Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Child Support Technology Will Increase Efficiency, Cost Savings

From the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services

CHICAGO – Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Director Barry S. Maram today announced the successful implementation of new technology that will enable the state to cut costs and improve efficiency in distributing child support to Illinois families.

The new computer system is administered though the Illinois State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU is a centralized processing center required by federal law, which receives and distributes more than 7 million child support payments annually. The year 2009 marked the SDU’s tenth anniversary in Illinois.

“Our goal is help parents provide for their children by offering quality child support enforcement services. It is also important that we offer those services in a cost-effective way,” said Director Maram. “The original implementation of the SDU caused significant turmoil for Illinois families, which is why our first priority was to make sure this technology transition was seamless. I am pleased to say that this done without affecting families, and we were able to save the state money as well.”

The new system increases efficiency by integrating all of the SDU’s aspects into a single solution. Between fiscal years 2004 and 2009, the SDU utilized technology that cost the state more than $109 million. The new technology will save the state $40 million until fiscal year 2015.

When the SDU was implemented in Illinois 10 years ago, the transition caused serious disruptions in child support payments. Families depending upon child support payments were forced to wait several weeks to receive checks. Since then, HFS has worked tirelessly to stabilize and improve the payment processing center’s performance. The department now collects over $1 billion in child support for Illinois families each year.

The State Disbursement Unit processes all Illinois income withholding payments and most other child support payments and Illinois child support orders. The SDU does not enforce support orders. However, HFS does provide free support enforcement services. Child support enforcement services are available to any parent who needs assistance in establishing legal parentage, establishing child support or medical support, or enforcing support. To register for free child support enforcement services, parents must complete and sign an application. Applications are available online at or by calling 1-800-447-4278 for assistance.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Senator Brady Calls for Second Hearing on Thomson

From the Office of State Senator Bill Brady
Monday, December 28, 2009

Illinois State Senator Bill Brady, (R) 44th district, is calling on the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) to hold a second hearing on the closing of Thomson Correction Facility so he and fellow committee members can field testimony directly from Governor Quinn.

“I called on Gov. Quinn to testify before the first hearing, because I had serious concerns that only he could address,” said Senator Brady. “In light of new information and because there are still a lot of unanswered questions, I am asking COGFA to hold a second hearing on Thomson and I am urging the Governor to be there.”

Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported more than 850 inmates -- including some violent offenders as well as repeat drunk drivers, drug abusers and people convicted on weapons violations -- were released early for good behavior.

“I’ve been advised that the number of prisoners quietly released for good behavior is actually closer to 2,000 inmates,” said Senator Brady. “That’s on top of the 1,000 prisoners Governor Quinn released in September to save the state money.”

A long-standing practice in Illinois requires all prisoners serve at least 61 days of their sentence, but the AP report revealed some spent as little as 11 days behind bars. The report also found inmates were given credit upfront for good behavior.

“The Governor needs to explain why these inmates were released early, and exactly how many have been released,” said Senator Brady. “His own Director of Corrections testified before the commission that prison overcrowding is a problem in Illinois. How are we expected to sell a state prison to the federal government that we clearly need?”

Senator Brady is also asking Governor Quinn to advise the COGFA committee on what types of prisoners are expected to be housed at Thomson, should the facility be sold to the federal government.

“Recent news reports suggest the terrorists that would be housed in Illinois under the Obama/Quinn plan are more dangerous than first thought,” said Senator Brady. “While I am convinced we could guard the most violent offenders in Thomson, I am concerned Illinois would become a new target for terrorist activity.”

Senator Brady is calling for the second hearing on Thompson to take place first week of the new year. The original hearing was held Tuesday, December 22nd in Sterling, Illinois. Traditionally, the committee would release its recommendations within 30 days.

“We cannot give an informed recommendation without testimony from the Governor,” said Senator Brady. “It is my sincerest hope he accepts my invitation to testify, so we can finally get answers to these lingering questions.”

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All, and Happy New Year

Every year brings its ups and downs, and this 2009 has been one of the more challenging for most of us. But it is also welcomed to reflect at the end of the year on all we DO have.

The Illinois Channel wishes you all good tidings and best wishes for 2010 !

Sen Durbin Gets Congenital Heart Disease Research Included in Healthcare Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that portions of his bipartisan legislation to increase awareness, education and research into congenital heart disease – a rapidly growing national health problem – were included in the health care reform bill passed by the Senate. The Congenital Heart Futures Act aims to prevent premature death and disability and increase the quality of life for the nearly 1.8 million people in the United States living with congenital heart disease. Durbin introduced the legislation earlier this year with Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Representatives Zack Space (D-OH) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL).

“A child is born with a congenital heart defect every fifteen minutes,” said Durbin. “Despite the prevalence of congenital heart disease, research, data collection, education and awareness are limited. This legislation will expand research and broaden its scope to help those currently living with congenital heart disease and perhaps, one day, find cures.”

“We are making progress in the treatment of congenital heart disease as more infants survive what is commonly known as the No. 1 birth defect in the U.S. Now, this provision in health care reform legislation will take us further by expanding research and establishing a surveillance system to allow us to track the epidemiology of the disease,” said Clyde W. Yancy, M.D., President of the American Heart Association. “With advances in treatment, many children with congenital heart defects survive to adulthood, however, survivors with complex forms of the disease are likely to experience additional health problems later in life. That’s why it’s extremely important to coordinate research to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of this disease and remove barriers to care.”

There are over 30 types of congenital heart defects, which occur when the structures of the heart are malformed, missing or in the wrong place during development. Heart defects are the most common and most deadly form of birth defects, affecting nearly 1% of births (approximately 36,000 a year). A child is born with a congenital heart defect every 15 minutes. These defects cause congenital heart disease—cardiovascular problems caused by the birth defect.

In 2004, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) convened a working group on congenital heart disease, which recommended developing a research network to conduct clinical research, establishing a national database of patients, and creating an outreach education program on the need for continued cardiac care. Today’s Congenital Heart Futures Act builds upon the NHLBI’s recommendations by:
Developing a National Congenital Heart Disease Surveillance System at the CDC to track the epidemiology of congenital heart disease in individuals of all ages;
Promoting the coordination and expansion of the NHLBI’s congenital heart disease research, including a focus on causation; long term outcomes; diagnosis, treatment and prevention; longitudinal studies; and barriers to care.

While, there is currently no cure for congenital heart disease, modern medicine has made major advances in treating heart defects in newborns. In 1950, a child born with a congenital heart defect only had a 20% chance of surviving, but today that number has increased to 90%. Due to the increase in childhood survival rates, the population of people living with congenital heart disease increases by an estimated 5% every year and there are now 800,000 children and 1 million adults living with this condition.

Survivors of successful childhood intervention, however, face life-long risks including heart failure, rhythmic disorders, stroke, renal dysfunction, and neuro-cognitive dysfunction. The estimated life expectancy for those with congenital heart disease is significantly lower than for the general population – age 55 for those with moderately complex heart defects and 35 to 40 for those with highly complex defects. Less than 10% of adults living with complex congenital heart disease currently receive recommended cardiac care, and many are unaware that they require life-long specialized health treatment.

The following organizations have endorsed this legislation: Advocate Healthcare in Chicago, Illinois; Adult Congenital Heart Association; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Heart Association; Children’s Heart Foundation; Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois; Congenital Heart Information Network; La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois; March of Dimes; National Association of Children’s Hospitals; National Congenital Heart Coalition; and Rush University in Chicago, Illinois.

US Senate Passes Healthcare Bill 60-39

Statement by Sen. Dick Durbin on the Senate Passage of the Healthcare Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after the Senate passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a vote of 60 -39.
“For centuries, during this time of year, people would gather with their family and friends, light a candle and look for signs of hope.

This morning’s vote in the United States Senate lit a candle of hope for millions of Americans who went to bed last night without the protection of health insurance.

It lit a candle of hope for the millions who woke up this morning wondering if they will ever win that battle with the health insurance company for the coverage they need, for that surgical procedure or for their medication.

And it lit a candle of hope for this nation that we are finally tackling an issue that every family and every business knows is central to our progress and success as a nation.

Many senators worked tirelessly on this bill, but in large part we succeeded today through the efforts, assistance and inspiration of a President who made this the highest item on his agenda and told us that he would work hard night and day to help us reach this moment. We owe him a great debt.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Congress Approves Extension of Unemployment Insurance Benefits Through February

From the Illinois Department of Employment Security

CHICAGO – Congress passed and the President signed into law a two-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits. Without the extension, up to 10,000 Illinois workers each week would have exhausted their unemployment benefits starting January 2, 2010, the Illinois Department of Employment Security said today. The action delays the beginning of program exhaustions until the end of February.

Illinois workers on the verge of exhausting benefits need not contact IDES offices to apply for this extension. Eligibility automatically will be determined. Should there be a question about eligibility, the IDES will contact those claimants directly.

Unemployment insurance is a federal/state program. Each state creates laws to administer the program at its discretion within specific federal parameters. Since 2008, Congress, with the leadership of Presidents Bush and Obama, temporarily authorized additional unemployment assistance to support the unemployed as well as the communities in which they reside. Without this latest extension, the additional benefits would have begun to sunset at the end of December 2009.

Contributions by Illinois businesses are set by state law and fund the first 26 weeks of unemployment insurance. Illinois also has leveraged more than $1.8 billion in federal funds to pay benefits past the initial 26 weeks.

Unemployment insurance was never intended to replace an individual’s income. It always was intended to provide financial assistance to an individual, and as a result, businesses that the individual patronizes, during challenging economic conditions. Benefit amounts are set by state law. The average weekly Illinois benefit payment is about $315. The maximum weekly amount is $534.

The seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate for November is 10 percent. The same November rate for Illinois is 10.9 percent. Unemployment rates have not been at these levels since 1983. The unemployment rate is not the same measurement as those collecting unemployment benefits. The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and seeking employment, regardless if they are eligible for unemployment insurance. Workers collecting unemployment benefits are counted separately. Therefore, a person who exhausts unemployment insurance benefits or is ineligible for unemployment insurance would still be reflected in the unemployment rate if they are seeking employment.

Durbin Discusses Historic Health Care Vote on the Senate Floor

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
Monday, December 21, 2009

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) spoke today on the floor of the United States Senate about the need for health care reform. Durbin cited the rapidly rising cost of health insurance as reason the current system is in need of reform.

“I think when the history of the United States senate is written, this vote will be included, because it is a historic vote,” said Durbin. “We considered many issues in the United States Senate of great importance to individuals, groups, states and to our nation. But seldom do we address an issue of this magnitude or scope. This health care reform issue literally touches every person who is following this debate and many who are not even aware of it.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

Brady Reaction to Attorney General Opinion on Sale of Thomson Correctional Center

From the Campaign Office of Senator Bill Brady for Governor
Thursday, December 17, 2009

Senator Bill Brady, Republican candidate for Governor, issued the following statement in response to Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s opinion regarding the proposed sale of the Thomson Correctional Center to the federal government:

“Because the legislature could be called on to vote on ceding state jurisdiction of the site at some point, I would urge the Governor to seek a vote in the General Assembly before any sale of the Thomson Correctional Center is completed. This is a serious matter, which I believe should be subject to full and open debate and complete transparency.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Raja Proposes Three-Point Pay-For-Performance Salary Plan for State Public Officials

From the Campaign Office of Raja Krishnamoorthi for Comptroller
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SPRINGFIELD -- Raja (RAH-jah) Krishnamoorthi (krish-nuh-MOOR-thee), candidate for the Democratic nomination for Illinois State Comptroller, today proposed a three-point pay-for-performance plan to make state government more sensitive and responsive to the pressures of the economic recession.

"We are going to introduce into Illinois state government the concept of pay-for-performance," Krishnamoorthi said. "One of the main responsibilities of the governor and the legislature is to balance the state budget. In any year state government officials fail to balance the budget, they should not be eligible for an automatic cost-of-living adjustment or pay raise."

Krishnamoorthi pledged not to accept a pay raise or cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) as Comptroller until the state's budget is balanced.

"Across our state and nation today, millions of families are struggling with the economic impact of the Great Recession," Krishnamoorthi said. "It's time for public officials to acknowledge the pain these families face by reining in their own endless appetite for pay raises and cost-of-living adjustments."

Krishnamoorthi's three-point pay-for-performance plan would use the Internet to make information about the salaries of state government leaders more accessible on a central state government website.

"We need to make it easier for the people of Illinois to know just how much their government leaders are making," Krishnamoorthi said. "This fits with one of the major themes of my campaign -- making state government more open, transparent and Internet accessible."

Krishnamoorthi's three-point pay-for-performance salary plan would do the following:
  • Publish salaries of all legislators, judges and executive officials online, along with the salaries of their staffs (with 5 year historical breakdown)
  • Prohibit automatic COLAs and prohibit salary increases or COLAs in any budget year not having a balanced state government budget
  • Refuse salary increases or COLAs while serving as Comptroller until Illinois has a balanced budget

“Few taxpayers throughout Illinois are getting pay raises, if they're fortunate enough to have a job,” Krishnamoorthi said. “Serving in elected office is a privilege, not a prize. Governing should not be about pay raises and patronage. It should be about providing open, transparent and responsive service to taxpayers.”

Krishnamoorthi served as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the state of Illinois where he helped to establish an anti-corruption unit. He also worked for two years as Deputy Treasurer of Illinois, helping to bring significant reforms to the office and overseeing the custody and administration of billions of dollars in state funds.

Previously, Krishnamoorthi served as a board member and audit committee chairman of the Illinois Housing Development Authority where he helped thousands of Illinois families find affordable housing.

If elected, Krishnamoorthi would become the first Asian American to hold elected statewide office in Illinois. A lawyer and policy expert, Krishnamoorthi, 36, worked on President Barack Obama’s successful 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate, serving first as issues director and then as a senior adviser. Krishnamoorthi also advised Obama during his presidential campaign and his 2000 congressional campaign.

For more information regarding Krishnamoorthi and his campaign for Illinois State Comptroller, please visit

Rep. Manzullo Issues Statement on President's Selection of Northwest Illinois as New Home for Gitmo Terrorists

From the Office of Congressman Don Manzullo
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On Tuesday, Congressman Don Manzullo (R-IL) issued the following statement reacting to President Obama’s decision to move up to 210 al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the Thomson Correctional Center in northwest Illinois.


"I've always supported opening the Thomson Correctional Center as a full-fledged state or federal prison because it would provide needed jobs for residents of the region; however, I continue to have serious reservations about moving Guantanamo Bay terrorists to Thomson.

“When I first learned of the proposed transfer of the terrorists, I set out to discover the security impact of moving Guantanamo Bay to the United States – not closing its operations, but moving it to a new location. My primary objective has always been to protect the people I represent. I never believed these terrorists could escape from Thomson, but my concern – shared by Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia., Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and former Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who fought President Obama and succeeded in keeping Guantanamo from moving to Fort Leavenworth – is that the hatred the terrorists have toward Guantanamo would transfer to Thomson, Illinois, thus creating a magnet for terrorist activity.

“I received an in-depth briefing from the top architect of the plan – Phillip Carter from the Department of Defense (DoD) – who confirmed Thomson would become the largest concentration of incarcerated terrorists in the United States. Mr. Carter agreed with me there would be an increased security risk to northwest Illinois, but he had no way of estimating the extent of this threat. He said, however, he was confident that federal and local law enforcement officials could ‘manage the risk.’ I was shocked, because if there was no way to measure the threat, then how could it be ‘managed.’ He advised he would make available others at DoD for further briefings. I sought more information from DoD, only to discover that Mr. Carter had immediately resigned a few days after he briefed me. DoD refused further briefings for 11 days, and I learned little new at a second briefing.

“The White House said in a statement today: ‘Closing the detention center at Guantanamo is essential to protecting our national security and helping our troops by removing a deadly recruiting tool from the hands of al Qaeda.’ It’s that hatred I’m concerned will transfer to Thomson. The American people have a right to know the impact of moving Guantanamo’s operations to U.S. soil. Unfortunately, that information will never be known because on Thursday, December 11, language was inserted into the ‘omnibus’ spending bill to keep any information on the issue ‘classified,’ available only to Members of Congress, who cannot share its contents. There is enough unclassified information to release to the public without compromising sources or security, such as the stunning article that appeared in the Washington Post on November 29th which investigated the story of Yemeni Arif Rahim, whose brother, Uthman , has been detained at Guantanamo Bay for 8 years for attacking the USS Cole. Consider this passage in the story:

“Arif said he was confident that Obama would close Guantanamo next year. If he doesn’t, or if Utham and other detainees are sent to a prison in the US, many families would consider it an ever greater betrayal. ‘The families, their friends, their tribesmen will have more hatred for the United States,’ Arif said. ‘And perhaps they will consider taking the same path as the extremists.’

“I also inquired of several other agencies, trying to asses the impact these terrorists would have on American courts, but I had to turn to other sources. I discovered, not surprisingly, that the detainees will obtain new constitutional rights once they set foot on American soil, especially the ones to be housed at Thomson because they would be incarcerated permanently with no trial at all. In fact, the terrorists were originally sent to Guantanamo because the US needed not only a secure an impenetrable facility, but one off shore that limited constitutional rights because of dealing with the ‘military combatants.’ One only needs to consider the trial about to take place in federal court in New York City of Khalid Sheik Mohamamed to observe he is receiving more rights than a military tribunal in Guantanamo. I believe the people I represent need to know the impact on the federal courthouse in Rockford, whether trials would be held there as law yers work to assure them they are entitled to a trial. Even the Obama Administration says holding these terrorists without trial ‘is a gray area.’

“Because the decision to move Gitmo to Thomson has already been made, I’ll press every level of the federal government to enhance the security of the people of this area in order to protect their families, critical workplaces, infrastructure, and schools. And, in addition to continuing to work with Senator Durbin, I’ll bring to the attention of the President, the Governor, and Senator Burris the fact that northwest Illinois needs continued help on economic development, such as prioritizing the widening of U.S. Route 30 in Whiteside County and the last link of our interstate highway system, U.S. Route 20 from Freeport to Galena.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cheryle Jackson (D), Candidate for U.S. Senate

December 16, 2009 - Cheryle Jackson (D), candidate for U.S. Senate, meets with reporters following a debate at the Union League Club of Chicago.

Democratic Candidates for U.S. Senate Debate

December 16, 2009 - Four of the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate take part in a debate hosted by the Union League Club of Chicago.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Statement from Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Andy McKenna on Thomson Prison Issue

From the Campaign Office of Andy McKenna for Governor

“Neither Governor Quinn nor President Obama has sufficiently articulated a reason as to why moving GITMO detainees, who are the center of the Al Qaeda network, is a good idea and, unfortunately, rather than tending to the state’s real problems, including a budget spiraling out of control and record unemployment, Governor Quinn is distracted with a plan to bring terrorists to our neighborhoods all in the name of job creation.”

Durbin, Quinn Praise Administration Decision to Purchase Thomson Correctional Center

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn today praised the decision by the Obama Administration to proceed with the acquisition of a state of the art correctional facility in Thomson, Illinois.

“Thomson Correctional Center – a high security prison – has been sitting empty for eight years. The Obama Administration has put forward a plan to make it the safest prison in America and we are pleased that they have made this decision. This move will have a tremendously positive impact on the local economy -- creating more than 3,000 jobs and injecting more than $1 billion into the local economy. This is an opportunity to dramatically reduce unemployment, create thousands of good-paying jobs and breathe new economic life into this part of downstate Illinois.”

In a letter to Governor Quinn, sent by the U.S. Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretaries of State, Defense and Homeland Security, the federal government has signaled its intention to purchase and operate the prison.

They write: “We write to inform you that the President has directed, with our unanimous support, that the Federal Government proceed with the acquisition of the facility in Thomson. Not only will this help address the urgent overcrowding problem at our nation’s Federal prisons, but it will also help achieve our goal of closing the detention center at Guantanamo in a timely, secure, and lawful manner.”

The letter also addresses security concerns that have been raised about transferring Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson facility: “The security of the facility and the surrounding region is our paramount concern. The facility was built in 2001 to maximum security specifications, and after acquisition it will be enhanced to exceed perimeter security standards at the nation’s only “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, where there has never been an escape or external attack . . . The President has no intention of releasing any detainees in the United States. Current law effectively bars the release of the Guantanamo detainees on U.S. soil, and the Federal Government has broad authority under current law to detain individuals during removal proceedings and pending the execution of final removal orders.”

Republican Candidates for Governor Take Part in Forum

December 14, 2009 - Six of the seven Republican candidates for governor take part in a forum hosted by the Citizens Club of Springfield at the Hoogland Center for the Arts

Monday, December 14, 2009

Press Conference on Putback Amendment

December 14, 2009 - Adam Andrzejewski, Republican candidate for Governor, and Randy Stufflebeam, candidate for Governor with the Constitution Party, join John Bambenek, author of the Putback Amendment. This amendment would place term limits on legislators, offer equal ballot access for third parties, and a seven-day public viewing of legislation before passage.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald

December 11, 2009 - At the Illinois State Bar Association's Joint Midyear Meeting with the Illinois Judges Association, Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald honors the legacy of Abraham Lincoln as a lawyer.

Supreme Court Justices at Illinois Judges Association's Convention

December 11, 2009 - Illinois Supreme Court Justices Kilbride, Karmeier, Garman, and Thomas, along with Chief Justice Fitzgerald, gather at the Illinois Judges Association's 38th Annual Convention in Chicago.

Panel Discussion on Illinois Law & Diversity

December 10, 2009 - At the Illinois State Bar Association's Midyear Meeting, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, ISBA President John O'Brien, and others participate in a panel discussion on Illinois law and diversity.

State Public Health Director Announces Expansion of H1N1 Flu Vaccine Availability to All Illinoisans

From the Illinois Department of Public Health
December 10, 2009

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold today announced that beginning Tuesday, December 15, 2009, all Illinoisans will be eligible to receive an H1N1 flu vaccination. In addition to local health departments and private physicians, Illinoisans will be able to go to many retail pharmacies for H1N1 flu vaccinations starting no later than December 21, 2009.

“For the past two months, local health departments, hospitals and physicians have worked diligently to reach those considered most at-risk for serious H1N1 flu illness by holding walk-in, drive-up, school-based and appointment-only clinics,” Dr. Arnold said. “With more vaccine arriving each week, we are now encouraging providers to begin offering H1N1 vaccine on December 15 to all Illinoisans who have not yet been vaccinated.”

From now until December 15, providers who received H1N1 vaccine will continue to focus vaccination efforts exclusively on serving the needs of the priority population groups – health care and emergency medical service workers who provide direct patient care; pregnant women; people who live with or care for children less than six months of age; all people 6 months to 24 years; and people 25 to 64 years of age with chronic medical conditions. Beginning December 15, these individuals will continue to be eligible for vaccination, along with all other Illinoisans who are not in the risk groups. Local providers will have flexibility to determine if it is necessary to continue prioritizing the vaccine for the at-risk populations, based on the needs in their local area.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) evaluated several factors before making the decision to lift restrictions on vaccine eligibility, including prior vaccine distribution, feedback from local health departments and discussions with other state and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health officials.

Pharmacies may charge a fee for administering the vaccine, typically between $12 and $22. This fee is covered by most health insurance. People should bring their health insurance information with them to the pharmacy, and they may need to submit a receipt to their insurance company for reimbursement. Those without health insurance can receive an H1N1 flu vaccination free of charge at all local health departments in Illinois.

For a list of public H1N1 vaccination sites and clinic times, as well as additional information on the 2009 H1N1 flu, log onto

For questions about the H1N1 flu, call the Illinois Flu Hotline at 866- 848-2094 – translators are available.

Governor Quinn Signs Campaign Reform Law

From the Office of Governor Pat Quinn
December 9, 2009

CHICAGO – December 9, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn today signed into law a ground-breaking campaign finance bill that imposes Illinois’ first-ever contribution limits on candidates, political parties and political action committees. The new law also makes campaign contribution and expenditure information more open and available to the public.

The signing of this important campaign finance legislation caps Governor Quinn’s “Year of Reform,” which includes passage of other tough ethics laws and implementation of government reforms in the areas of appointments, freedom of information, governmental and pension ethics, procurement and accountability.

“The people of Illinois have demanded reform and greater responsibility from its elected officials and this law will help accomplish those worthy goals,” said Governor Quinn. “This new law requires politicians to be more candid, open and accountable than ever before. It is a crucial and important move in the right direction.”

Senate Bill 1466, which was sponsored by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), amends the Illinois Election Code. For the first-time ever, major political contributions will now be limited by law. In addition, the new law requires more frequent disclosure of large campaign contributions to the public.

The new law also creates the Campaign Finance Reform Task Force, which will study the impact of contribution limits and make recommendations following the 2012 and 2014 elections. The task force, which will consist of 11 members appointed by the Governor and the Illinois General Assembly, will also do an in-depth study on the feasibility of implementing public financing for statewide, legislative and judicial offices and make recommendations by September 30, 2012. A final report will be issued by March 10, 2015.

Signing the campaign finance reform law is the latest in a series of government ethics reforms put into action by the Quinn Administration this year.

“Compared to a year ago, Illinois has made tremendous strides toward changing the old ‘business-as-usual’ culture by strengthening government ethics and operations. Yes, there is more work to be done. But the residents of Illinois are being heard and they can be proud of the changes that have already been made on their behalf,” said Governor Quinn.

Working with the General Assembly and reform advocates throughout Illinois, Governor Quinn’s “Year of Reform” agenda includes: establishing strict ethics and codes of conduct for members of State boards and commissions appointed by the governor; strengthening the Illinois Freedom of Information Act; improving pension and governmental ethics; making procurement more fair and open; and improving government transparency with a new accountability portal.

Those attending the bill signing ceremony with Governor Quinn included: George Ranney, CHANGE Illinois! Co-Chair, President and CEO of Chicago Metropolis 2020; Sheila Simon, Illinois Reform Commission; Cynthia Canary, Director, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform; Dawn Clark Netsch, CHANGE Illinois! and Illinois Campaign for Political Reform; and Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

For more information, including full text of SB 1466, please visit

Panel Discussion on e-Advocacy Tools

December 9, 2009 - The Joyce Foundation hosts a panel discussion on micro-targeting and e-advocacy tools available through new media.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Patti Bellock & Kristina Rasmussen: Expansion of Medicaid is Not the Health-Care Answer

From the State Journal-Register

Much of the debate over national health-care legislation has centered on flashpoints like higher taxes, abortion and immigration.

Yet one major aspect of the health-care plans being developed on Capitol Hill has received relatively scant attention. House and Senate Democrats are planning on significantly expanding Medicaid in an attempt to decrease the number of uninsured.

Medicaid was launched in 1965 as a joint federal-state safety net that would help cover health-care costs for the poorest of the poor. Congressional Democrats’ health-care plans would swell Medicaid far beyond the program’s core focus.

In particular, the federal government would require Illinois to vastly expand our Medicaid operations to cover hundreds of thousands of new enrollees. This could translate into an overwhelmed system for current care recipients and providers, higher costs for Illinois taxpayers, and less local control over our state’s government health programs.

Let’s consider where we’re at today in order to get a better understanding of what this would mean for our state. We spend more than $11 billion a year on Medicaid. More than 2.6 million Illinoisans are enrolled in the program. During the last 10 years, liabilities have grown at a rate of 6.9 percent a year, in part due to eligibility increases. Program administrators are projecting a 7 percent spending increase for 2010.

According to a June report from the Taxpayer Action Board, if recent spending rates remain constant, “Medicaid spending will reach approximately $22 billion in 2019, which could represent roughly 50 percent of the entire state budget and would begin to crowd out other State spending priorities, such as public safety and education.”

Illinois is already having a hard time paying for its current Medicaid obligations — the state’s well-publicized payment backlog is clear proof of this problem.

With this in mind, a Medicaid expansion — even one partially or temporarily funded by the federal government — would make the outlook for balancing Illinois’ budget much more bleak than it already is. This doesn’t bode well for taxpayers, existing Medicaid recipients or providers.

Ongoing negotiations in Congress will determine at what level benefits would be set, when they take effect, and how the federal government and the states will share the cost. In the meantime, it is possible to get a sense of what an expansion could mean for Illinois. The numbers are not comforting.

Were Illinois to extend Medicaid to every uninsured resident making up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level at regular reimbursement rates, it would cost the Medicaid program an additional $1.5 billion a year, not accounting for medical inflation. Even if Illinois only had to pay a tenth of the expansion costs, the impact would still be staggering for a state already billions in the red.

Moreover, if we have to increase our doctor reimbursement rates to ensure sufficient physician participation to meet higher demand, overall costs would also go up significantly each year.
Currently, about one in five Illinoisans receives health-care coverage from Medicaid. If eligibility were expanded according to the income guidelines from the House plan, 690,000 individuals could join Illinois’ Medicaid rolls. This figure does not even include those who will drop their private insurance for public coverage.

Low-income children, their parents and the disabled have traditionally been first in line to receive Medicaid. These populations may suffer from adding more able-bodied adults to the system.

To make matters worse, state legislators would have less local control over how Illinois’ Medicaid system is designed, instead having to follow more federal mandates and having virtually no flexibility to reduce or control future rising costs.

Medicaid is an important program, but a pricey expansion would have Illinois run the risk of not delivering on promised care to enrollees. Other less-than-desirable funding options would include continuing to delay payment to providers, reducing the resources available to other state programs, or sending the state’s tax rates sky high.

Illinois residents deserve a better health-care alternative from Congress that focuses on patient-centered reforms empowering the doctor and the patient to make effective and economical health policy choices.

Is Washington listening?

Patti Bellock is a Republican member of the Illinois House of Representatives from Westmont. Kristina Rasmussen is executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Remarks by the President on Job Creation and Economic Growth (The Brrokings Institution, Washington, DC)

From the Office of the White House Press Secretary

Almost exactly one year ago, on a frigid winter's day, I met with my new economic team at the headquarters of my presidential transition offices in Chicago. And over the course of four hours, my advisors presented an analysis of where the economy at that time stood, accompanied by a chilling set of charts and graphs, predicting where we might end up. It was an unforgettable series of presentations.

Christy Romer -- who's here today -- tapped to head the Council of Economic Advisers, as well as Larry Summers, who I'd chosen to head the National Economic Council, described an imminent downturn comparable in its severity to almost nothing since the 1930s. Tim Geithner, my incoming Treasury Secretary, reported that the financial system, shaken by the subprime crisis, had halted almost all lending, which in turn threatened to pull the broader economy in a downward spiral. Peter Orszag, my incoming Budget Director, closed out the proceedings with an entirely dismal report on the fiscal health of the country, with growing deficits and debt stretching to the horizon. Having concluded that it was too late for me to request a recount -- I tasked my team with mapping out a plan to tackle the crisis on all fronts.

It wasn't long after that meeting, as we shaped this economic plan, that we began to see some of these forecasts materialize. Over the previous year, it was obvious that folks were facing hard times. As I traveled across the country during the long campaign, I would meet men and women bearing the brunt of not only a deepening recession, but also years -- even decades -- of growing strains on middle class families. But now the country was experiencing something far worse. Our gross domestic product -- the sum total of all that our economy produces -- fell at the fastest rate in a quarter century. Five trillion dollars of Americans' household wealth evaporated in just 12 weeks as stocks, pensions, and home values plummeted. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs each month, equivalent to the population of the state of Vermont. That was true in December, January, February, March. The fear among economists across the political spectrum that was -- was that we were rapidly plummeting towards a second Great Depression.

So, in the weeks and months that followed, we undertook a series of difficult steps to prevent that outcome. And we were forced to take those steps largely without the help of an opposition party, which, unfortunately, after having presided over the decision-making that had led to the crisis, decided to hand it over to others to solve.

We acted to get lending flowing again so businesses could get loans to buy equipment, and ordinary Americans could get financing to buy homes and cars, to go to college, and to start or run businesses. We enacted measures to stem the tide of foreclosures in our housing market, helping responsible homeowners stay in their homes and helping to stop the broader decline in home values which was eating away at what tends to be a family's largest asset.

To achieve this, and to prevent economic collapse, we were forced to extend assistance to some of the very banks and financial institutions whose actions had helped precipitate the turmoil. We also took steps to prevent the rapid dissolution of the American auto industry -- which faced a crisis partly of its own making -- to prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs during an already fragile, shaky time. These were not decisions that were popular or satisfying; these were decisions that were necessary.

Now, even as we worked to address the crises in our banking sector, in our housing market, and in our auto industry, we also began attacking our economic crisis on a broader front. Less than one month after taking office we enacted the most sweeping economic recovery package in history: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Recovery Act was divided into three parts. One-third went for tax relief for small businesses and 95 percent of working families. Another third was for emergency relief to help folks who've borne the brunt of this recession. We extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 17 million Americans; made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families relying on COBRA. And for state and local governments facing historic budget shortfalls as demand for services went up and revenues went down, we provided assistance that has saved the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers and public school workers, firefighters and police officers.

The last third of the Recovery Act is for investments to put Americans to work doing the work that America needs done: doubling our capacity in renewable energy like wind and solar; computerizing medical records to save money and lives; providing the largest boost to medical research in history; renovating classrooms and school laboratories; and upgrading roads and railways as part of the largest investment in infrastructure since the creation of the Interstate Highway System half a century ago.

And even as the Recovery Act has created jobs and spurred growth, we have not let up in our efforts to take every responsible action to get the economy growing and America working.

This fall, I signed into law more than $30 billion in tax cuts for struggling businesses, extended an effective tax credit for homebuyers, and provided additional unemployment insurance for one million Americans. And the Treasury is continuing to adapt our financial stability plan, helping to facilitate the flow of small credit to small businesses and families. In addition, we're working to break down barriers and open overseas markets so our companies can better compete globally, creating jobs in America by exporting our products around the world.

Now, partly as a result of these and other steps, we are in a very different place today than we were one year ago. We may forget, but we're in a very different place. We can safely say that we are no longer facing the potential collapse of our financial system and we've avoided the depression many feared. Our economy is growing for the first time in a year, and the swing from contraction to expansion since the beginning of the year is the largest in nearly three decades.

Finally, we're no longer seeing the severe deterioration in the job market that we once were. In fact we learned on Friday that the unemployment rate fell slightly last month. This is welcome news, and news made possible in part by the up to 1.6 million jobs that the Recovery Act has already created and saved according to the Congressional Budget Office.

But I'm here today because our work is far from done. For even though we've reduced the deluge of job losses to a relative trickle, we are not yet creating jobs at a pace to help all those families who've been swept up in the flood. There are more than 7 million fewer Americans with jobs today than when this recession began. That's a staggering figure, and one that reflects not only the depths of the hole from which we must ascend, but also a continuing human tragedy.

It was mentioned that I was in Allentown, Pennsylvania, this past weekend, and went to a job center where people were engaged in job search. And it ran the spectrum -- blacks, whites, Hispanics, young people who were just starting their careers, individuals 50, 60 years old, looking for a job. And they were putting a brave face on it, confident that eventually things would work out, but you could also see the sense of anxiety, the fear that perhaps this time it was different. Sometimes it's hard to break out of the bubble here in Washington and remind ourselves that behind these statistics are people's lives, their capacity to do right by their families. It speaks to an urgent need to accelerate job growth in the short term while laying a new foundation for lasting economic growth.

My economic team has been considering a full range of additional ideas to help accelerate the pace of private sector hiring. We held a jobs forum at the White House that brought together small business owners, CEOs, union members, economists, folks from non-profits, and state and local officials to talk about job creation. And I've asked people to lead forums in their own communities -- sending the results to me -- so we are hearing as many voices as possible as we refine our proposals. We've already heard a number of good ideas, and I know we'll learn of many more.

So today, I want to outline some of the broader steps that I believe should be at the heart of our effort to accelerate job growth -- those areas that will generate the greatest number of jobs while generating the greatest value for our economy.

First, we're proposing a series of steps to help small businesses grow and hire new staff. Over the past 15 years, small businesses have created roughly 65 percent of all new jobs in America. These are companies formed around kitchen tables in family meetings, formed when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream, formed when a worker decides it's time she became her own boss. These are also companies that drive innovation, producing 13 times more patents per employee than large companies. And it's worth remembering, every once in a while a small business becomes a big business -- and changes the world.

That's why it's so important that we help small business struggling to stay open, or struggling to open in the first place, during these difficult times. Building on the tax cuts in the Recovery Act, we're proposing a complete elimination of capital gains taxes on small business investment along with an extension of write-offs to encourage small businesses to expand in the coming year. And I believe it's worthwhile to create a tax incentive to encourage small businesses to add and keep employees, and I'm going to work with Congress to pass one.

Now, these steps will help, but we also have to address the continuing struggle of small businesses to get loans that they need to start up and grow. To that end, we're proposing to waive fees and increase the guarantees for SBA-backed loans. And I'm asking my Treasury Secretary to continue mobilizing the remaining TARP funds to facilitate lending to small businesses.

Second, we're proposing a boost in investment in the nation's infrastructure beyond what was included in the Recovery Act, to continue modernizing our transportation and communications networks. These are needed public works that engage private sector companies, spurring hiring all across the country.

Already, more than 10,000 of these projects have been funded through the Recovery Act. And by design, Recovery Act work on roads, bridges, water systems, Superfund sites, broadband networks, and clean energy projects will all be ramping up in the months ahead. It was planned this way for two reasons: so the impact would be felt over a two-year period; and, more importantly, because we wanted to do this right.

The potential for abuse in a program of this magnitude, while operating at such a fast pace, was enormous. So I asked Vice President Biden and others to make sure to the extent humanly possible that the investments were sound, the projects worthy, and the execution efficient. What this means is that we're going to see even more work -- and workers -- on recovery projects in the next six months than we saw in the last six months.

Even so, there are many more worthy projects than there were dollars to fund them. I recognize that by their nature these projects often take time, and will therefore create jobs over time. But the need for jobs will also last beyond next year and the benefits of these investments will last years beyond that. So adding to this initiative to rebuild America's infrastructure is the right thing to do.

Third, I'm calling on Congress to consider a new program to provide incentives for consumers who retrofit their homes to become more energy-efficient, which we know creates jobs, saves money for families, and reduces the pollution that threatens our environment. And I'm proposing that we expand select Recovery Act initiatives to promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs which have been proven to be particularly popular and effective.

It's a positive sign that many of these programs drew so many applicants for funding that a lot of strong proposals -- proposals that will leverage private capital and create jobs quickly -- did not make the cut. With additional resources, in areas like advanced manufacturing of wind turbines and solar panels, for instance, we can help turn good ideas into good private sector jobs.

Finally, as we are moving forward in these areas, we should also extend the relief in the Recovery Act, including emergency assistance to seniors, unemployment insurance benefits, COBRA, and relief to states and localities to prevent layoffs. This will help folks weathering these storms, while boosting consumer spending and promoting job growth.

Of course, there's only so much government can do. Job creation will ultimately depend on the real job creators: businesses across America. We were encouraged today to hear from the Business Roundtable that their survey showed greater confidence and greater potential investment coming out of the business community.

Government can help lay the groundwork on which the private sector can better generate jobs, growth, and innovation. After all, small business tax relief is not a substitute for ingenuity and industriousness by our entrepreneurs -- but it can help those with good ideas to grow and expand. Incentives to promote energy efficiency and clean energy manufacturing don't automatically create jobs or lower carbon emissions -- but these steps provide a framework in which companies can compete and innovate to create those jobs and reduce energy consumption. And while modernizing the physical and virtual networks that connect us will create private-sector jobs, they'll do so while making it possible for companies to more easily and effectively move their products across this country and around the world, and that will create more jobs.

And given the challenges of accelerating the pace of hiring in the private sector, these targeted initiatives are right and they are needed. But with a fiscal crisis to match our economic crisis, we also must be prudent about how we fund it. So to help support these efforts, we are going to wind down the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- or TARP -- the fund created to stabilize the financial system so banks would lend again.

I don't think I have to tell you there has rarely been a less loved or more necessary emergency program than TARP, which -- as galling as the assistance to banks may have been -- indisputably helped prevent a collapse of the entire financial system. Launched hastily -- understandably, but hastily -- under the last administration, the TARP program was flawed, and we have worked hard to correct those flaws and manage it properly. And today, TARP has served its original purpose and at much lower cost than we expected.

In fact, because of our stewardship of this program, and the transparency and accountability we put in place, TARP is expected to cost the taxpayers at least $200 billion less than what was anticipated just this past summer. And the assistance to banks, once thought to cost taxpayers untold billions, is on track to actually reap billions in profits for the taxpaying public. So this gives us a chance to pay down the deficit faster than we thought possible and to shift funds that would have gone to help the banks on Wall Street to help create jobs on Main Street.

Small business, infrastructure, clean energy -- these are areas in which we can put Americans to work while putting our nation on a sturdier economic footing. That foundation for sustained economic growth -- that must be our continuing focus and our ultimate goal.

I've said this before. Even before this particular crisis, much of our growth for a decade or more had been fueled by unsustainable consumer debt and reckless financial speculation, while we ignored the fundamental challenges that hold the key to our economic prosperity. We cannot simply go back to the way things used to be. We can't go back to an economy that yielded cycle after cycle of speculative booms and painful busts. We can't continue to accept an education system in which our students trail their peers in other countries, and a health care system in which exploding costs put our businesses at a competitive disadvantage. And we cannot continue to ignore the clean energy challenge or cede global leadership in the emerging industries of the 21st century. And that's why, even as we strive to meet the crisis of the moment, we have insisted on laying a new foundation for the future.

Because an educated workforce is essential to a 21st century global economy, we've launched a competitive Race to the Top fund through the Recovery Act to reform our schools and raise achievement, especially in math and science. And we've made college more affordable, proposed a historic set of reforms and investments in community college, and set a goal of once again leading the world in producing college graduates by the year 2020.

Because even the best-trained worker in the world can't compete if our businesses are saddled with rapidly increasing health care costs, we are fighting to do what we have discussed in this country for generations -- finally reforming our nation's broken health insurance system and relieving this unsustainable burden.

Because our economic future depends on a financial system that encourages sound investments, honest dealings, and long-term growth, we've proposed the most ambitious financial reforms since the Great Depression. We'll set and enforce clear rules of the road, close loopholes in oversight, charge a new agency with protecting consumers and address the dangerous, systemic risks that brought us to the brink of disaster. These reforms are moving through Congress, we're working to keep those reforms strong, and I'm looking forward to signing them into law.

And because our economic future depends on our leadership in the industries of the future, we are investing in basic applied research, and working to create the incentives to build a new clean energy economy. For we know the nation that leads in clean energy will be the nation that leads the world. I want America to be that nation. I want America's prosperity to be powered by what we invent and pioneer -- not just what we borrow and what we consume. And I know that we can and will be that nation if we are willing to do what it takes to get there.

Now, there are those who claim we have to choose between paying down our deficits on the one hand, and investing in job creation and economic growth on the other. This is a false choice. Ensuring that economic growth and job creation are strong and sustained is critical to ensuring that we are increasing revenues and decreasing spending on things like unemployment insurance so that our deficits will start coming down. At the same time, instilling confidence in our commitment to being fiscally prudent gives the private sector the confidence to make long-term investments in our people and in America.

So one of the central goals of this administration is restoring fiscal responsibility. Even as we have had to spend our way out of this recession in the near term, we've begun to make the hard choices necessary to get our country on a more stable fiscal footing in the long run. So let me just be clear here. Despite what some have claimed, the cost of the Recovery Act is only a very small part of our current budget imbalance. In reality, the deficit had been building dramatically over the previous eight years. We have a structural gap between the money going out and the money coming in.

Folks passed tax cuts and expansive entitlement programs without paying for any of it -- even as health care costs kept rising, year after year. As a result, the deficit had reached $1.3 trillion when we walked into the White House. And I'd note: These budget-busting tax cuts and spending programs were approved by many of the same people who are now waxing political about fiscal responsibility, while opposing our efforts to reduce deficits by getting health care costs under control. It's a sight to see.

The fact is we have refused to go along with business as usual; we are taking responsibility for every dollar we spend. We've done what some said was impossible: preventing wasteful spending on outdated weapons systems that even the Pentagon said it didn't want. We've combed the budget, cutting waste and excess wherever we could. I'm still committed to halving the deficit we inherited by the end of my first term -- cutting it in half. And I made clear from day one that I would not sign a health insurance reform bill if it raised the deficit by one dime -- and neither the House, nor the Senate bill does. We've begun not only changing policies in Washington, we've also begun to change the culture in Washington.

In the end, the economic crisis of the past year was not just the result of weaknesses in our economy. It was also the result of weaknesses in our political system, because for decades, too many in Washington put off the hard decisions. For decades, we've watched as efforts to solve tough problems have fallen prey to the bitterness of partisanship, to prosaic concerns of politics, to ever-quickening news cycles, to endless campaigns focused on scoring points instead of meeting our common challenges.

We've seen the consequences of this failure of responsibility. The American people have paid a heavy price. And the question we'll have to answer now is if we're going to learn from our past, or if -- even in the aftermath of disaster -- we're going to repeat those same mistakes. As the alarm bells fade, the din of Washington rises, as the forces of the status quo marshal their resources, we can be sure that answering this question will be a fight to the finish. But I have every hope and expectation that we can rise to this moment, that we can transcend the failures of the past, that we can once again take responsibility for our future.

Every night I read letters and e-mails sent to me from people across America -- ordinary folks, people who share their hopes and their hardships, their faith in this country, their frustration with what's happened in this economy. I hear from small business owners worried about making payroll, keeping their doors open. I hear from mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who've seen one or two or more family members out of work. The toughest letters are in children's handwriting -- kids write to me, my dad just lost a job; my grandma is sick, she can't afford health insurance -- kids who can't just be kids because they're worried about mom having her hours cut or dad losing a job, or a family without health insurance.

These folks aren't looking for a handout, they're not looking for a bailout -- just like those people I visited in Allentown -- all they're looking for is a chance to make their own way, to work, to succeed using their talents and skills. And they're looking for folks in Washington to have a seriousness of purpose that matches the reality of their struggle.

Everywhere I've gone, every stop I've made, there are people like this, men and women who have faced misfortune, but who stand ready to build a better future: students ready to learn, workers eager to work, scientists on the brink of discovery, entrepreneurs seeking the chance to open a small business. Everywhere I go, there are once-shuttered factories just waiting to whir back to life in burgeoning industries. There is a nation ready to meet the challenges of this new age and to lead the world in this new century. And as we look back on the progress of the past year, and look forward to the work ahead, I have every confidence that we will do exactly that.

These have been a tough two years. And there will no doubt be difficult months ahead. But the storms of the past are receding. The skies are brightening. And the horizon is beckoning once more.

Thank you very much.

State plans free FOIA seminar - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register

State plans free FOIA seminar - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register

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McKenna to Air Budget Plan Today

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Andy McKenna and his running mate, Sen. Matt Murphy, will hold a press conference in Chicago today at 10:30 in which McKenna and Murphy will lay out how they plan to cut state spending, and reduce the state's budget deficit.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Illinois H1N1 Flu Hotline Answering Medical Questions

From the Illinois Department of Public Health

SPRINGFIELD – In addition to answering general questions about influenza, vaccine and treatment, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold today announced that trained medical professionals are now available to answer medical questions about H1N1 influenza that come into the Illinois Flu Hotline. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is partnering with the Illinois Poison Center to staff the hotline with health care professionals.

“As H1N1 influenza continues to circulate in Illinois, we know people have many questions, especially when it comes to seeking medical treatment,” said Dr. Arnold. “Through our partnership with the Illinois Poison Center, trained medical staff can help callers determine when to see a doctor, if emergency treatment is needed, how to care for sick family members and when it’s advisable to return to work or school. The more information people have about H1N1 influenza, the better able we are to reduce illness.”

Having medical professional staff answer H1N1 influenza questions will help reduce the number of calls to local health departments, hospitals and health providers and allow doctors and nurses more time to vaccinate individuals and take care of patients.

“Poison centers are open 24/7, staffed with medical experts such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists who are ready to serve the health care needs of individuals seeking assistance,” said Dr. Michael Wahl, Medical Director of the Illinois Poison Center. “It’s a natural fit for the IPC and our existing infrastructure to be part of the first response to answer calls from concerned Illinoisans seeking information during the H1N1 flu outbreak.”

The number for the Illinois Flu Hotline is 866-848-2094 for English and 866-241-2138 for Spanish. Additional H1N1 influenza information can also be found at and

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

City Hall Approves Daley's Budget Plan to Drain Reserves :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State

Click the link below to read the article.

City Hall approves Daley's budget plan to drain reserves :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State

Manzullo Responds to President's Address on Afghanistan

From the Campaign Office of Don Manzullo for Congress

On Tuesday night, Congressman Don Manzullo issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s address to the nation on the War in Afghanistan:

“President Obama tonight gave Americans a frank assessment of our challenges in Afghanistan. His plan to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan comes at a critical time in America’s war against the terrorists. We cannot let Afghanistan become a haven for terrorists again. I look forward to hearing more in detail from the Administration about this new strategy. As a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will be briefed in more detail tomorrow by Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, who will all testify in front of our committee.

“As always, my first concern is with our brave fighting men and women who are overseas risking their lives each day to protect our families and our freedoms back home. Our prayers are with them and their families – as well as those heroes who paid the ultimate price – as they carry on their mission to defend the United States of America. I will review the President’s plan with them in mind.”

Senate President John Cullerton & Illinois Lung Assn. Unveil Christmas Seal

December 2, 2009 - Senate President John Cullerton and members of the Illinois Lung Association unveil this year's Christmas Seal.

Following the unveiling, Senator Cullerton discussed with reporters how the Illinois House needs to pass the tax increase the Senate passed in order to balance the state budget.

Illinois Open Government Webpage Now Up and Running

Illinois Open Government is now up and running. This website "gives Illinois citizens a clear look into how Illinois government spends dollars, down to the agency, person and penny."

Illinois Open Government is sponsored by the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center.

Adam Andrzejewski’s Interview on Polish Television to Air in Chicago

From the Campaign Office of Adam Andrzejewski for Governor
December 1, 2009

WARSAW, POLAND — December 1, 2009 — Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski (ann-gee-EFF-ski) will appear on the Polish television program Tydzień Polski (Polish Week) on Wednesday, December 2, 2009. Tydzień Polski is a television news magazine featuring topics of interest to Poles living abroad.

Joanna Bator conducted the interview Tuesday evening which will be televised in Illinois on TVP, the international channel of Poland’s public broadcasting corporation. During the interview, Mr. Andrzejewski issues relevant to Poles living in Illinois, reasons for the Polish Diaspora to take an interest in the next gubernatorial election, and how, as governor, Andrzejewski will promote job growth, economic vitality, and increased international trade between Illinois and Poland.

TVP is available on Comcast Cable (Channel 675), DirecTV (2171), and AT&T Uverse (3862). Broadcast times for Tydzień Polski are 1:00 PM and 7:00 PM on December 2, 2009, and 5:00 AM on December 3, 2009. The interview will be available for archival viewing online at

Highlights from December 1, 2009

12:00 PM: Tour of the Sejm (Parliament) of the Republic of Poland, Senat (Senate) of the Republic of Poland, followed by lunch in the legislative dining room with several members of the Polish Congress.

3:00 PM: Meeting with Deputy Director of Foreign Affairs Kazimierz Kuberski. Mr. Andrzejewski discussed direct foreign investment, trade with Illinois, and the American Visa policy towards Poland. Afterwards, Mr. Andrzejewski toured the Presidential Palace where he saw the “Round Table” where negotiations led to Poland’s first free election in 1989.

7:00 PM: Television Interview on news program Tydzień Polski (Polish Week).

Adam Andrzejewski is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of Illinois. Currently he is polling second among seven candidates. Andrzejewski is running on a platform of aggressive reform of state government in Illinois. For more information, visit

Tribune Replaces CEO Sam Zell

From NBC Chicago

In a new twist of events, the Tribune Company has replaced Sam Zell as its chief executive officer, CBS reports.

Zell, whose took over the company two years ago, will stay on as chairman.

Randy Michaels, who has been chief operating officer since May, will take over as CEO. Michaels has previously headed the Tribune’s interactive and broadcast divisions.

Zell’s replacement comes exactly one year after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it was being crushed by a $13 billion debt.

To reverse its tough econmic situation the company recently sold the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts family and has been looking to sell other valuable assets like the Tribune Tower on Michigan Ave.

Among its properties, the company still owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and WGN-TV and radio.

Durbin Statement Following President's Address Outlining Strategy in Afghanistan

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
December 1, 2009

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement after President Barack Obama outlined his strategy for the war in Afghanistan in an address earlier this evening.

“President Obama asked for time to make his decision on a new policy in Afghanistan. I am going to take some time to think through the proposal he presented tonight.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Raja Prevails in Petition Challenge

From the Campaign Office of Raja Krishnamoorthi for Comptroller

Former Deputy Illinois Treasurer Raja (RAH-jah) Krishnamoorthi (krish-nuh-MOOR-thee) today prevailed in beating back a challenge to his nominating petitions for Illinois State Comptroller which means Krishnamoorthi's name will appear on the February ballot.

“I’ve been running for this office for months with detailed plans to protect the taxpayers and open up state government to its citizens,” Krishnamoorthi said. “My campaign collected thousands of signatures from voters throughout our state who are tired of business as usual and want to bring real reform and openness to Springfield.”

Krishnamoorthi filed the maximum number of 10,000 nominating petition signatures on October 26 with the Illinois State Board of Elections. More than double the 5,000 signatures required by state law to get on the February primary ballot, the signatures for Krishnamoorthi came from counties throughout the state of Illinois.
Thousands of those signatures came from near his hometown of Peoria where his parents have lived in the same house for nearly 30 years.

Even so, the petition challenge questioned the validity of Krishnamoorthi's own father's signature on the nominating petitions.

"Questioning the legitimacy of my own father's signature highlights what is wrong in Illinois politics," Krishnamoorthi said. "The time for these insider games and insider politics is over. Taxpayers need a watchdog to protect their hard earned dollars, and I look forward to serving the people of Illinois as their financial watchdog."

Krishnamoorthi served as a Special Assistant Attorney General, helping to establish an anti-corruption unit, and as Deputy Treasurer of Illinois, he helped bring significant reforms to the office and oversaw the custody and administration of billions of dollars in state funds. Previously, Krishnamoorthi served as a board member and audit committee chairman of the Illinois Housing Development Authority where he helped thousands of Illinois families find affordable housing.

If elected, Krishnamoorthi would become the first Asian American to hold elected statewide office in Illinois. A lawyer and policy expert, Krishnamoorthi, 36, worked on President Barack Obama’s successful 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate, serving first as issues director and then as a senior adviser. Krishnamoorthi also advised Obama during his presidential campaign and his 2000 congressional campaign.

Seniors Reminded To Apply NOW Online for Illinois Cares Rx to Avoid a Break in Coverage

From the Illinois Department on Aging

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Department on Aging Director Charles D. Johnson is reminding Illinois seniors to sign up now for Illinois Cares Rx to avoid a break in coverage and to ensure coverage begins on January 1. Seniors and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply online because it is the fastest way to get approved. Illinois Cares Rx is the state’s prescription drug assistance program that provides wrap-around prescription drug coverage to fill in the gaps created by Medicare Part D. Processing for the online application takes about four weeks and those who apply now would avoid a break in coverage and ensure coverage begins on January 1.

“If you haven’t applied for the Illinois Cares Rx drug coverage program this year because your income was over the limit, or you didn’t think you were eligible, I encourage you to apply,” said Director Johnson. “Seniors who have access to the Internet may file for Illinois Cares Rx online so that you can get your benefits faster. And if you don’t own a computer, I recommend either reaching out to family members who do own computers, visit your local Area Agency on Aging or senior centers, or contact a SHIP volunteer in your community. And remember, if you have any questions, you can always call the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966.”

To assist those who may need extra help to apply, the Illinois Department of Insurance’s Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) is offering free, one-on-one counseling services and in communities across the state to assist Medicare-eligible individuals during the open enrollment period. For a list of SHIP volunteers, visit the SHIP Web site or call SHIP toll-free at 1-800-548-9034.

“The cost of prescription drugs has escalated to the point of being unaffordable for many of the people who rely on them most, especially seniors and people with disabilities,” said Healthcare and Family Services Director Barry S. Maram. “No one should have to go without the medications that keep them healthy, which is why I strongly encourage seniors and people with disabilities to see whether they qualify for prescription drug assistance though Illinois Cares Rx.”

In addition to reminding seniors and people with disabilities to reapply now to avoid a break in coverage, the state is also noting changes that will benefit more enrollees.

A new law will make it easier for some to get into the program. Last month, Governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 366 into law to expand the Circuit Breaker program, which includes the Illinois Cares Rx program, property tax relief grant and a license plate discount. The new law raises the income eligibility. By allowing higher incomes, more seniors and persons with disabilities will be eligible to receive the state’s prescription drug assistance. The new limits effective on January 1, 2010 will be:

$27,610 (currently $22,218) – for a household size of one
$36,635 (currently $29,480) – for a household size of two
$45,657 (currently $36,740) – for a household size of three or more

More good news is that the medications available to Illinois Cares Rx enrollees also have been expanded.

In *2008 235,236 applied online, compared to *2007 when 158,888 applied online and 75,288 in *2006, the first year the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) had made the Illinois Cares Rx application available online. *Each year listed accounts for the previous claim year.

Before logging on to the Internet, individuals should have the following information available: Social Security number(s), amount of property taxes paid in 2008, amount of rent paid in 2008, and a copy of 2008 federal tax returns.

Seniors with questions about Illinois Cares Rx may log on to or call the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966.

Durbin to Host Delegation Briefing on Thomson Correctional Center

From the Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced that TOMORROW, December 2, he will host a briefing for members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation to discuss the Thomson Correctional Center in Carroll County, Illinois as a possible site for a new federal maximum security prison.

If the Thomson Correctional Center is purchased by the federal government, the seven-county area surrounding the facility is expected to experience an estimated increase in employment of between 3,100 and 3,800 jobs in the first four years of operation. The ongoing operation of the prison is estimated to generate about 2,800 jobs that will be filled by people residing in Illinois. In the same time period, these jobs generated by the facility will produce a cumulative total of between $793 million and $1.015 billion in local earnings.

Representatives of the Departments of Defense and Justice (Bureau of Prisons) along with State of Illinois officials including the Director of the Illinois State Police, Jonathon Monken, will also attend tomorrow’s meeting.