The Senate spent much of the week in the Capitol working on bills in committees, but did pass bills to protect vulnerable veterans, to put EpiPens in the hands of law enforcement, and to help victims of domestic violence.
Additionally, Senate committees hearing spending proposals for a new state budget – due to take effect on July 1 – are underway. There will be weeks of hearings, as we look to pass a complete and balanced state budget before the spring legislative session ends on May 31.
The Senate has two standing committees that analyze separate portions of the state budget. The Appropriations I Committee generally handles human services, most public safety agencies, and a variety of general services agencies. The Appropriations II handles elementary and secondary education, higher education, constitutional officers, and various executive agencies and boards.
We also heard a discussion of Senate Bill 2262 in Human Services Committee. This special-interest legislation would protect a supplier of disposable medical equipment from price competition, asking the state to pay higher prices than a competitor is offering. This is the kind of thing that happens way too often in Springfield and is obviously bad for taxpayers.
Senate advances public safety measures
This week, the Senate advanced legislation seeking to increase participation of medical professionals in the program that would place epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens) in the hands of law enforcement across the state. Senate Bill 2226 allows Illinois police officers to carry and administer EpiPens on duty as an emergency measure to reverse life-threatening allergic reactions. Though EpiPens can mean the difference between life and death in the case of a life-threatening allergic reaction, health professionals have been hesitant to provide the prescriptions and approve the training courses without liability protection and coverage.
In response, Senate Bill 2226 specifies that any physician, physician’s assistant or advanced practice registered nurse with prescriptive authority who issues a prescription or standing order for epinephrine to an Illinois police department will not be subject to civil or professional liability for misuse of the medication.
Another bill passed by the Senate would help locate missing, at-risk veterans more quickly. Senate Bill 2278 would send a notice to law enforcement and the public when a veteran who has a service-related health issue is reported missing—similar to an Amber Alert for an endangered missing child or a Silver Alert for a missing senior citizen.
The Senate also passed a bill that will allow domestic violence survivors who want to change their name to keep the name change out of the public record. Currently, anyone seeking a name change must publish notice of the name change in a local newspaper. As a result, their abusers can easily access that information to learn their victim’s new name from the published notice and, in some cases, continue with the abuse. Senate Bill 2330 would allow individuals seeking a name change to submit documentation demonstrating evidence of domestic abuse or stalking, so their information would remain confidential—eliminating potential associated safety risks.
Education tax credit program in jeopardy
Last year’s major reform of Illinois’ school-aid formula may be unraveling, even though it was passed with bipartisan support last year. A new Democrat-sponsored proposal, Senate Bill 2236, could undermine commitments made as part of the funding reform package.
Senate Bill 2236 would link state funding for public education to the income tax credits for private education allowed under the “Invest in Kids” scholarship program. “Invest in Kids” is a tax-credit scholarship program for low- and middle-income students who attend non-public schools. Contributors to the program receive income tax credits in exchange.
While the new measure does not directly eliminate the program, it would prohibit any contributor from receiving an income tax credit if the state fails to appropriate $350 million new dollars to public schools every year. Such a change, as represented in the new proposal, has already begun to dampen contributions to the scholarship program, putting it in jeopardy. The program, which works with Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs), has already received requests from some donors to not cash their checks, while other donors have put their donation on hold pending the outcome of Senate Bill 2236.
The “Invest in Kids” Scholarship Tax Credit Program offers a 75 percent income tax credit to individuals and businesses that contribute to qualified SGOs. The SGOs then provide scholarships for students whose families meet the income requirements to attend qualified, non-public schools in Illinois. Senate Bill 2236 is pending before the full Senate and could come up for a vote at any time.