SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar expressed optimism regarding the Fiscal Year 2019 budget passed tonight by the Illinois Senate.

“This is a responsible, disciplined plan that reflects the priorities of the people in my Senate district and throughout Illinois. It is a budget that allows us to continue restoring fiscal stability to state government while addressing immediate needs,” said Manar, who presented the legislation to the Senate Wednesday night.

“This budget was a bipartisan effort that was not contentious. When people come to the table, even in a partisan environment, compromise can be achieved and good things can happen.”

Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and chairman of the Senate Appropriations II Committee, is one of the Senate’s budget negotiators. He noted the following points about the proposal, which passed with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans:

  • It’s balanced.
  • It devotes $350 million more for K-12 public schools as required by the new school evidence-based school funding model. Every school will receive as much money as they received last year.
  • It contains $10 million for critical access care pharmacy payments to help independent pharmacies in rural communities that are struggling because of the state’s Medicaid managed care rollout and because of pharmacy benefit managers.
  • It restores funding that local mayors and village presidents lost when the Rauner administration cut it last year.
  • Funding to help install broadband internet at rural school districts is appropriated in this budget, which would enable the state to leverage a 3-to-1 federal funding match.
  • It establishes an innovative new college grant program called AIM HIGH to incentivize Illinois students to attend state universities, support local economies and help middle-class students afford a college degree.

Furthermore, Manar noted, the budget continues to fund health insurance for retired teachers and community college employees, and it fully funds the state’s group health insurance program. Both were targeted for cuts under Gov. Rauner’s budget proposal earlier this year.

The budget also rejects the pension cost shift that Gov. Rauner proposed for local governments, which would have assured local property tax increases in many communities and school districts.

“This budget proposal is a tremendous step forward because it sets priorities not just for one party or for one part of the state,” Manar said. “This budget is good for all of Illinois.”

Category: Latest News

Manar May 2018 350SPRINGFIELD – A vigorous plan to address the teacher and substitute teacher shortage problems plaguing rural and downstate Illinois school districts was approved by the Senate Tuesday.

The measure, sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), is based on suggestions presented by teachers in the 48th Senate District during a series of meetings with Manar in the fall. It slashes red tape to encourage educators outside of Illinois to apply for hard-to-fill jobs here, creates a short-term substitute teaching license and allows downstate retired teachers to substitute in classrooms without jeopardizing their retirement benefits.

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” Manar said. “We have classrooms that have gone dark all over the state because school districts simply cannot hire all the teachers they need. Cutting red tape and eliminating some of the barriers to teaching in Illinois should help us solve this problem.”

House Bill 5627 received bipartisan support and no opposition in the Senate and the House. It will be sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The legislation would do the following:

  • Provide full reciprocity for out-of-state educators.
  • Create a short-term substitute teaching license to allow people with certain qualifications to substitute teach for no more than five consecutive days. The $25 application fee may be reimbursed if the person teaches 10 days on the license.
  • Allows downstate retired teachers to substitute teacher for 120 days a year without jeopardizing their retirement benefits, rather than the current limit of 100 days.
  • Allows educators whose licenses have lapsed from failure to complete professional development to qualify for a substitute teaching license.
  • Requires school districts to create a short-term substitute teacher training program to provide information on curriculum, classroom management techniques, school safety and building and district operations.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate approved a measure sponsored by Manar to allow substitute teachers to provide evidence of physical fitness to school districts so they don’t have to pay for the cost of an exam. Applicants would still be required to show proof that they are free from communicable diseases.

This is an additional effort to reduce costs for prospective substitute teachers and get more substitutes into the pipeline. The legislation passed with bipartisan support in both houses and will be sent to the governor’s desk.

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ICC Graphic650

SPRINGFIELD – Access to water and electricity, fair utility rates, decent cell phone and cable service, and safe railroad grades are all issues that are vitally important to rural Illinois consumers.

Yet no rural or downstate residents today sit on the Illinois Commerce Commission, the powerful five-member state panel that regulates utilities, approves utility rates, licenses trucking and towing companies and oversees railroad safety and crossing improvements.

Since taking office in 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner has appointed five members to the commission; none live outside of Cook and DuPage counties. It marks the first time in a century that the commission has lacked a downstate member.

“There is a lot of Illinois outside of Chicago and the suburbs, and the people in these communities deserve to have someone on the commerce commission who will represent their interests and their point of view,” said State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

(Go here, then click the hyperlinked text “Commissioner List” to view a list of past ICC commissioners, their hometowns and the governors who appointed them.)

On Monday, the Senate Executive Appointments Committee voted to recommend two of Rauner’s pending appointments to the commission: D. Ethan Kimbrel and Anastasia Palivos, both of Chicago. Manar, who is vice chairman of the committee, voted no on both recommendations.

Kimbrel’s recommendation was forwarded to the full Senate for approval Monday afternoon. It passed 45-1. Manar, who represents a largely rural swath of central Illinois, cast the lone no vote.

It was unclear when Palivos’ recommendation may receive a vote before the full Senate.

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05152018 Dyer Sullivan 350SPRINGFIELD – Two area pharmacy owners, Michelle Dyer and Owen Sullivan, are working with State Senator Andy Manar and lawmakers to expose how Illinois’ independent drug stores are being forced out of business because of state policies and unfair competition.

Dyer and Sullivan appeared before the Illinois Senate’s Human Services Committee last week to explain the effects of the state’s Medicaid managed care reboot on their small businesses, which serve largely rural areas of Illinois.

The financial crisis local pharmacies are facing has intensified since April 1, when the Rauner administration expanded the Medicaid managed care program to every county in Illinois. Adding to the pressure are rate cuts administered by pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs.

The result is that local pharmacies have seen drastic cuts in what they are reimbursed for filling Medicaid prescriptions. In many cases they are losing money on the prescriptions they fill.

Dyer, who owns three Michelle’s Pharmacy locations in Macoupin County, employs 15 full-time workers with benefits and provides high-quality health care for rural patients. She’s a first-generation pharmacy owner and has been in business 10 years.

But, she told the Senate committee, because of the state’s managed care changes, the drastic cuts implemented by PBMs and the lack of parity with CVS/Caremark, she and other independent pharmacy owners are being pushed out of business.

“We’re just asking to be appropriately reimbursed for our services and the medication we provide,” she said.

Owen Sullivan, a third-generation pharmacist and the owner of Sullivan’s Drugstore in Carlinville, faces similar struggles.

“What you’re allowing them to do is use state tax dollars to stamp out competition,” he told lawmakers.

Manar is sponsoring House Bill 3479 to address the problem and is engaged in negotiations with pharmacists, managed care organizations, PBMs and the state.

“I have two concerns. We have to have a network of pharmacies in the state to provide medical services. That is being threatened right now because of the implementation of managed care. That’s an indisputable fact,” he said.

“My second concern deals with transparency. Other states have taken steps to make sure the role of PBMs utilizing state tax dollars becomes more transparent. The language of this bill seeks to address both of those concerns.”

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