Edited by Peggy Boyer Long
THE PEOPLE'S COURT?
Citizens could have a hand in disciplining judges
Illinois voters will decide this fall whether to add two governor-appointed citizens to the state panel that disciplines judges, one of two constitutional changes Gov. Jim Edgar proposed in his State of the State. The other proposal establishing a cabinet-level Department of Education never gained widespread support.
Edgar said the Illinois Courts Commission's "impartiality was called into question and our public trust in the judicial system was diminished" last spring when the panel handed down the most lenient punishment possible to one of its own. Illinois Supreme Court Justice James Heiple received a written reprimand last April when he could have been removed from the bench on charges he abused his authority to evade traffic tickets.
The commission was also criticized for:
holding the Heiple hearing in Collinsville, away from the state's major media markets;
forbidding police to testify, but allowing Heiple to speak;
initially banning tape recorders and cameras from the proceedings.
Most damaging to the commission's credibility: Fellow Supreme Court Justice Moses W. Harrison II, who headed the panel, heard Heiple's version of the altercation with police during a casual conversation before charges were filed.
Several lawmakers criticized those actions. Indeed, Springfield Republican Rep. Gwenn Klingler introduced a resolution to investigate impeachment of Heiple. A special House committee held several days of hearings before voting against impeachment.
If the amendment is approved November 3 by three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election, the governor will appoint two non-judges to the commission. The amendment would require commission members to step down if a conflict of interest arises. A member of the Supreme Court, for example, could not sit in judgment of a fellow justice.
Another proposed amendment would have consolidated the state comptroller's and treasurer's offices, a move supporters say would save millions. (See Illinois Issues, February 1998, page 42.) The effort, which would have eliminated the comptroller's office by 2002, failed to get out of the legislature. "If we want to eliminate an office, let's look at the lieutenant governor's office," Peru Democratic Sen. Patrick Welch said during floor debate. Jennifer Davis
High-tech tracking for young offenders
No more name games. That's what a new fingerprint database will mean to this state's juvenile delinquents. "They almost all learn they can play with their names and not get caught," says Bob Benjamin, spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's office. The reason: no central repository for juvenile crime information. Minors could go to every municipality in the Chicago area and commit crimes with different identities without a connection being made, Benjamin says. "The arresting agency is on their own," adds Illinois State Police spokesman Mark McDonald.
This will change with the state police's new database, part of a juvenile justice overhaul. When the system is launched in January 2000, offenders as young as 10 will be fingerprinted. The data will be stored in a central computer. Arresting agencies will then be able to get complete information about a juvenile's record within 12 hours. Modeled after a system in Minnesota, the database is expected to cost between $5.5 million and $9.9 million, according to McDonald. The difference depends on the number of "live scan" fingerprint machines installed throughout the state. The higher figure would buy 83.
Still, some experts worry the technology won't be used to its full potential. "The bottom line is, several states have systems in place at the state police level, but they don't have information in them," says Eileen Poe-Yamagata, a research analyst with the National Center for Juvenile Justice. "It's hard to get local police departments to report arrest information completely."
That shouldn't be a problem in Illinois, where reporting to the state police will be required every time a juvenile is arrested. Police departments will only have to fingerprint for felony arrests. Jessica Winski
8 / June 1998 Illinois Issues
The spring session
Anxious to hit the campaign trail, Illinois lawmakers wrapped up business in record time. Before adjourning, though, they sent these measures to the governor.
Worried that as many as 500,000 Illinois children may be uninsured, lawmakers approved a $117 million proposal to extend health coverage to more than 200,000 low-income kids.
Gov. Jim Edgar is expected to agree. He launched KidCare on a small scale in January. This expansion, to begin August 1, works much like Medicaid. Minors would be eligible if their families' incomes are 33 percent to 85 percent above the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that amounts to $21,000 to $30,000 a year.
The program also would help pay the premiums of low-income parents who can't afford health insurance at work. And it authorizes the University of Illinois to conduct a study on who is uninsured, why they are not covered and where they live. "We have national and state numbers, but we don't know specifically where the problem is," says Marcia Armstrong, assistant to the governor for human services. "This will give us an idea of where we need to focus our outreach." Preliminary results are expected in December, with a final report due in April.
The federal government recently upped its estimate of Medicaid-eligible children who are not enrolled. Nearly 25 percent of those who are eligible for Medicaid don't use it. That's an estimated 4.7 million children nationwide, according to a May report from the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Community social service providers got a 3 percent cost-of-living increase. Caregivers who work for community agencies that have state contracts would see their pay go up in January. They asked for 16 percent. "We're just happy they agreed to it after 19 months," says Jeff Stauter of the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. The tab: $122 million.
Public school teachers finally won a boost in pension benefits. Lawmakers, Gov. Edgar and teachers' unions reached a compromise in the last two days of the session to increase the formula at which retirement benefits are calculated. It would change the sliding scale to a flat 2.2 rate for each year of service. That means the average teacher's monthly pension will rise 17.2 percent, or $310. The plan covers about 185,000 downstate teachers and 30,000 Chicago teachers. They will pay about half of the cost through a 1 percent increase in their retirement contribution. School districts and the state will split the rest. The state's share will be $32 million.
They finally did it: The "most significant campaign finance reform legislation passed in Illinois in 24 years," according to former U.S. Senator Paul Simon. He and former Gov. Edgar press aide Mike Lawrence headed a bipartisan panel of lawmakers who developed the legislation. This means "no more calling legislators out of the chamber and handing them checks in the rotunda," says Hinsdale Republican Sen. Kirk Dillard, a panel member. Face-to-face solicitation and acceptance of contributions on state property would be banned. The bill:
prohibits personal use of campaign funds, though it would allow politicians to convert the funds once, that amount cannot be higher than the cash balance on hand as of June 30, 1998.
bars state officials from accepting most gifts from lobbyists or those who do business with the state.
prohibits legislators, statewide officers and candidates from holding fundraisers in or near Springfield during the final 90 days of the legislative session.
requires disclosure prior to an election of contributions over $500 received in the closing days of a campaign.
No limits were put on campaign contributions or spending.
Low-income women would have to report incidents of rape and incest to police before receiving public money for abortions. Further, the bill prohibits use of taxpayer dollars for abortions to protect the health of the mother. Edgar said he hadn't reviewed the bill, but: "I don't think a woman should be denied that choice because she's poor."
Two measures cracking down on inebriated drivers are likely to win the governor's blessing. One would punish those who drive under the influence of "intoxicating compounds," including paint or glue. A second would make permanent a pilot program that keeps drunken drivers from starting their cars. The ignition interlock program, started in 1994, connects electronic breath alcohol monitoring devices to a vehicle's ignition system. The driver would cover the cost.
Illinois is the only state that doesn't license advanced practice registered nurses. That would change under legislation that went to the governor. The proposal would allow such nurses to prescribe some medications.
Parents 90 days or more behind in court-ordered child support payments could lose their chance to get a driver's license or vehicle registration. The measure would provide a new tool, says the secretary of state's office. With a court order, that office can already suspend the licenses of those owing child support (See page 28.)
Illinois environmental agencies won't be able to adopt new regulations to reduce greenhouse gases under a proposal headed to the governor's desk. The bill responds to a proposed international treaty governing emissions by industrialized nations. That treaty, negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, would force the United States to cut emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012 (see Illinois Issues, April 1998, page 28). Utilities, industry and agricultural groups oppose the treaty, citing the potential for loss of business to those countries not subject to the cuts. The bill prevents Illinois agencies from taking any steps toward fulfilling the "Kyoto protocol" without first obtaining General Assembly approval.
Jennifer Davis and Jessica Winski
Illinois Issues June 1998 / 9
PLENTY FOR EVERYBODY
Lawmakers approve the new state budget
After what lawmakers and Gov. Jim Edgar called the easiest and most cordial budget negotiations they could remember, the General Assembly approved a $38 billion state spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The economy helped. Unemployment is down; revenues are up. And everybody got something.
Legislators were able to fund all of Edgar's and most of their own priorities and set aside a $700 million end-of-year balance and provide tax relief they can brag about in campaign ads.
In program spending, kids were big winners. The budget includes $117 million to help more than 200,000 low-income children get health insurance. And schools got a boost in spending the largest increase ever: $722 million for elementary and secondary and higher education.
As for bricks and mortar, lawmakers managed to give themselves $180 million for so-called "member initiatives," including dollars to repair roads and sewers throughout the state. The leadership was especially generous to those who may be vulnerable in the coming election. Freshman Republican Sen. Judy Myers of Danville, for example, will get $1.5 million for repairs on that city's civic center. She will be running to retain a seat she was appointed to in midterm.
Edgar's final budget is also the first time he's been able to set aside significant dollars for building projects of his own.
As one Edgar spokesman put it: "We got everything we wanted."
Lawmakers agreed to double the annual exemption on the personal income tax. Over the next three years, the exemption will rise from $1,000 to $2,000. Individual taxpayers will save about $9 next year.
Some low-income senior citizens will see additional savings through the property tax circuit breaker. The program has been expanded to another 49,000 households. The state's cost is $8.3 million.
But these savings dim in comparison to the windfall a handful of big businesses will see. Indeed, when the business tax break is fully implemented three years from now, the Illinois Department of Revenue says, five corporations will share $60 million in annual savings. The income tax on multistate corporations currently factors in sales, payroll and property. Under the new formula, only sales will be taxed.
Another tax change was mandated by the Illinois Supreme Court. The tax on insurers was ruled unconstitutional because it was levied only on out-of- state companies. The new tax is smaller .5 percent instead of 2 percent but everyone pays. Thus, the state doesn't expect to lose money.
Bricks and mortar
All of the governor's building projects were fully funded. And more. (See Illinois Issues, April, page 9.)
Edgar had asked for $4.9 million for planning a proposed $40 million Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. He got $10.4 million.
"Yes, it kind of took my breath away," says Susan Mogerman, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which would oversee the library. "This is an extraordinary vote of confidence that will ensure continuity beyond the initial planning stages."
He got $30 million for a new Department of Natural Resources building in Springfield.
And he got $1.7 million for a Meriwether Lewis and William dark interpretative center in southern Illinois. It will mark the site where the two began their historic 1804 exploration of the Louisiana Purchase.
Jennifer Davis and Jessica Winski
10 / June 1998 Illinois Issues
HUG A TREE TODAY
The state goes paperless
Environmentalists would be proud:
The state will no longer conduct business at the expense of trees.
At least that's what some are planning.
State Comptroller Loleta Didrickson's office is leading the way to this virtual future with a little help from SAMS. Didrickson says her Statewide Accounting Management System controversial though it has been means 70 percent of that office's commercial transactions are now paperless. Further, she expects the figure to reach 95 percent by the end of the year. And should the system crash, there's no need to worry because all of the information is backed up on an off-site system.
"Wal-Mart did this [went paperless]. That's how they've been able to bring such values to their customers," Didrickson says.
Craig Bazzani, vice president of business and finance for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, agrees: "It's what all the corporations are doing now." In the last two years, his university has gotten rid of 700,000 paper transactions per year. Those reductions have come mainly in the area of purchasing. But in the next few years, Bazzani says the school will be "attack- ing student systems," from financial aid on up. "Our academics have always been excellent," says Bazzani. "On the business side, we're now trying to climb the ladder to that same level of excellence."
State agencies are slowly moving in the same direction, says Melissa Moseley, spokeswoman for the Department of Central Management Services. In most departments, information is still generated on paper and then entered into a computer.
"Government shouldn't be dragging its feet," says Didrickson. She says her office has not only improved productivity and efficiency, but it has experienced savings. "The savings on postage alone is substantial," she says, though her office has yet to calculate an exact figure.
Still, the University of Illinois hasn't traveled down this road for financial gain. Indeed, the school hasn't seen any cost savings yet. Rather, Bazzani hopes going paperless will have the same effect Didrickson says she's had: more efficiency and productivity.
"Before we took advantage of the new technology, you didn't know whose desk the paper was on," Bazzani says. "Now you can actually track down the information you need."
Illinois Issues June 1998 / 11
WEB SITE OF THE MONTH
Before louring Illinois, put yourself in a cyber state
AII packed and ready to go? Not so fast. If you're planning a vacation, or even a day trip, don't leave home without checking out a premier travel-planning site on the World Wide Web: Enjoy Illinois, brought to you by the state tourism bureau.
Through Enjoy Illinois, located at www.enjoyillinois.com, you can find places to stay, things to do, attractions to see, events to experience. And through the site's Trip Planner, you can custom-design a tour to fit your needs, time, interests and budget.
The Trip Planner is easy and helpful, enabling you to search the site by geographic location, interest or key words. The planner asks you to set criteria for the search, such as distance range or whether pets are allowed. Once you have a listing of events or accommodations or restaurants, you can click on the suitcase icons to add those choices to your personalized trip plan.
For example, you click on the southern Illinois section of an interactive map of the state to head, say, to the "land of rolling hills, sparkling lakes and truly great outdoors." The Trip Planner asks what sorts of interests you want to explore, from hotels and camping to food, events, shopping and nature. It then searches the region for you and responds with detailed listings. You could stay at the Best Inn of America in Metropolis, a 63-room motel with Jacuzzi suites and a Special K. breakfast, just four miles from the riverboat. Or you might prefer the Hidden Lake Bed & Breakfast on historic Pansy Hill in Jonesboro, where you can get a gourmet breakfast on the screened veranda, weather permitting, while watching wildlife graze in the yard. You could take a hike on 18 miles of trails in the Cache River State Natural Area, the state's largest, or drift through its six miles of canoe trails. Or you might enjoy bringing the past to life at Fort Massac State Park along the Ohio River at Metropolis, where "living history" weekends occur throughout the year, examining military history that predates the Revolutionary War.
You can get dates of events, hours of operation for various attractions, prices and a host of other valuable information needed to make planning a trip both simple and efficient. The site includes a Hispanic section for Spanish-speaking travelers, information on group tours, a meeting planner and weekend getaways that are theme trips geared to the taste and budget of just about any traveler.
The tourism bureau promises to take you "a million miles from Monday," and there is enough information that you might not make it back. Donald Sevener
12/ June 1998 Illinois Issues
There could be a political price when private foundations fund public projects; Federalism takes another U-turn
Governing reports lawmakers in a number of states are charging private foundations with using their grants to buy public policy. In the magazine's April issue, Rob Gurwitt takes note of controversies in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Kentucky over social programs funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts and other foundations.
"Ultimately," Gurwitt writes, "what many of these critics believe is that foundations seek to promote by stealth an agenda more liberal than either the legislature or majority opinion in the state would feel comfortable with. The foundations' response, that their programs usually have been approved even requested by the state's political leadership, tends to fall on deaf ears."
One fact, Gurwitt argues, is beyond dispute: "Foundations are becoming a presence in American public life at the state and local level as never before."
The Christian Science Monitor reports the move to shift authority from Washington to the states dubbed devolution may have run its course. In the April 22 issue, Peter Grier writes that Congress is considering at least a dozen proposals to centralize economic and political decisions. Grier believes "counter devolution" is occurring in two areas: business and economic regulation and dangerous citizen behavior. He cites debate over a national 0.08 blood alcohol limit for drivers. Other preemption proposals: a prospective national tobacco agreement; a measure to set minimum jail terms for underage criminals; and a proposal to bar states from levying taxes on the sale of goods through the Internet.
Devolution took off after Republicans swept Congress in 1994. Its most significant legacy is welfare reform, a move that gave the states freedom to structure aid programs. But, Grier argues, power is flowing back to Washington. "[E]ven some GOP revolutionaries now appear to have learned the political truism that it's tough to let your own authority walk away unused." He identifies reasons: new technologies that increasingly ignore state and local boundaries; the rise of national banking and utility industries; and the increasing success of special interests seeking federal solutions.
State Legislatures magazine provides more details on the counter devolution trend, arguing in its April issue that devolution and preemption have been occurring simultaneously throughout the 1990s. Still, Carl Tubbesing, the deputy executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures, writes that only new legislation on workforce training and the pending rewrite of the federal transportation law would continue devolution.
He also puts the evolving economy and technological advances among the reasons for the change. "The Internet, computer networks, cellular phones and all of their technological and telecommunications cousins have shrunk the world. They ignore state boundaries, present daunting challenges to state regulatory schemes and tax structures, and tempt federal officials to supplant state regulation and taxation with national approaches."
As for the changing nature of national politics, Tubbesing writes: "The cost of running for Congress has continued to rise in the 1990s substantially more than the rate of inflation. A cynic might link the increase in preemption proposals to an incumbent congressman's nearly insatiable need to raise campaign funds. Some legislative and regulatory proposals, which almost coincidentally preempt state authority, are worth billions of dollars to companies. The companies naturally marshal their lobbying resources in support or opposition to the bills and favor their congressional allies with political donations."
Peggy Boyer Long
14 / June 1998 Illinois Issues
Sam S. Manivong, Illinois Periodicals Online Coordinator