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Hutchinson, Treasurer Frerichs working to allow legal cannabis industry to use banking system

hutchinson 032019 2SPRINGFIELD – Last year, the legal medical marijuana industry in Illinois took in $136 million in revenues. Federal and state banking regulations, however, mean most marijuana businesses are operating on a cash-only basis.

State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) joined with Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs this morning in passing a proposal out of the Senate Financial Institutions Committee that would help address the issue.

Belt: Medicaid screening for inmates needs to be mandatory

Senator BeltSPRINGFIELD – To help inmates transition out of prison, State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Cahokia) is sponsoring legislation to require the Department of Corrections (DOC) to screen inmates for Medicaid eligibility before being released.

At this time, the Unified Code of Corrections requires the Department of Corrections (DOC) to give inmates the opportunity to apply for Medicaid at least 45 days before they are discharged and requires DOC to assist them in filling out their application.

“We all know that this population has chronic and severe health issue ranging from HIV, Diabetes, and Hepatitis A & B, among other illnesses,” Belt said. “Applying for Medicaid can be overwhelming, but assisting inmates by screening and helping them apply means we could prevent these health problems.”

Under this proposal, officials of the correctional institution or facility will have a committed person assigned to assist eligible inmates in completing a Medicaid application to ensure that they begin receiving benefits immediately upon release.

“Upon release from prison or jail, individuals are often uninsured, making it difficult to access stable sources of care,” Belt said. “Increasing health coverage for this population helps contribute to improvements in their ability to access health facilities as well as greater stability in their lives, which will reduce recidivism rates. This amendment just makes sense from both a moral and economic perspective.”

The Senate approved the measure today in a 54-0 vote. The bill moves to the House for consideration.

Peters passes first bill, calls on DCFS to address deficiencies in system

Senator PetersSPRINGFIELD – Children in the state’s foster care system will be given an opportunity to have their voices heard about issues within the system that affect them under a measure sponsored by State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago).

“No one knows the foster care system better than the foster kids themselves,” Peters said. “It’s much easier to learn the areas where the system is lacking if we can hear directly from the children in the program.”

Senate Bill 1743 mandates the Department of Children and Family Services to develop, process and administer a standardized survey to gather feedback from youth who are currently aging out or who have recently aged out of the foster care system. The aim is to help DCFS and supporting agencies identify deficiencies in the system by learning about them from the people directly affected by them, leading to changes in policy to help address these issues.

The bill passed the Senate with unanimous support. It was the first bill sponsored by Peters to pass through the Senate and on to the House of Representatives since he joined the Senate in January.

“It’s an honor to have passed my first bill, but also a relief,” Peters said. “I’m confident that this is the start of a productive year in the Senate.”

Villivalam calls for clean water jobs program

Sen. Ram VillivalamSPRINGFIELD – Efforts to modernize the state’s water infrastructure present an opportunity for job growth under a plan State Senator Ram Villivalam introduced this morning alongside environmental, faith and labor advocates.

“The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan is a prime example of what can happen to communities when their water infrastructure is neglected by their government for long periods of time,” VIllivalam (D-Chicago) said. “By creating this program, we will provide the training necessary to help Illinois communities avoid a similar fate.”

SB 2146 would require the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to create a Clean Water Workforce Pipeline Program that would provide grants and other financial assistance to prepare people for careers in water infrastructure.

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