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The Majority Report 12/15/17 - Empowering the watchdogs


Castro vows to empower legislative watchdog

Sen. Cristina CastroNeedless bureaucratic hurdles are slowing state ethics investigations, Senator Cristina Castro said, vowing to streamline the process.

“We have a skilled investigator on the job. We need to empower her to do that job and deliver results quickly,” said Castro, an Elgin Democrat and the newest member of the Legislative Ethics Commission.

When an ethics complaint is filed regarding lawmakers or legislative employees, the inspector general cannot review the complaint until it first goes to the Ethics Commission and is approved for investigation. This bureaucratic step can delay the start of an inquiry.

Castro said she believes a more practical approach is to give the inspector general the authority to begin reviewing cases as soon as they are filed.

“Getting rid of (the bureaucratic hurdle) will speed up the process and deliver faster results, which is what the public wants and expects,” Castro said. “It is important that we make it as easy as possible for the inspector general to get to work as soon as possible on these time-sensitive issues.”

Castro was named to the Legislative Ethics Commission in November.


Cullerton: Rauner fails veterans again

Sen. Tom CullertonSenator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is calling for a full legislative audit to learn more about the apparent mismanagement of a state-run veterans home in Quincy where several people have died.

“Our veterans have survived combat zones and foreign conflicts. The greatest dangers they now face should not be living their golden years in a state facility,” said Cullerton, a veteran and chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

He called on his colleagues on the Legislative Audit Commission to launch a full examination of the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy to offer a clear picture of the problems happening there and the reasons for them.

“I’m outraged veterans have died on the governor’s watch,” Cullerton said. “Our nation’s heroes have laid their lives on the line to protect our great nation. I cannot believe Gov. Rauner’s administration has been thoughtless and ineffective in the care and services our veterans continue to receive.”

Cullerton said he will convene a hearing soon to address this issue and begin examining the care veterans receive in Quincy.

Read more: At the Illinois Senate Democrats online
WBEZ investigation: Surviving war, but not the veterans' home
In the news: New Legionnaires' case reported at Quincy veterans home


Bush initiative to curb 'doctor shopping' signed into law

Sen. Melinda BushA measure from Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) to reduce opioid abuse will become state law on Jan. 1.

Before prescribing a controlled substance, doctors will be required to check the Prescription Monitoring Program database to see if a patient previously was written a prescription for the drug by another doctor. The goal is to make it more difficult for people to obtain prescriptions from multiple physicians, a practice known as doctor shopping.

“As elected officials, we should be doing everything we can to prevent addiction and reduce opioid abuse,” Bush said. “Requiring doctors to check a patient’s prescription history before prescribing opioids is a simple way to ensure doctors aren’t overprescribing and patients aren’t doctor shopping.”

In 2015, Bush sponsored the legislation that required pharmacies to file daily reports of all controlled substances they dispense. Until now, however, physicians were not required to check the monitoring database before writing prescriptions.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Bush’s initiative, Senate Bill 772, on Wednesday in East St. Louis.

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In the news: Bill to fight opioid abuse, prevent doctor shopping signed into law


Koehler marks one year of solar energy growth

Sen. Dave KoehlerPeoria-area officials are marking one year of solar energy growth in Illinois because of the Future Energy Jobs Act.

The law placed Illinois at the forefront of green energy production, creating one of the strongest renewable portfolio standards ever. Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) said the state and federal tax credits that accompanied the act are key to the industry’s boom in Illinois.

“That’s why you are starting to see an explosion right now of solar (energy), because solar is ready for Illinois,” he said. “The technology is there. And because of these incentives, we now see projects – whether they are commercial-scale projects, whether they are community projects – they are now viable economically.”

Peoria-area officials recently gathered to discuss the benefits of the Future Energy Jobs Act and mark the one-year anniversary of the law being enacted. Because of the measure, Fondulac Township is helping to start one of Illinois’ first community solar projects. It is estimated that the project could power up to 400 Tazewell County homes.

The goal of the Future Energy Jobs bill is for 25 percent of Illinois’ electricity to come from renewable energy options, such as solar power or wind turbines.

In the news: Renewable energy 'exploding' in Peoria and beyond


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