This week was a busy one in Springfield! As we get closer to the end of this legislative session, things are rapidly picking up. I feel optimistic about what we’re going to be able to accomplish these last couple weeks. I am going to give it my all to support the bills that bring the best and most positive change to our community.
Today, I have a lot to share with you, news both in-district and from Springfield. I hope this knowledge helps you to better understand what’s going on in our state. Thank you for making our communities what they are.
Rep. Kevin Schmidt
VIDEO: Rep. Schmidt Honors Briana Morales, the 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year
I was grateful for the opportunity to honor Briana Morales last Thursday on the house floor for her accomplishment of winning the 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year Award. You can check out the full video below!
Statement Regarding the Verdict of the ‘ComEd Four’ Trial
I released the following statement following the verdict of the ‘ComEd Four’ trial:
“Today’s actions in court are an indictment of the culture of corruption which was allowed to thrive under Speaker Madigan’s inner circle. We must take stronger action to restore ethical behavior in Springfield. If we don’t, the problems will only continue to worsen. Illinoisans should be furious and we must gather in one voice to demand that this kind of behavior is stopped and prevented in the future.”
Arbor Day Gardening and Health Expo
Last weekend, I visited the Arbor Day Gardening and Health Expo in East St. Louis where they were facilitating urban gardening in the region. At the event, there were health screenings, gardening workshops, food trucks, fitness classes, and more.
Food Desert and Job Concerns in the Metro East
According to the USDA, a majority of the city surrounding the now permanently closed Walmart in Cahokia Heights and the also now permanently closed Save-A-Lot in East St. Louis to the north are considered to be low-income and low-access. This reality puts added stress on an area already struggling with access to food and jobs that will help them earn a living wage.
“Anytime that a business or grocery leaves an area it’s always concerning,” said Meredith Knopp, president and CEO of the St. Louis Area Foodbank. “It’s definitely going to be challenging to the folks that live and call Cahokia Heights home.”
Though a Schnucks and Aldi exist in Cahokia Heights, it is still determined to be a low-access city because in urban areas such as this, it means that the nearest grocery store is over a mile away. At the same time Cahokia Heights has lost its Walmart store, East St. Louis has lost its Save-A-Lot, a regular grocery spot for locals in the area.
Not only do these store closures cause food access concerns, but also job loss to an area in need. There were 122 employees at the Walmart in Cahokia Heights. While Walmart claims that all employees were offered the option to transfer to work at another location, that may not be a realistic option for those unable to commute further to work every day.
With a median income of less than $30,000, Cahokia Heights needs job opportunities for its citizens. They also need easy access to the food and household supplies within a reasonable distance like the Walmart once offered. Many in the community do not have the luxury of consistent transportation and having the nearest grocery store miles away from their home can cause huge concerns. Many of these same concerns exist in nearby East St. Louis. I promise that I am working to find solutions to these urgent issues that are thorough and sustainable.
Fox 2 News Appearance to Discuss Washington Park Municipal Building
Last Friday, I appeared on Fox 2 News in St. Louis to discuss the destroyed Washington Park Municipal Building and legislation I have put forth in Springfield to help the community get the funding they need to rebuild. You can watch the full story at the link below.
‘ComEd Four’ found guilty on all counts in bribery trial tied to ex-Speaker Madigan. A federal jury on Tuesday convicted three ex-lobbyists and the former CEO of electric utility Commonwealth Edison for their involvement in an alleged bribery scheme aimed at longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and Mike McClain – the utility’s longtime contract lobbyist and close confidant of Madigan – were each found guilty of nine counts of conspiracy bribery and falsifying records. Former City Club of Chicago President Jay Doherty, who also served for decades as an external lobbyist for the utility, and John Hooker, a former ComEd executive turned contract lobbyist for the company, were each found guilty of six counts.
Prosecutors alleged the foursome gave Madigan allies jobs and contracts at the utility in exchange for an easier path for ComEd-supported legislation in Springfield. […]
The six-week trial was borne of a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that has rocked Illinois politics and ultimately unseated Madigan, who had been the longest-serving legislative leader in the nation. The former speaker faces related criminal racketeering charges in his own trial, set for next April. […]
Tuesday’s verdict could bolster prosecutors’ case against Madigan, who, in the course of the trial, was revealed as the initial target of the feds’ investigation which opened in late 2014.
Since then, the probe has grown to encompass more than a dozen high-profile players in the state’s political ecosystem.
The jury deliberated for approximately 27 hours since getting the case last Tuesday afternoon. A sentencing date was not set before court adjourned.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict, jury member Amanda Schnitker Sayers said the jury grew to like the defendants over the course of the trial.
“All in all, they’re good people that made bad decisions,” she said.
Schnitker Sayers said the jury stayed away from discussing Madigan outside of his role in the case at hand, but said they came to believe the speaker’s involvement with ComEd “was key.”
“He really did cause this all to happen,” she said. “If it wouldn’t have been for him, these people would not have been in the position that they would need to commit crimes in the first place.”
Illinois House Republicans demand ethics reform following ComEd Four guilty verdict. Illinois House Republicans renewed calls for ethics reform less than an hour after four of former House Speaker Mike Madigan’s closest allies with ties to Commonwealth Edison were found guilty of corruption.
The House GOP caucus leaders told reporters Tuesday night that the Springfield system has allowed bad actors and political insiders to succeed at the expense of honest hardworking Illinoisans.
House Republican Leader Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) stressed that every state lawmaker should be compelled to work with her caucus to pass accountability measures.
The GOP members said ethics reform should be the General Assembly’s top priority.
“How many indictments is too many? How many more court rulings do we need to make unethical behavior stop,” McCombie asked. “We will always be ready to work, put ideas forward, and fight for what’s right.”
The Republican leadership team said lawmakers should pass bills to halt the revolving door for legislators becoming lobbyists and end “pay to play politics.”
Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) said the Legislative Inspector General should also be given subpoena powers to help the office perform thorough investigations and root out bad behavior. […]
“Illinois’ reputation for public corruption is sadly well-earned,” Windhorst said. “But our state’s reputation is not beyond saving. It can be rebuilt. Let us delay no longer.” […]
Windhorst and Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) serve on the House Ethics & Ethics Committee. However, both men noted that the group has not taken a single vote or held subject matter hearings about ethics reform.
“Today should be a wake up call,” Windhorst said. “It should start immediately.”
The House Ethics & Elections Committee is not scheduled to meet this week.
“This is embarrassing. For too long, we have allowed the poor ethical behavior of people like Mike Madigan, his associates, and others to become the way we do business in the state of Illinois,” Spain said. “Unfortunately, the Madigan way is still the way in which our government works here in Springfield. It has to stop now.”
Revenue numbers for April show sharp decline in State revenues. Tax receipts for the month, which saw the final submission of many 2022 income tax returns, dropped $1.84 billion below year-earlier numbers. While a decline had been projected, this shortfall was dramatically higher than the projections. Personal Income Taxes paid to the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR), which includes income tax payments from individuals, trusts, estates, and pass-through entities, fell $1.76 billion below the receipts paid to IDOR in April 2022.
The sharp decline in April 2023 revenue will have a chilling effect on overall revenue numbers during the remainder of FY23 and into FY24. The trends in Illinois economic activity that led to this payment gap cannot be expected to go away. Based on these April numbers, the nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) has reduced its projection of the State’s FY23 tax-fueled general funds cash flows by $728 million.
CGFA has also been compelled to adjust its numbers for FY24. After reallocations of certain categories of cash flows, the FY24 numbers – like the FY23 numbers – are now in precarious balance. The State expects to bring in barely enough money to meet its existing spending commitments for FY24, the fiscal year that will start on July 1, 2023. Unfortunately, many spending items within the State’s budget are rising fast. New issues are demanding attention. CGFA’s numbers and revenue projections mean that there is now no new net State money to meet these demands for additional State spending. House Republicans will redouble their efforts to help the State get control over its massive, momentum-driven need to continually spend money the State does not have.
Expected cost for Illinois’ noncitizen health care program grows to $1.1 billion. New estimate represents 400% increase from Pritzker’s February budget estimate. The estimated cost for Illinois to continue providing health care coverage to noncitizens who are otherwise ineligible for Medicaid benefits has been revised upward to $1.1 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.
As of the end of March, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services estimated it would cost $990 million to fund the program that provides state-funded health care to individuals age 42 and older who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid if not for their citizenship status.
The new estimate, shared by IDHFS Director Theresa Eagleson in testimony to a Senate appropriations committee Wednesday night, is now $880 million beyond the $220 million estimate included in Gov. JB Pritzker’s February budget proposal.
The administration also estimated the current-year expenditures for the program at $220 million, but it has cost over $400 million thus far with two months to go in the fiscal year.
IDHFS chief of staff Ben Winick told the committee that the original estimate relied on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data to estimate the eligible population, then assumed a certain percentage would enroll.
But both the cost of providing care and the number of enrollees have far outpaced estimates. […]
The projections are now based on the program’s current month-over-month growth rate of roughly 10 percent. The number of enrollees is expected to grow to over 120,000 in Fiscal Year 2024. The previous estimate was 98,500 enrollees. […]
The same Senate committee heard a proposal from Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, that would further expand Medicaid coverage to noncitizens age 19 and older. That would cost another $380 million, per IDHFS estimates.
Two weeks ago, Illinois House Republican leaders called for a moratorium on expansion and a State audit of Illinois’ billion-dollar health benefits program for undocumented immigrants.
Sustaining & Protecting At-Risk Kids working group presents proposals to fix DCFS. At the beginning of the 103rd General Assembly, House Republican Leader Tony McCombie established several working groups within the House Republican Caucus to develop legislation for the priorities of the caucus and the people of Illinois. On Thursday, State Representative Tom Weber and his colleagues provided an update on the progress of the Sustaining & Protecting At-Risk Kids working group, which Weber leads.
“Protecting vulnerable children is not, and should not, be a partisan issue,” said Weber. “Protecting them is our most basic responsibility as a state, and I’ve spoken with many legislators on both sides of the aisle who agree. That’s why we are proposing House Bill 3471, the AJ Freund Act, to allow local law enforcement to conduct their own abuse or neglect investigations and require DCFS to share their investigation reports with local County State’s Attorneys to play a more active role in prosecuting abusers. We are also proposing House Bill 3002 to create an independent Ombudsperson to investigate complaints against DCFS, provide recommendations for policy changes and report to law enforcement when necessary.
“We believe these proposals, and others can have a real impact on fixing DCFS and I hope they will be considered for a vote before the spring session ends.”
Also at the press conference was State Rep. Steve Reick, who discussed additional proposals:
- HB 2935 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to establish and operate a caseload tracking system which shall be designed to monitor and evaluate the interrelationship between client case plans, the Department’s case tracking system, and the work responsibilities of the Department.
- HB 2937 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to submit to the General Assembly no later than March 1 of each year a report in relation to the ongoing case files of the Department, the caseload tracking system or systems operated by the Department, the ratio of active case files to active Department personnel, and how appropriations to the Department can be structured to incentivize the Department to manage its caseload and to reduce the burden of individual case responsibilities upon individual Department personnel.
- HB 3614 – In a provision concerning foster placements, provides that prior to final approval for placement of a child, the Department of Children and Family Services shall request that the Illinois State Police conduct a criminal records background check of the prospective foster or adoptive parent, including fingerprint-based checks of national crime information databases.
- HB 3615 – Provides that the Department of Children and Family Services shall initialize, but not complete, the move of Family First functions, carried under the Act and the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (Title IV-E of the federal Social Security Act) from the Department of Children and Family Services to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
- HB 3618 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to develop a plan to phase in mandatory intact family services for at-risk families who are in need of continuing assistance and monitoring following a child abuse or neglect investigation.