Proposal gets money into hands of business owners more quickly


04112018CM0971SPRINGFIELD – An innovative proposal from State Senator Heather Steans could help businesses and state government at the same time by paying down Illinois’ backlog of bills more quickly.

Steans’ measure would allow the state treasurer to take over debts more than 90 days old, pay the vendors and clear the bills from the state’s ledgers. The approach would enable Illinois to pay off old debts more quickly, slow the accrual of interest penalties and inject money into local economies where businesses have been harmed by the state’s ongoing budget difficulties.

“This is a winning strategy to make more headway on the bill backlog. Every taxpayer benefits,” said Steans, a Chicago Democrat and a Senate point person on budget matters.

“If the treasurer has funds sitting there unused, why shouldn’t that money logically be available for this need? It won’t solve the entire bill backlog problem, but it will get us to a resolution more quickly.”

The proposal, Senate Bill 2858, would allow the state treasurer to pay bills more than 90 days old if the vouchers in the comptroller’s office exceed funds available by $1 billion. It would save the state additional money by implementing a 0.3 percent monthly late payment interest penalty – rather than the 1 percent under current law – on balances paid off by the treasurer’s office through the Vendor Payment Program.

Last year, Illinois paid more than $1 billion in late interest penalties – an outrageous and inefficient use of taxpayer dollars that could have been directed to other needs, Steans said.

“This legislation will help stop the accrual of interest on late payments and enable us to turn around payments to companies that do business with the state in a more reasonable amount of time,” Steans said.

Senate Bill 2858 passed the Senate today and now advances to the House for further consideration.

Senator Steans on the Seante floor.

Illinois a step closer to endorsing constitutionally protected rights for women

SPRINGFIELD – After a nearly 50 year-long battle, the Illinois State Senate took a historic vote Wednesday to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and solidify equal rights for all.

“Women across the nation are rising up and pushing back against laws and policies that deny our equality,” said State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), sponsor of the measure. “By voting to ratify the ERA, Illinois lawmakers are saying to women everywhere, ‘We hear you, and we stand with you.’”

The Equal Rights Amendment declares that equality of rights will not be denied by the United States or any state on account of sex. It initially was introduced in Congress in 1923 and was sent to the states for ratification 46 years ago.

Several advancements for women’s rights, such as the Equal Pay Act and Title IX, could be repealed by a majority vote in Congress. The Executive Branch also could reduce enforcement of these acts. The ERA solidifies legal protections for women.

“Many people do not realize women have no guaranteed equal rights under the U.S. Constitution. From equal pay to equal health care access, women’s rights are in jeopardy as long as our equality is not cemented in the Constitution,” Steans said.

Decades of widespread misinformation have hindered Illinois’ ability to ratify the ERA, she added.

“For decades, opposition has argued that the ERA would open women to being drafted and that it would hurt mothers in custody or divorce battles,” Steans said. “The fact is the ERA would strengthen protections and legal standards for women.”

To date, 36 states have voted to ratify the ERA, with Nevada being the most recent. To be ratified to the Constitution, 38 states must approve the amendment.

The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration. For Illinois to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, three-fifths of House members will need to vote in support.

Steans also sponsored a measure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in 2014.

This is the first piece of legislation passed in the Senate with the support of the newly formed, bipartisan Senate Women’s Caucus.

Demand grows for intractable pain to be on Illinois’ medical marijuana approved condition list

Sen. Steans and Rep. Cassidy deliver petition signatures to the governor.SPRINGFIELD – Nearly 5,000 petition signatures asking that intractable pain be added to the list of approved conditions for Illinois’ medical marijuana program were delivered to the governor’s office today.

State Senator Heather Steans and State Representative Kelly Cassidy, both Chicago Democrats, delivered the petitions, along with a strong message about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s preference to continue appealing a judge’s ruling on the matter.

“Given a choice between showing compassion for those suffering from chronic pain or pursuing a costly legal battle, the Rauner administration chose the latter,” Steans said. “I do not believe that appealing the court’s decision is an effective use of taxpayer dollars. From the number of Illinoisans that signed this petition, I’m not the only one that seems to think so.”

In February, the Rauner administration decided to appeal a Cook County judge’s ruling to add intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions in the medical marijuana program. Intractable pain is a severe form of chronic pain. Patients with intractable pain may be prescribed opioids to cope with this condition.

"Tens of thousands of Illinois residents who are suffering from intractable pain have few choices for relief besides dangerous opiates,” Cassidy said. “Intractable pain isn't going away, but we can provide folks a safer alternative."

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Senator Steans presents legislation to leverage federal funds to support the Medicaid program.SPRINGFIELD – Hospitals that serve Medicaid patients would continue to benefit from federal funding under a measure sponsored by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) which passed the Senate today.

“I have worked with my colleagues in both chambers for several months to develop a new Medicaid Hospital Assessment Program that is fair to patients and hospitals,” said Steans. “This new program supports hospitals that serve a vital role in communities while distributing funding in a more accurate manner.”

The Medicaid Hospital Assessment Program was designed to leverage federal matching funds to cover the cost of services provided to Medicaid patients in private Illinois hospitals. Currently, hospitals receive a flat payment based on a variety of factors, such as the number of Medicaid patients served. The new program would use more recent patient data and phase in a claims-based payment model over the next six years.

“Hospitals are not reimbursed for the full cost of treating Medicaid patients and rely on these payments to help some of the neediest Illinoisans,” Steans said. “I urge the federal government to review this proposal immediately so that service to patients in Illinois will not be disrupted.”

Nearly half of the annual Medicaid payment funds are set to expire under Illinois statute on June 30, 2018. The assessment laid out in Senate Bill 1773 requires state and federal approval before it can take effect.

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