Legislative Update: December 17, 2018

Illinois Celebrates its 200th Birthday with Grand Bicentennial Party
On Monday, December 3, Illinois celebrities, dignitaries, veterans and citizens came together to celebrate Illinois’ Bicentennial Birthday at a party held on Chicago’s Navy Pier. I was proud to attend this event as the Representative for the 81st District and as a citizen of Illinois. I am shown in the photo to the left at the celebration with my colleague State Representative Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst), who represents the 47th District. 

Journalist Bill Kurtis hosted the program, which opened with the legendary Wayne Messmer singing the national anthem and performances from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and many notable Illinois entertainers. Governor Bruce Rauner and Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker were also on hand to welcome a crowd of more than 2,300 attendees.

Rauner noted the contributions of Bicentennial sponsors who made it possible to conduct a year’s worth of Bicentennial activities without spending taxpayer money. The key sponsors included Wintrust, which served as the Official Bank of the Bicentennial, Walgreens, Abbott, Boeing, BMO Harris, Illinois Office of Tourism, Comcast and United Airlines.

As part of the year-long celebration, Illinoisans were polled to determine the top 200 people, places and things in Illinois history. Every two weeks, people had an opportunity to cast on-line votes for the best movies, most inspiring leaders, greatest books, top businesses and much more. Click here to see the top 10 results in the 20 different categories.

Rep. Olsen Congratulates Grove Foundation Grant Recipients
In Downers Grove we are extremely fortunate to have the Grove Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that works tirelessly to enrich the lives of the Downers Grove community. For the last 26 years this group has thrived by identifying, supporting and promoting recreational, educational and community experiences through innovative and collaborative efforts. 2018 was once again a very successful year for the Foundation, and I was pleased to be in attendance on December 10 as grants supporting efforts that serve the many diverse populations within the community were awarded. This year’s recipients include: Sharing Connections, Blessings in a Backpack, GardenWorks Project, Family Shelter Service, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Literacy DuPage, Senior Suburban Orchestra, Samara Care and DuPage PADS. I’m shown in this photo with grant award recipients and members of the Grant Program Committee. 

National Day of Mourning Held for President George H.W. Bush
Earlier this month the world mourned the death of the 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. President Bush passed away at his Houston home on Friday, November 30th at the age of 94. Our 41st President’s flag-draped coffin lied in state at the U.S. Capitol from Monday, December 3 through Wednesday, December 5. The 5th was a National Day of Mourning and the date of President Bush’s State Funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Thousands of mourners attended the State Funeral, including the five surviving presidents: Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

The following day, funeral services were held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. After the service, President Bush’s coffin was transported via a special train that carried him to his burial plot near his presidential library, on the grounds of Texas A&M. He was buried next to his wife of 73 years, Barbara, and daughter Robin, who died in 1953 at the age of three of leukemia.

President George H.W. Bush was the last veteran of World War II to serve as president. Bush spent decades in public service, as a congressman, ambassador, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice-President for two terms under Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States from 1989-1993.

Health Care Fraud Prevention Initiatives Saves the State Over $218 Million
In its latest report, the Governor’s Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force showed that it successfully avoided or recouped $218 million in wasteful or fraudulent Medicaid spending. The effort resulted in 39 fraud convictions including $27.8 million in recoveries through criminal prosecutions, civil actions, and/or administrative referrals. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) saved or recouped an estimated $190 million in Fiscal Year 2018. The task force has saved the state more than $665 million since its inception in 2016. 

The Governor’s Health Care Fraud Elimination Task Force was created in April of 2016. Chaired by Executive Inspector General Susan Haling, its purpose is to develop and coordinate a comprehensive plan to prevent and eliminate health care fraud, waste and abuse by deploying a cross-agency, data-driven approach. The Task Force specifically focuses on reducing wasteful spending and fraud in Medicaid, Worker’s Compensation, and State Employee Group Insurance.

In Fiscal Year 2017, members of the Task Force participated in the 2018 National Health Care Fraud Takedown, which was the largest health care fraud enforcement action in U.S. Department of Justice History. The Illinois State Police Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s participation led to the indictment of 14 people responsible for approximately $430,000 in fraudulent claims in the Medicaid Home Services Program. Task Force members also participated in the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care Fraud Task Force meetings to share information about data-driven approaches to fighting fraud.

Proposals Made to Increase State Gas Tax to Fund Infrastructure Needs
Illinois’ motor fuel tax on gasoline is 19 cents per gallon and hasn’t been raised since 1990. All revenue from the tax goes to the Motor Fuel Tax Fund. In Fiscal Year 2017, $1.35 billion in State revenue was collected (approximately the same amount as was raised in Fiscal Year 2016). The State continues to face many challenges in maintaining its transportation system, as we’ve seen first-hand with the recent Metra issues.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently proposed raising the gas tax by 20 to 30 cents per gallon to fund a new Capital program and infrastructure improvements across the State. That would more than double the current 19 cent per gallon State gas tax. IDOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn has also called for an increase in the State gas tax by at least 15 cents per gallon.

Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday, Dec. 12 did not dismiss the possibility of a gas tax hike to help pay for rebuilding the state’s infrastructure, but he also cautioned that a major capital construction program will not come quickly when his administration begins on January 14. Pritzker also said a new capital program and the revenue to pay for it is not something the lame-duck 100th General Assembly should pursue when we return to Springfield on January 7.

Dr. Floyd Mizener Honored for Community Service
Last week my office presented Dr. Floyd Mizener with an honorary House Resolution, in recognition of his many years of outstanding service to the Downers Grove community and State of Illinois. He was also recently honored by the Friends of Downers Grove Township Seniors organization. I could not attend the event personally, but my District Office Director Lynn made the presentation on my behalf at the Downers Grove Lions Club’s holiday luncheon. 

New Laws Taking Effect on January 1
There are 242 new state laws with a January 1, 2019 effective date. One of these new laws is HB 4213. I was proud to support this taxpayer-friendly bill, which addressed an outdated policy that was costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. Up to this point, all state-owned vehicles were required to have their oil changed at 3,000 miles, even though most new cars are designed to go at least 5,000 or even 10,000 miles without needing an oil change. This unnecessary maintenance was wasting taxpayer dollars. The new law directs the Department of Central Management Services to refer to the recommendations in the vehicle’s manual for when to get the oil changed, rather than utilizing a one-size-fits-all policy.

A law to better protect youth athletes from the effects of concussion will also take effect with the new year. HB 4226 puts in place a uniform set of rules for the accommodation of a student who had a concussion during a school athletic activity. Under this law, the Department of Public Health will put together informational brochures to help educate members of the public about how to spot warning signs that indicate that someone has a concussion. I will highlight additional new laws in my next newsletter.

Olsen Attends Crosstown Classic Games in Downers Grove
I had a great time over the weekend at the “Crosstown Classic” basketball games between Downers Grove North and South. I sat with students as we cheered on our teams at this annual high-spirited event. Both teams played well, but the final scores showed Downers Grove South edging out Downers Grove North by a score of 39-36 in the Girls’ Varsity game, and 46-42 in the Boys’ Varsity game. There was incredible energy in the stands, and community spirit was high on both sides of the gymnasium! 

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
Though we’ve had a recent respite from the cold, winter weather, the snow and wind that is common this time of year often makes travel difficult and dangerous. Please be safe in your holiday travels. You can use this link to access alerts about current road conditions that could make travel challenging. 

The countdown to Christmas has begun! You can use this NORAD Santa tracker on Christmas Eve if you would like to follow Santa’s trip around the globe.

Lastly, as we end 2018 and prepare to usher in 2019, I hope you are able to spend quality time these next few weeks with family, friends and other loved ones. While this has indeed been a difficult year for the State of Illinois, we have very much for which we can be truly grateful. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year!

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