BissSenateDear friends,

As you likely know by now, the spring legislative session in Springfield ended on more of a whimper than a bang just before midnight Tuesday.

The House and Senate failed to agree on a spending plan to send to the governor. The Senate passed an education-only bill, and the House passed a more comprehensive plan.

Both were seriously flawed: the Senate's because it only would fund elementary and secondary education – notwithstanding the decimation that higher education and human services have undergone after we enacted only a K-12 budget last year – and the House's because it was dramatically out of balance.

I voted against the Senate plan because I am strongly opposed to repeating the harmful mistakes of last year, and I voted for the House plan in spite of its significant shortcomings because I thought it better to put something on the governor's desk than simply to go back to square one.

In any case, both failed and square one is where we are.

The inability of Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly to reach a budget agreement by the May 31 deadline is a shameful and embarrassing outcome to an already harmful situation. Real damage is being done, and real people are being harmed by the intransigence. Recent news has made clear that this is having significant economic impact: Illinois now has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

I have an op-ed in the Springfield State Journal-Register this week that addresses this problem and suggests ways in which I think Democrats could act to move us past the impasse. I certainly remain committed to doing everything I can to move us toward a sustainable budget that is honest and fair – and to doing it without harming the most vulnerable or the middle class.

As unacceptable as the situation is, I remain hopeful that there are constructive paths out of it. I will be working hard to move us down those paths, and I expect we'll be in Springfield regularly until we achieve a better outcome. I'll keep you posted throughout.

In the meantime, we were able to make some progress on legislative items, and I am pleased to share some positive news with you below.

As always, please feel free to stay in touch by emailing me or calling my office at 847-568-1250.

Read more: An update from Springfield | June 2, 2016

Category: News

BissAprilThe following column by Sen. Daniel Biss was published in The State Journal-Register newspaper in Springfield on June 2.

 

On May 20, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing that Illinois has the highest unemployment rate in the country. On May 31, the Illinois General Assembly ended its regular 2016 session without passing a budget.

These two seemingly unconnected events actually are related. When the state has no budget, social service providers lay off thousands of people. Universities enact hiring freezes. Those who have the freedom to choose where to live flee the chaos, and businesses don't want to move here under a cloud of uncertainty.

We must bring this standoff to an end immediately.

But how could it be happening in the first place? Amazingly, for all the work done by advocates and rank and file legislators, the situation hasn't changed much since early 2015.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is not willing to make a budget deal that doesn't include parts of his so-called "turnaround agenda," and Democratic legislators are unwilling to make a budget deal that does include turnaround agenda items.

I could explain why I think Gov. Rauner should change his mind, but you probably don't care at this point — and I don't blame you. What we really need is a different way forward.

Read more: Democrats must articulate reform plan for Illinois

Category: News

Biss05312016Legislation designed to ensure patients receive information about their options when health care providers decline to treat them on religious grounds will go to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1564, is an update to Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience law, which allows doctors, nurses, hospitals and others to refuse to offer certain types of health care and referrals if the treatment violates their religious beliefs.

However, some patients in need of emergency medical treatment have been caught unaware by medical providers’ refusal to treat them and by their objections to offer referrals to other providers for needed treatment.

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), who sponsored the legislation, said his proposal encourages more transparency in the patient-doctor relationship by requiring providers to establish written protocols for offering information about available treatment options and how to access them.

“Under current state law – which is among the broadest in the nation – health care providers are able to withhold vital information from patients that could mean the difference between life and death, all because of personal objections,” Biss said. “This legislation restores some balance to that patient-doctor relationship.”

Senate Bill 1564 was approved Wednesday in the Illinois House. The Senate initially approved it in April 2015.

“Medical providers should have the right to refuse to offer treatments that are inconsistent with their faith, but we must make sure patients are able to get the information they need to access those services and make informed decisions about their care,” Biss said. “This modest change in the law offers protection to both parties in the involved in the health care transaction.”

Category: News

BissSenate052016An effort to put the brakes on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to take critical home care services away from Illinois’ aging population passed out of the state Senate.

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), chairman of the Senate’s Human Services Committee, sponsored legislation in response to the Rauner administration’s proposed cuts to the state’s Community Care Program.

The measure, House Bill 4351, would protect elderly residents who qualify to receive health care services in their homes through the program, rather than requiring them to move into more expensive nursing home settings, as Rauner has suggested.

“The Community Care Program enables the state to provide humane care to senior citizens while also saving money by keeping people out of nursing homes,” Biss said.

“I stand ready to work with all stakeholders to deliver these services in a more cost-effective, client-centered and efficient way. But I have serious concerns about Gov. Rauner’s proposal.”

The Rauner administration has proposed massive cuts to the Community Care Program, which provides homecare services to thousands of senior citizens.

The governor’s plan is to establish a new program called the Community Reinvestment Program, which would offer a “modified package of services” to about 43,000 non-Medicaid eligible seniors, who currently make up about 40 percent of the Community Care Program’s clients.

By removing the non-Medicaid population from the program – and thus forcing them to receive care in costly nursing homes – Rauner claims the state will save $197 million, derived from forcing seniors to rely on family and community resources for assistance.

However, the administration has not released a detailed explanation of how this transition would work.

Without such a plan, Biss said, this change could be devastating to thousands of Illinois families who barely get by and rely on the Community Care Program to help their loved ones receive care at home.

“Unfortunately, Gov. Rauner has chosen a blunt and ill-conceived approach to creating savings on paper. If we go forward with his proposal, tens of thousands of seniors would be at risk of losing services they have come to depend upon,” Biss said. “What he is proposing would be both cruel and fiscally unwise for the state.”

Under House Bill 4351, individuals with a Determination of Need – or DON – score of 29 or higher would remain eligible for services for at least one year should the Rauner administration reduce the eligibility threshold.

Further, the legislation would prevent nursing home residents under the program from being involuntarily discharged without a transition plan.

Category: News

Contact Me

District office:
3706 Dempster St.
Skokie, IL 60076
(847) 568-1250
(847) 568-1256 FAX

Springfield office:
417B Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-2119

Email:
biss@senatedem.illinois.gov

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