembly has 30 days to send legislation to the Governor’s desk and he has 60 days to act on the bills.
Because the Legislature adjourned at the beginning of June, all measures must be either approved or vetoed by the end of August. Information about the bills signed into law during the week of August 11-15 is available by clicking here.