Governor broke 100-year precedent by failing to ensure downstate representation on panel

0517ManarSPRINGFIELD – Appointments to the Illinois Commerce Commission – the panel that approves electric rates and monitors railroad crossing safety – would be geographically balanced to ensure the interests of rural and downstate taxpayers are represented under a measure introduced today by State Senator Andy Manar.

Senate Bill 3626 requires that at least two commissioners on the five-member panel live outside of Chicago and the collar counties. Of the remaining three members, one would be appointed from Chicago, one from the suburbs and one would be an at-large member who could live anywhere in the state.

“The consumers I represent in the Senate work hard and want to know someone will represent their interests when the state approves electric rates or fails to address problems with rural cell phone coverage. The families in my district want to trust their teenagers will be safe driving home at night because someone on the ICC board understands the dangers of rural rail crossings where the corn is high,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat.

“But right now, the 4.5 million Illinoisans who live outside of Chicago and the collar counties have no one representing their interests on this commission.”

For the first time in a century, no downstate member sits 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.

In May, Manar, who is vice chairman of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee, was the only committee member to vote no on two of Rauner’s pending appointments to the commission: D. Ethan Kimbrel and Anastasia Palivos. Kimbrel’s recommendation was forwarded to the full Senate for approval, and Manar was the only senator to vote no. The appointment was approved 45-1. Palivos’ recommendation did not go to the full Senate for a vote in May.

Senate Bill 3626 does not change the existing requirement that no more than three commissioners can be of the same political party at the time of appointment. Commission terms are five years.

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LITCHFIELD – Tax increment financing districts are a key to job creation and a robust economy in many downstate communities, including Litchfield, State Senator Andy Manar said Tuesday after his measure extending the life of the Litchfield TIF was signed into law.

“Aggressive economic development has enabled Litchfield to add jobs and flourish as a community. The TIF district has been a significant factor in that growth,” Manar said. “It’s important that we take steps to extend the life of the TIF so that community leaders can continue building upon the success they’ve already had.”

Senate Bill 424, which Manar sponsored, the life of the Litchfield TIF district to 35 years from 23 years. It was created June 2, 1998, and had been set to expire at the end of 2021. Under the law sponsored by Manar, the TIF will not expire until the end of 2033.

The extension gives local officials more time to develop vacant land or eradicate blight to attract new employers and additional jobs to the city.

Manar complimented the city of Litchfield for its continued leadership on economic development.

“The number of positive economic development projects happening in Litchfield is mind-blowing. The residents here should be proud of what they and their city leaders have accomplished,” Manar said.

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firefighters350BUNKER HILL – Seven area rural fire protection and ambulance districts have been awarded small equipment grants through the Office of the State Fire Marshal. State Senator Andy Manar extended congratulations to the recipients.

Grant recipients are:

  • Morrisonville-Palmer Fire Protection District in Christian County
  • Fillmore Community Fire Protection District in Montgomery County
  • Nokomis Area Fire Protection District in Montgomery County
  • Nokomis-Witt Ara Ambulance Service in Montgomery County
  • Taylor Springs Fire Department in Montgomery County
  • Raymond Community Fire Protection District in Montgomery County
  • Long Creek Fire Protection District in Macon County

Statewide, 100 fire departments have been awarded a share of $2 million funds for the FY2018 Small Equipment Grant Program, which provides grants of up to $26,000 to purchase small equipment.

Examples of small equipment include firefighting items, such as cylinder tanks, flashlights, hand-held radios and thermal imaging cameras; EMS emergency response equipment, such as AED machines, backboards and stair chairs; and vehicle rescue equipment, such as extrication tools, reciprocating saw blades and air lifting bags.

The state fire marshal’s office plans to put out a more detailed news release next week.

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Pleasant Hill Village SignGIRARD – The announced closure of a central Illinois nursing home that offers skilled care for Alzheimer’s patients is the latest example of downstate Illinois bearing the brunt of the Rauner administration’s unrelenting drive to achieve savings at any cost, State Senator Andy Manar said today.

Pleasant Hill Healthcare, which has been operating in Girard since 1905, announced this week that it will close by September. The backlog of Medicaid determinations under the Rauner administration is a factor in the decision to close. The state owes Pleasant Hill more than $2 million in pending and approved Medicaid payments.

“The backlog of Medicaid determinations under the Rauner administration will continue to push rural nursing homes that already face significant financial pressures to extinction. Some of these facilities are barely hanging on as it is because of the state,” Manar said.

“The governor needs to understand the effects of his policy decisions on real families, real people in the rural communities he visits from time to time. With every nursing home closure on his watch, fragile residents will be uprooted, their families will go through emotional upheaval and more downstate workers will be on the unemployment line.”

Private nursing homes in Illinois are fronting the state $300 million for residential care for residents who are caught up in the state’s Medicaid determination backlog. According to the state comptroller’s office, 15,000 people are waiting for Medicaid eligibility determinations from the state. That’s nearly triple what the backlog was in August 2014.

“Nursing homes across the state continue to feel the impacts of the two-year budget impasse and are squeezed by other factors, such as reimbursement rates that don’t cover the true cost of patient care. The Rauner administration’s gross mismanagement of the Medicaid program and inability to process patients’ eligibility in a timely way is pushing these already stressed facilities, which care for our elderly and disabled residents, to the brink of fiscal disaster,” Comptroller Susana Mendoza said.

“The Rauner administration has known about this. I have sounded the alarm continuously, yet governor Rauner has failed to act again. The governor’s agency needs to get these eligibility determinations processed and the vouchers sent to my office, so I can pay these providers the money they are owed. If not, we will see more nursing homes in the same situation as Pleasant Hill Healthcare.”

Pleasant Hill features an independent and assisted living facility with 48 apartments, which will remain open. However, its skilled nursing home with 98 beds and specialized 24-hour care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients will close.
More than 60 employees and 61 residents will be affected by the closure.

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