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Senate Week in Review: Oct. 17-21, 2016

Springfield, IL… A newly created “Illinois Competiveness Council” was tasked with cutting red tape and eliminating burdensome regulations on employers and entrepreneurs; the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission continued their discussion on Illinois’ property tax system and its implications for school funding; and the Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force announced their findings.
 
Cutting red tape in Illinois
State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld says an important step to generating business development in Illinois will be to get rid of the burdensome regulations and outdated policies that are hindering job creation and economic growth and are forcing businesses to leave.
 
Having long encouraged policies that would make it easier for employers to do business in Illinois, Senate Republican lawmakers applauded Governor Bruce Rauner’s creation of the Illinois Competitiveness Council. The council will review all agency rules and regulations with the hope of cutting the red tape in Illinois and saving the state $250 million over the next decade.

For years, Senate GOP legislators have echoed concerns raised by the business community, saying the state’s duplicative, contradictory and outdated regulations make it unnecessarily difficult—in some cases time and/or cost prohibitive—to do business in Illinois.

In addition to examining regulations, council members will also look at the state’s licensing process where they hope to save at least $250 million over the next decade from the cost of direct license fees.
 
In order to have the greatest impact, the Illinois Competitiveness Council is encouraging the public to submit input on their website about which rules and regulations are the most burdensome to people and businesses.
 
Property taxes remain the focus for School Funding Reform Commission

Property taxes were again the topic of discussion during the sixth Illinois School Funding Reform Commission meeting on October 19. Commission members continued their conversation from the October 5 meeting on how property taxes influence school funding.
 
Illinois now has the highest median property taxes in the nation, surpassing New Jersey. Members of the commission are exploring ways to reform a school funding system that relies heavily on property taxes. Concerns were raised that certain communities, particularly the City of Chicago, have high property values but very low property tax rates. Senate Republican lawmakers noted that though the City of Chicago has the resources to raise money locally to fund Chicago Public Schools (CPS), CPS still disproportionately benefits from special allowances protected in state law that are not afforded to any other school district in Illinois.
 
Gov. Rauner announces Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force findings
On October 19, Governor Bruce Rauner announced the recommendations from the Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force. The task force, created in April, was asked to look strategically and comprehensively into fraud, waste and abuse in taxpayer-funded programs.
 
The report found that through the improved fraud, waste and abuse identification as well as prevention efforts recommended by the task force, the state will save an additional $50 million.
 
The task force has already taken simple and effective steps to improve how the state delivers heath care. Central Management Services conducted an audit of all dependents from the State Employee Group Insurance Program and found the state was paying benefits for about 6,000 people that did not qualify for those benefits. Removing those individuals from their plans saved the state approximately $22 million in FY16 and is estimated to save over $32 million in FY 17.
 
Illinois tackles childhood mental health
Illinois was one of ten states selected to participate in a ZERO TO THREE Policy Center meeting to advance state policy related to improving infant and early childhood mental health. ZERO TO THREE is a non-profit organization that works to ensure all babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development.
 
On October 13-14, government agencies, advocacy organizations and child and family service programs gathered in Minneapolis to address mental health prevention, intervention and treatment programs. The goal of the meeting was to identify strategies states could use to align health care finance policy, specifically Medicaid, with infant and early childhood mental health practice.
 
ZERO TO THREE estimates that between 9 to 14 percent of children from birth to five years-old experience at least one emotional or behavioral disturbance. If left untreated, that disturbance can have long-term negative impacts on a child’s mental health development.

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