HB 2486, introduced on Wednesday, February 18, carves out exceptions to the current law that imposes regulations on people who prepare food at home and then sell it. Some readings of current law would give local public health officials the power to inspect the home kitchens of places where food is prepared for fundraising consumption, and to shut down fundraisers.

The new bill would carve out a limited exception to intrusive inspections and shutdowns. It would allow people to make baked goods, and some kinds of jams and jellies, at home. A religious, charitable, or nonprofit organization could then sell these goods for fundraising purposes.


Public health officials do not know how the daycare infants caught the virus; a search is on for the person or persons who infected five infants. The count of 14 measles cases was released on Tuesday, February 17. The extremely contagious virus broke out two weeks ago at a day care center located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

While most Illinois adults are protected from catching measles by the vaccines they have received in the past, the 13 Palatine patients were all under 12 months of age or were not old enough to get a doctor’s approval for these shots. KinderCare, operator of the daycare center identified as the principal location of the Illinois infant outbreak, has told employees at its 1,900 day care centers nationwide that they must get vaccinated for measles as a condition of being allowed to continue to work in infant rooms.


Under the Rules of the House, all House bills and most amendments are looked at and debated by committees. Members of these committees have been named previously, but the panels themselves started to meet and hear testimony and remarks from advocates and witnesses this week. House committees can approve a bill, reject a bill, or hold the bill for further debate.

Potential committee actions are posted in the General Assembly Dashboard prior to each committee hearing and Illinois voters are welcome to follow issues they are interested in. In some cases, voter-advocates may need to submit a position for or against a bill. Persons interested in staking out an online position on a posted bill should register on the ILGA Dashboard. Consult the Dashboard FAQ for further guidance on the registration process.  
       
HB 2508 would provide that an eligible patient with a terminal illness who has considered all other treatment options approved by the federal government may obtain and take an unapproved drug. Unapproved drugs and devices included in this limited carve-out of rights for the terminally ill are limited to those that have successfully completed Phase I of a clinical trial and have not yet been approved for prescription or use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In almost all cases when a drug or medical device shows promising results in preliminary “Phase I” studies, the FDA will require extensive follow-up studies to be done. These studies, often called “Phase II,” have several goals. If successful, they gather statistical confirmation that the treatment succeeds, learn more about side effects and contraindications, and learn more about why and how the treatment works so that physicians will learn when and where it should be prescribed and who is helped/not helped by it. In many cases, Phase II studies last for years. While Phase II is ongoing, access to a drug or treatment is severely limited – in effect, sharply rationed – by the maker or provider. Patients and care providers have no right to ask that the drug or device be provided to them.

           A new study, released Friday, February 13, shows that Illinois county fairs annually generate $170 million in money directly spent by fair participants and attendees.  The total sum was estimated after distributing nearly 5,000 brief questionnaires to members of these groups.  To this sum should be added additional monies raised by the “multiplier effect” of monies spent within Illinois boundaries, particularly in rural areas.  In many cases a dollar spent in an Illinois county seat or fairground community will turn over two or three times before leaving Illinois. 

The study, overseen by the Extension Department of the University of Illinois, was carried out in the summer of 2014.  Many of the questionnaires were distributed by 4-H youth undergoing informal training in STEM data-gathering and techniques.  In the survey, many fairgoers and fair participants reported spending significant sums outside the festival grounds.  Products purchased outside festival grounds included meals, transportation items such as motor fuel, and a variety of retail goods.  


The House Education – School Curriculum and Policies Committee will meet on Wednesday, February 25, to take testimony on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test mandate.  The hearing is scheduled to be held at 4:00 p.m. in Room 114 of the State Capitol. 

House members on the 26-person committee are expected to hear concerns from affected parents, teachers, and representatives of school districts.  Many people are opposed to both the new test and to the way it is being implemented here in Illinois.  Educators have raised concerns about inadequate technology, lack of testing infrastructure to match the spaces required to administer the test, overall school funding issues as they intersect with this test mandate, and issues of student preparation for the test.  Procedural challenges include questions of whether this test has been sprung on Illinois school districts, teachers, students, and parents and whether they received adequate warning of this new mandate.  

The budget for fiscal year 2016 (FY16) presented by Governor Bruce Rauner to the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, February 18 contains many challenges to traditional spending patterns in Springfield. Serious cuts are imposed on a wide variety of expenditures, especially in areas covered by GRF spending ($31.5 billion). Rauner says Illinois taxation and spending has, for too long, been on autopilot and that he was elected to pull the State’s government out of a death spiral.

“Even after we solve this fiscal year’s crisis, we will still be left with a budget hole of $6.2 billion for the coming fiscal year,” the newly-elected Governor told lawmakers. “Waste and inefficiency are rampant in our current system,” he reported. “To be compassionate, we must be competitive.”


        Public health officials do not know how the daycare infants caught the virus; a search is on for the person or persons who infected five infants.  The count of 8 measles cases was released on Monday, February 9.  The extremely contagious virus broke out last week at a day care center located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.  While most Illinois adults are protected from catching measles by the vaccines they have received in the past, the infant patients were all under 12 months of age or were not old enough to get a doctor’s approval for these shots.  KinderCare, operator of the Palatine daycare center identified as the location of the Illinois infant outbreak, has told employees at its 1,900 day care centers nationwide that they must get vaccinated for measles (http://www.kindercare.com/uploadedfiles/documents/measlesletter.pdf) as a condition of being allowed to continue to work in infant rooms.

A major outbreak of measles has broken loose in the United States this winter.  The outbreak has been partly traced to contacts made between a patient and other visitors to Disneyland in southern California.  At least 121 infections have been counted, spread across 17 states.  ABC News/Channel 7 covers the outbreak: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/investigators-unsure-started-measles-cluster-illinois/story?id=28802471.   


·        The federal security agency, whose personnel scrutinize American fliers when they board aircraft, has told the office of the Illinois Secretary of State that the familiar Illinois drivers’ license will not provide enough data for their personnel to allow passengers to pass through airport security.  Starting January 1, 2016, persons boarding aircraft will be required to present a passport (http://abc7chicago.com/travel/il-drivers-license-not-enough-to-fly-in-2016-/513496/) or some equivalent form of approved documentation, such as military ID, in order to be allowed to proceed to a boarding area. 

The federal DHS says that the drivers’ licenses of 22 states have achieved compliance with the standards set in the Real ID Act, enacted by Congress in 2005.  A key mandate of the Real ID Act is that citizens seeking documentation considered secure under the Act must present a birth certificate or equivalent proof of citizenship in order to obtain the document.  The Illinois Secretary of State’s Driver Services Department (http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/drivers/home.html) does not require presentation of a birth certificate to apply for a drivers’ license, nor does it have a system in place to verify this document if an applicant presents it.  The office estimates that compliance with the Real ID Act, as currently enforced by the federal security police, would cost $100 million to $150 million in one-time costs to be borne by Illinois drivers or taxpayers. 


·        Managed health care is a way of life for millions of working Illinois residents and their families who are covered through the private sector.  Up until now, however, the more than 3.1 million Illinoisans who are enrolled in the State’s Medicaid system have used a more costly traditional fee-for-service model.
 
In Medicaid-reform moves pushed by Assistant Republican Leader Patti Bellock starting in 2011 (http://www2.illinois.gov/hfs/agency/Pages/Budget.aspx), as many Medicaid recipients as legally possible are now being transitioned to the more cost effective managed care program.    More than two-thirds of the affected patients, 2.2 million, are within or will soon be within this new system.  The move, supported by Governor Rauner, is being implemented by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (http://www2.illinois.gov/hfs/Pages/default.aspx). 

Budget experts believe that managed care may well reduce future medical expenses borne by the State.  Managed care can be used to give physicians and other caregivers an incentive to reduce future health complications.  The “Chicago Tribune” describes the move: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-illinois-medicaid-managed-care-20150209-story.html#page=1.   


         One of the underlying causes of Illinois’ mushrooming budget is the cost of guarding tens of thousands of Illinois’ criminals, including many nonviolent criminals, in State prisons, county jails, and county detention centers.  State prisons alone are holding inmates at 150 percent of design capacity.  The Illinois Department of Corrections budget is $1.3 billion/year paid by taxpayers, with additional hundreds of millions spent by county sheriffs to maintain jails for low-level felons and misdemeanants. 

On Wednesday, Governor Rauner unveiled a commission to look at sentencing policies in Illinois (http://wuis.org/post/rauner-convenes-another-task-force-sentencing). The task force will have the full participation of Illinois’ law enforcement community, which is interested in studying the Code of Corrections (http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=1999&ChapterID=55) to see how to lower the number of inmate while ensuring the safety to the public.  The new Task Force has been asked to report its findings to the Governor and General Assembly by December 31, 2015.