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Budget Battle Rages on in Springfield

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers were unable to agree on a budget plan for the state on Sunday, the deadline for the spring legislative session. Powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan said his chamber plans to be in “continuous session” this summer to address the state’s $6 billion budget shortfall. We’ll talk with Chicago Tonight Springfield reporter Amanda Vinicky about the public relations battle between the governor and Democratic leaders, the uncertainty over the budget, and what lawmakers were able to pass in the final days of the spring session. 

View a chart highlighting several bills that were passed by legislators and are awaiting Rauner’s signature.

Youth Mental Health Protection Act Last week, the Youth Mental Health Protection Act passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly. According to the bill, “no mental health provider shall engage in sexual orientation change efforts with a person under the age of 18.” The bill also states mental health providers shouldn’t refer clients or patients to any individual for the purpose of changing their sexual orientation. Violations of the act will be considered unprofessional conduct and will be subject to discipline by the licensing entity or disciplinary review board with competent jurisdiction. 5/29/2015
Right to Try Act The proposed bill will allow patients with terminal illnesses to try experimental medication that hasn’t yet been approved by the FDA. Patients who have considered all other treatment options approved by the FDA are eligible to try experimental medication or treatment that has successfully completed Phase I of a clinical trial. Watch Chicago Tonight’s story on the bill. 5/19/2015
Heroin Crisis Act The bill would expand specialized drug courts that focus on treatment and require police and fire departments to stock opioid antidotes that could be used to counteract heroin overdoses (it also requires police and firefighters be trained on how administer the antidotes). The state’s Medicaid program and private insurers would have to cover the cost of drug treatment programs. A medication take-back program, which would allow for the collection and disposal of unused medication, would also be established.  5/30/2015
Police and Community Relations Improvement Act In light of recent police officer-involved shootings and deaths, legislators approved a bill that would set standards for how officer worn body cameras would be used and regulated. The state would add $5 onto traffic tickets to pay for the equipment, expand police officer training on use of force, ban chokeholds, and create a database to track officers’ misconduct.  5/30/2015
Chicago Police and Chicago Firefighter Pension Amendments Late last week, a measure pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to shore up Chicago’s police and fire pensions sailed through the general assembly. The measure would double the city’s payment into the fund next year and triple it in five years. It also extends the deadline for the funds to be 90 percent funded to 2055 (instead of 2040). Watch Chicago Tonight’s segment on the proposed pension changes. 5/31/2015

On Sunday, Madigan and Rauner talked to reporters separately in an attempt to manage the fallout over the impasse on the state’s budget. Madigan said Rauner is acting in the “extreme” by trying to get his turnaround agenda approved the Illinois General Assembly by tying it to the budget process. Rauner’s turnaround agenda includes legislation aimed at overhauling workers compensation, implementing term limits for lawmakers, and freezing property taxes. 

Rauner accused Madigan of walking away from the negotiating table by passing his own budget proposal that’s $3 billion short. While Rauner said he is open to negotiating, he criticized Madigan as an insider and a puppet master who is “pulling the strings” of lawmakers.