As Illinois begins the 10th month of its budget stalemate, legislators return to Springfield April 4 to begin the final two months of the 2016 spring legislative session.
Senate Republicans have continued to put forward proposals that would reform and fund critical state programs, such as K-12 education. They are calling on Democrat leaders to stop the political partisan games and work on the compromises needed that will move Illinois forward.
Illinois is now the only state in the nation without a state budget. Pennsylvania ended a nine-month state budget stand-off on March 23.
‘DoIT’ moving ahead with transformation
Efforts to modernize Illinois’ information technology (IT) services received a much-needed boost during the week with Governor Bruce Rauner’s new “DoIT” group to provide greater value for taxpayers.
Illinois is the third leading state in terms of spending on IT infrastructure, but comes in the bottom third of states when it comes to return on IT investments.
The Rauner Administration is advancing the state’s information technology system into the 21st Century amid a major push to modernize a technology infrastructure that has components predating Microsoft’s Windows Operating Systems. Currently, customers that work with the state wait months to receive proper permits and licenses to business in the state. By overhauling the state’s IT systems, wait times will go from months to weeks, or even days in some cases.
The state’s Chief Information Officer Hardik Bhatt was joined by the agency heads of the Department of Corrections (IDOC) and Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to talk about the efforts that have been achieved since Executive Order 16-01 was signed on Jan. 25.
A four-tiered transformational approach is being used:
• Cultural Transformation – moving out of “silos” to make state agencies work and talk with each other more easily.
• Operational Transformation – more than 400 outdated systems run the state’s core functions. As an example, it takes four different systems for an agency to order paperclips.
• Customer Service Transformation – making Illinois more customer-based in order to allow more functions to be done on-line and via mobile device platforms.
• Organizational Transformation – moving the state’s 1,700 IT professionals under one organizational umbrella for a more functional “command and control” structure and to ensure better communication.
More than 1.1 million Illinoisans are subject to professional licensure under hundreds of activities regulated by IDFPR. In response, the Department has moved to an online-basis for licensing. The modern approach will allow business professionals to achieve faster results by tracking their licensing applications via IDFPR’s new Web site and in coming months, the Department will have a mobile device platform available.
IDOC has successfully launched the “Offender 360” program, which allows IDOC staff to track and maintain more current records on more than 45,000 inmates currently in custody. The oldest mainframes in the IDOC inventory date back to the administration of the late Governor Dan Walker. Offender 360 also allows for a more holistic approach to inmate management, which will lead to better outcomes and help reduce recidivism.
The newest IDOC IT upgrades replace an outdated 1970s mainframe technology with more modern “cloud-based” systems. The Offender 360’s new rollout comes after two previously-failed attempts under former Governor Pat Quinn’s administration.
Ethics proposal introduced
Legislation has been introduced to crack down on potential ethical lapses by constitutional officers and legislators.
Senate Bill 2764 would enhance the state’s grant-making process by preventing elected officials from abusing their power when awarding grants. The legislation would impose a blackout period on constitutional officers and legislators from announcing grants close to an election; require a merit-based review of how grant recipients are selected, which will require documentation of award decisions including evaluation and scoring of applicants; and authorize a state agency to stop payments to any grant recipient that is not in compliance with the agreement.
The bill is in response to the months-long audit review of former Governor Quinn’s controversial Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI). Many questioned Quinn’s political motives when he awarded more than $50 million in NRI grants in the weeks leading up to the 2010 general election.
‘High marks’ by Site Selection
Site Selection magazine has recently ranked Illinois near the top of its ratings categories, which could spell good news for the state’s somewhat sluggish economy.
A published report in Site Selection notes Illinois’ potential for economic opportunity and recovery. Illinois ranked in the Top 5 in Site Selection’s annual assessment of the states’ ability to attract new facilities. For 2015, the magazine ranked Illinois in third place behind Texas and Ohio for its ability to attract new facilities during the previous year.
Illinois is poised for prosperity, but also threatened by the dysfunction of state government. It is important that lawmakers and the Governor make progress on passing a complete and constitutional state budget.