"At the end of the day, the measure of
a legislative session is how it affects real people," the governor
said. "With 56,000 more men, women and children now getting health
care; with 25,000 kids able to now attend preschool; with doctors
being able to stay in Illinois; with businesses being able to reduce
their costs and expand; and with students taking more math and
science and writing courses -- this session will actually make a
real difference in people's lives. That's why we're here. And that's
what we've been able to do.
"I'd like to commend Senate President Emil Jones and House Speaker
Michael Madigan for the leadership they showed in helping make all
of this happen," the governor continued. "And while the budget we
passed mainly reflects the principles of Democrats -- more health
care, more money for schools, more help for veterans and protecting
working families from higher taxes -- in other areas like medical
malpractice reform, workers' compensation reform and higher
graduation standards, the Republicans played an important role too
and should be commended."
Specifically, the governor cited the
following bills and budget items as examples of how the legislative
session will help people:
Expansion of the KidCare and FamilyCare
programs so that 56,000 more working men and women and their
children can now have health care.
In addition, Illinois is now one of only 10 states not to either
kick people off Medicaid or significantly curtail benefits. Last
year, the Kaiser Family Foundation ranked Illinois as the top state
in the nation for providing health care to adults who need it and
second for providing health care to children who need it. Since
January 2003, Illinois has provided health care to more than 305,000
men, women and children who otherwise wouldn't have any.
An increase of $330 million for schools
across Illinois. Over the
last three years, education funding has increased by a total of
nearly $1.5 billion, making Illinois the top-rated state in the
Midwest for its increases in education funding and in the top 11
Expansion of preschool for children
from at-risk communities.
Gov. Blagojevich worked with several advocates for early childhood
education -- including state Sen. Carol Ronen, D-Chicago; state Rep.
Harry Osterman, D-Chicago; Rep. William Davis, D-Harvey; and Action
for Children -- to urge lawmakers to continue the state's commitment
to early childhood education funding and expanded access. The
legislature's approval of the budget fulfills the governor's
three-year, $90 million plan to send 25,000 more children to
preschool. Pre-K Now, a leading national early childhood advocacy
group, ranks Illinois as among the top states in the nation for
early childhood education.
Passing a hospital assessment plan
targeted at generating more than $600 million in new federal funding
for hospitals in Illinois.
Last year, the federal government approved a similar plan, and if
this plan is approved, Illinois hospitals would see a two-year
increase in federal funding of more than $1 billion.
Senate Bill 157 was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jeff
Schoenberg, D-Evanston, and co-sponsored in the House by Reps.
Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago; Mary E. Flowers, D-Chicago; and
Milton Patterson, D-Chicago.
"I applaud Governor Blagojevich for his
continued commitment to provide accessible, affordable and quality
health care in our state with this bill," Schoenberg said. "Because
this new hospital assessment program is larger in scope and is even
more effective at directing resources to the greatest needs, we can
better ensure that hospitals and other health care providers are
able to continue to deliver quality services to Illinois residents."
Passing legislation to increase high
school graduation standards by requiring students to take more math,
science, English and writing courses.
The governor proposed his higher standards plan in March.
Senate Bill 575 was sponsored by Rep. Calvin Giles, D-Chicago,
in the House and Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago, in the Senate.
Republican education leaders -- including Rep. Jerry Mitchell,
R-Rock Falls, and Sen. Dan Cronin, R-Lombard -- also supported the
plan. The final legislation included other elements of the
governor's Higher Standards, Better Schools proposal, including
increased funding for arts education, advanced placement classes,
dual enrollment, career and technical education, and agriculture
Passing legislation to help doctors
stay in Illinois by reforming the laws regarding medical
malpractice. This means
patients will have better access to doctors and the health care they
Senate Bill 475, which passed in both the House and Senate
Monday, will protect doctors, lower the cost of their insurance
premiums and will encourage them to practice medicine in Illinois.
Passing legislation to reduce the high
cost of workers' compensation insurance for businesses.
Illinois companies currently pay 40
percent more for workers' compensation than neighboring states
Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. The reform legislation will reduce
costs for businesses and expand benefits for workers. Gov.
Blagojevich proposed workers' compensation reform in his State of
the State address and initiated negotiations which led to the
agreed-upon legislation. Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, and Sen.
Terry Link, D-Lake Bluff, as well as representatives from labor and
business, and leaders from both side of aisle had seats at the
negotiating table and worked together in an "agreed bill" process
that led to the dramatic changes that will reduce business costs,
increase benefits and fight the fraud that hurts everybody.
Passing legislation to help parents
protect their children from excessively violent and sexually
explicit video games.
Illinois will become the first state in the nation to have laws on
the books intended to help parents protect their children in this
way. Several other states began considering similar legislation
after Gov. Blagojevich announced his proposal in December.
House Bill 4023 -- sponsored by state Sen. Deanna Demuzio,
D-Carlinville, and state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora -- won
final legislative approval on Friday, when the House of
Representatives concurred with the Senate's amendment.
"I introduced this legislation because
these games are graphic, offensive and intended for adults, not
children," LaVia said. "Illinois is now the only state in the nation
to legislate on this matter, and I am grateful to the governor and
my colleagues in the General Assembly for showing leadership on this
Providing financial relief to help the
Chicago Transit Authority avoid service cuts.
Every day 1.5 million people use the Chicago Transit Authority. Now
they won't have to worry about how to get to and from work.
Increasing funding for the Illinois
Department of Veterans' Affairs so that Illinois veterans can
receive more help from the state in applying for and securing
federal benefits. Illinois
veterans are shortchanged by the federal VA more than any other
state. The governor's budget gives the Illinois Department of
Veterans' Affairs an additional $1.5 million so it can increase the
number of service officers by 50 percent, to help Illinois veterans
receive the federal benefits they deserve.
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Passing pension reforms that will
reduce the pension liability by more than $30 billion over the next
40 years. These reforms
include ending the abuses inherent in the end-of-career raises
system enjoyed by educators, ending the State Universities
Retirement System money purchase plan, changing the SURS interest
rate apportionment procedures, removing job titles from the more
lucrative alternate formula where some employees currently receive
higher pension benefits even though their jobs do not put them in
any physical danger, and placing a moratorium on awarding any new
pension benefits without a full funding source.
"I thank the governor and the speaker
for moving this legislation forward," said Rep. Bob Molaro,
D-Chicago. "For the first time in state history, the General
Assembly has taken steps to address the most significant fiscal
problem facing Illinois. I am proud that so many of my colleagues
had the courage to vote for these reforms and do the right thing for
both our pension system and taxpayers."
Passing legislation to help consumers
avoid the cycle of debt and desperation often caused by taking out
payday loans. Gov.
Blagojevich worked with the legislative sponsors -- Rep. David E.
Miller, D-Chicago, and Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford, D-Chicago -- and
Monsignor John Egan of Campaign for Payday Loan Reform to pass
House Bill 1100 through the legislature. The bill, for the first
time in Illinois, regulates the payday loan industry and strengthens
consumer protection against predatory and abusive practices.
Closing the gun show loophole, which
reduces the likelihood of guns ending up in the wrong hands.
Senate Bill 1333 -- sponsored by Sen. Jon Cullerton, D-Chicago,
and Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago --
requires gun sellers to request
background checks for potential gun purchasers when obtaining
firearms at gun shows.
"This was an historic vote for the
House of Representatives to close the gun show loophole in Illinois
in a bipartisan way," Osterman said. "We sent a clear message that
we want these guns off the market for gangbangers and gun
traffickers. We look forward to the governor signing the bill, and I
thank him for his support."
"A gun is a gun, regardless of where it
is sold," Cullerton said. "The technology is there, and we should
use it to make sure we keep guns out of the hands of people who are
not allowed to legally buy them. We are not preventing anyone with
the legal right to own a gun to buy one at a gun show."
Passing the Affordable Housing Rental
Senate Bill 75 -- sponsored by Rep. Julie Hamos, D-Chicago, and
Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago -- created the Rental Housing Support
Program within the Illinois Housing Development Authority. The new
program assists low-income families and individuals (incomes under
$19,000 per year) by paying for a portion of their rent and giving
them increased housing options which otherwise they may never have
Passing legislation to help reduce
cases of workplace injuries and deaths suffered by Latino workers.
Illinois will become one of
the few states in the nation, and possibly a model for other states,
to provide protections and benefits to thousands of Latino workers
who disproportionately get injured and suffer more fatalities in the
workplace than other groups. Legislation such as the Day Labor
Protection Act (House
Bill 3471) and the workers' compensation reform (House
Bill 2137) protect many of the state's most vulnerable workers,
a large majority of which are of Latino background. House Bill 3471
offers wage and health protection and regulates over 150 day labor
agencies to protect some 300,000 workers who perform day or
temporary labor in Illinois. House Bill 2137 further protects
low-wage workers by creating a fund that benefits injured workers
when an employer has failed to provide benefits and also provides
for increased penalties against employers who fail to carry
"This is a great example of how we can
make the legislative process work for the people in need of
redress," said state Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago, who was the
chief sponsor for
Senate Bill 1792, the mirror bill of House Bill 3471, and the
creator of the Day Labor Services Act of 2000, upon which many of
the new provisions of House Bill 3471 were built. "This is a win-win
situation that helps the laborers and also helps clean up the
Passing legislation making Illinois the
first state to prohibit doing business with Sudan.
Currently, two of Illinois' five pension systems have about $1
billion invested in 32 companies that work in Sudan.
Senate Bill 23 prohibits Illinois from investing in foreign
government bonds of Sudan, investing in companies doing business in
or with Sudan, and investing the state pension in companies doing
business in or with Sudan. The bill provides 18 months to remove all
current pension investment from companies doing business in the
Sudan. Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, sponsored the bill in the
Senate, where it passed unanimously, while Rep Lovana Jones,
D-Chicago, sponsored the bill in the House.
Passing legislation designed at
creating more jobs in the film industry.
The passage of
Senate Bill 1965 renewed the film tax incentive legislation that
has proven to be instrumental in bringing major film and television
projects back to Illinois. The law provides a tax credit equal to 25
percent of the wages paid to Illinois residents working on
television and film projects shot in Illinois. Last year, projects
filmed in Illinois generated $77 million, which is a 200 percent
increase in just one year, and created nearly 15,000 jobs. Sen.
Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, and Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, sponsored
Incentives for increased use of
Senate Bill 769 -- sponsored by Sen. Deanna Demuzio,
D-Carlinville, and Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville -- changes the
Alternate Fuels Act to make biodiesel fuel blends of 20 percent or
higher eligible for the Illinois EPA's Alternate Fuels Rebate
Program and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's
Alternate Fuels Infrastructure Grant Program. Previously, only
blends of 80 percent or higher biodiesel were eligible for IEPA
rebates, to reflect the additional costs of more environmentally
friendly fuels or the expense of converting traditional diesel
engines to use biodiesel. The rebates and grants are financed by an
existing $20 user fee per vehicle on fleets of 10 or more vehicles
within the Chicago metro area, raising about $1.5 million per year.
Passage of the Leave No Senior Behind
program to ensure that when the new federal prescription drug
program takes effect on Jan. 1, Illinois seniors do not lose any
benefits or face gaps in coverage.
The federal program has a number of
holes that, if not addressed, would force seniors to pay more and
have fewer benefits. The governor created the Leave No Senior Behind
program to make sure the federal plan does not harm Illinois
seniors. The chief sponsors of
Senate Bill 973 were Sen. Carol Ronen, D-Chicago, and Rep.
Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago.
"From making sure that Illinois
veterans get the benefits they deserve from the federal government
to helping senior citizens get the prescription drug coverage they
need to making the workplace safer for Latinos in high-risk jobs to
closing the gun show loophole, this session has meant helping people
who need our help," Gov. Blagojevich said. "That's what we're here
[News release from the governor's