Senate Week in Review: March 22-26

SPRINGFIELD – Federal census data will not be available until September, yet the State Senate majority continues to push ahead with drawing new legislative maps. Without the most current data, the process has transparency issues and sidelines Illinoisans who will be affected by the redistricting changes.

Also during the week, the General Assembly passed a bill that would increase liabilities and payouts for personal injury lawsuits, harming those working in healthcare professions, as well as struggling small businesses.

In other news, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is encouraging Illinoisans to be prepared for severe weather.

Redistricting continues despite outdated data

This week, the Senate Redistricting Committee continued its rushed efforts to finish the redistricting process despite growing concerns about the public’s limited involvement and the use of outdated and inaccurate data.

Members of the Democrat majority claim they want input from Illinoisans when it comes to redrawing legislative districts. They claim that citizens can submit their own proposals using a tool and portal that is provided by the Legislature. Yet, neither the tool nor portal has been available for the public to use because of the redistricting process’ fast pace and delays with the new census data. In fact, the General Assembly will not have up-to-date census data until September. 

Rather than delaying the redistricting process until the up-to-date census data is released, Democrats continue to hold hearings as they attempt to finish before June 30. If the legislative maps are not finished by the June 30 deadline, the Illinois Constitution automatically shifts the redistricting process to a bipartisan commission.  Instead of relinquishing control of the map-making process, members of the Democrat majority have decided it is in their best interest to use faulty data and limited public engagement to create the new maps.

State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) says the General Assembly should not rush the redistricting process, and should instead, use the census delay as an opportunity to reform Illinois’ flawed system that allows politicians to pick their constituents, instead of constituents picking their lawmakers.

Throughout Illinois, there is overwhelming support for redistricting reform and the creation of an independent redistricting commission.

The Senate Redistricting Committee will continue to meet next week.

Controversial bill impacts healthcare workers and small businesses

On March 25, the Senate passed controversial legislation that increases liabilities and payouts for all personal injury lawsuits, in spite of the fact that throughout this pandemic Illinois healthcare workers have answered the call to serve in a time of crisis.

Under Senate Bill 72, a prejudgment interest rate of 6 percent is added onto judgment awarded by the court for personal injury or wrongful death cases. Previously, prejudgment interest was only applied to damages in specific cases that did not include personal injury or wrongful death, and was awarded at a 5 percent interest rate.

Sen. Stewart says this legislation will negatively impact struggling small-business owners who are trying to get people back to work. The 45th District Senator says that without question, people who have been harmed by negligence or wrongdoing deserve to be compensated; however, this legislation puts healthcare workers and small businesses at risk and unfairly punishes any party who chooses to dispute claims against them.

Senate Bill 72 now heads to the Governor, who is expected to sign it.

Report: Veterans’ Homes lack standardized policies

The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (USDVA) has released a joint report that finds Illinois’ four state-run veterans’ homes lack standardized infection prevention policies even though previous audits recommended their implementation.

The report is a result of the Interagency Infection Prevention Project (IIPP), which was created after the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, which claimed the lives of 36 residents. The IIPP was created to “support an integrated and comprehensive response to COVID-19” at the state’s veterans’ homes.  Members of the IIPP team consisted of an infection control manager from the USDVA, two infection prevention consultants from IDPH, and a medical consultant from IDPH.

In the report, the IIPP found that IDVA and IDPH still hadn’t implemented uniform policies across its facilities despite the fact that the Illinois Auditor General recommended it in their May 2019 audit of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Quincy Veterans’ Home. 

The IIPP report makes six broad recommendations for improving the response to COVID-19 and other potential viral outbreaks at the four veterans’ homes. Those recommendations are:

Develop and implement system-wide policies, procedures, and practices for infection prevention;
Expand system capacity for infection prevention;
Broaden and deepen the perspective of the infection preventionists, positioning them to be conveners, coordinators, and communicators for Interdisciplinary Team efforts;
Strengthen staff-wide training;
Monitor adherence to policy and procedure to identify and correct gaps in a timely manner. Active, shared staff participation extends the reach of the infection prevention program and fosters staff ownership of key infection prevention processes; and
Engage top management directly with front-line staff through Interdisciplinary Team rounds for infection prevention.

The full report is available here.

IEMA promotes Severe Weather Preparedness

With spring just under way, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is promoting the importance of Severe Weather Preparedness.

To ensure Illinoisans are aware of potentially dangerous weather, IEMA is promoting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s free app that provides notifications and updated information about severe weather.

They also recommend a weather radio with backup batteries that is programmed to send out warnings. Weather radios can be programmed by ZIP code, which can guarantee you receive vital emergency information.

To be fully prepared for severe weather, create an emergency plan and secure an emergency supply kit that includes batteries, non-plug-in cell phone chargers, water, first aid kits, sleeping bags, non-electric can openers and foods that require no cooking.

More information about what to do before, during and after a storm is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.