Legislative News from Senator Don DeWitte

Auditor General releases scathing report on LaSalle Veterans’ Home outbreak
Last week, the Office of the Auditor General publicly released its report on the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, just over a year after a resolution was adopted that directed the Office to conduct a performance audit of the state’s response at LaSalle.

The findings of the report were both shocking and condemning, as it contradicted findings made in a report released last year by the Governor’s appointed Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Inspector General, as well as testimony by members of the Pritzker Administration during legislative public hearings.

The Auditor’s report revealed that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Pritzker Administration officials “did not identify and respond to the seriousness of the outbreak,” despite knowing about the increasing positive cases at the Veterans’ Home. It also shows that it took the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Chief of Staff to specifically request assistance from IDPH for the Department to act, which did not occur until nearly two weeks after the start of the outbreak.

Furthermore, when the IDVA Chief of Staff inquired about a site visit, acquiring additional rapid tests and antibody treatments, IDPH officials did not offer any advice or assistance in slowing the spread, offer to provide additional rapid tests, and were not helpful in providing antibody treatments.

The Auditor General’s report also indicated that the DHS Inspector General’s report, ordered and limited in investigative scope by the Governor, was incorrect when it found that the outbreak wasn’t being meaningfully tracked by IDVA, as IDPH and the Deputy Governor for Health & Human Services were provided daily detailed information, which was in fact being used in the IDPH Director’s daily briefings at the time.

This report justifies the skepticism that Republican lawmakers had when the Governor chose to use one of his appointees to conduct an investigation and why it was important to have the independent Auditor General review the state’s response. I also believe that the General Assembly must hold legislative hearings to demand answers from the Pritzker Administration.

You can view the Illinois Auditor General’s full report here.

My colleague Senator Craig Wilcox penned an op-ed on the topic. It was published on May 9 in many Shaw Media newspapers. You can read it here.

 

Senator DeWitte honors local nurses during Nurses Appreciation Week

On Friday, it was my pleasure to wish nurses from Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin a Happy Nurses Week. My staff and I were on hand during the 7:00 AM shift change to greet staff members and provide donuts, water bottles, and flowers.

There is perhaps no group within the workforce that is more deserving of our gratitude, because during unprecedented challenging times, nurses went above and beyond to help keep us safe and healthy. It was an absolute pleasure to thank them personally during Nurses Appreciation Week.

 

U.S. Supreme Court draft decision leaked
For the first time in modern history, a draft decision of the United States Supreme Court has been publicly leaked. The leaked draft was of the Court’s highly anticipated and controversial decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which could have a long-lasting effect on abortion laws throughout the country.

Following the unprecedented leak, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts called for the marshal of the court to launch an immediate investigation into the source of the leak.

It is also important to note that it isn’t uncommon for draft decisions and votes to change throughout the Supreme Court’s decision-making process, and the final decision isn’t expected for at least another two months. However, if this draft ends up being the final decision, it would overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey by returning “the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” In simple terms, this means each state legislature would be responsible for determining abortion laws for their own state.

This decision would have little to no impact on Illinois as the state legislature has passed, and Gov. Pritzker has signed, some of the most progressive abortion laws in the entire nation. These Illinois laws include the repeal of parental notification of minors seeking abortions, and taxpayer-funded abortions, even for out-of-state residents who come to Illinois for a procedure. This fact has not stopped some Illinois lawmakers from suggesting the state pass even more abortion laws, including proposals that have historically been publicly unpopular.

 

DeWitte Summer calendar of events coming together
My staff and I are working on a robust list of community outreach events for the summer and fall. These events are geared toward various demographics within the 33rd District, with something for everyone. Please mark you calendars for these upcoming events, and visit my website www.SenatorDeWitte.com to see even more events that will be added in the coming weeks:

 

  • Thursday, May 12: Traveling Office Hours, Algonquin Public Library, 2600 Harnish Dr, Algonquin, 11AM-1PM (a member of my staff will be there)
  • Saturday, May 14: Free Document Shredding Event & Food Collection Drive: Old St. Charles Police Station (one block north of the St. Charles Municipal Center), 211 N. Riverside Ave, St. Charles, 9AM-11AM
  • Wednesday, May 25: Unclaimed Property Day with IL Treasurer Michael Frerichs, St. Charles Public Library, 1 S 6th Ave, St. Charles, 4PM-7PM
  • Thursday, June 2: Traveling Office Hours, Huntley Park District, 11AM-1PM (a member of my staff will be there) 11AM-1PM
  • Thursday, June 23: Conversations Untapped, Crystal Lake Brewery, 150 N. Main St, Crystal Lake, 6:30PM-8:00PM
  • Wednesday, September 7: Senior Fair, Dundee Twp. Park District, 665 Barrington Ave, Carpentersville, 10AM-12PM
  • Friday, September 16: Senior Fair, McHenry County College, 8900 US-14, Crystal Lake, 10AM-12PM

Again, additional items will be added, so check my website often. For more information about these events, please call my district office at (847) 214-8245.

 

DeWitte promotes responsible, rather than rushed, approach to clean energy
I recently penned a guest editorial that was published in the Shaw Media newspapers in Kane and McHenry Counties. I wrote it after receiving notification that changes in clean energy laws in Illinois is resulting in a shortage of resources as we head into the warmer summer months. Here is the text of the op-ed:

Statehouse legislators have developed a bad habit of passing bills without fully examining all possible unintended consequences. We saw this when the Majority Party rushed to meet a self-imposed deadline for the so-called SAFE-T Act. In their haste to make sure legislation was passed before the end of the 101st General Assembly, Democrats pushed through a bill that was riddled with problems. Since its passage, the Legislature has had to go back twice so far to fix not just technical errors, but also some substantive problems that created increased safety concerns for law enforcement officers and crime victims. Several issues were fixed, but other significant problem areas remain.

The same can be said about the clean energy bill that was passed last year. There is not a soul in Springfield that does not want a cleaner energy future for Illinois. Every one of us wants to protect Earth’s resources so our kids and grandkids have clean air and safe water. But the clean energy bill was passed without full consideration of the real-life consequences that will result from the accelerated timeline that makes dramatic changes to how Illinoisans light, cool, and heat their homes. Once again, rather than tapping on the brakes, this bill was rammed through despite some undeniable flaws.

During the debate on the clean energy bill, Republicans said the accelerated timeline to transition to 100% clean energy was admirable, but could realistically lead to capacity problems and possible brownouts and blackouts like those that have been seen in other states that jumped too quickly toward clean energy goals. The Governor and leading Democrats called us “fear mongers” for even suggesting such a thing could happen.

Just last week, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which manages the electric grid for Illinois, announced that renewable generation (wind and solar) has failed to keep pace with the energy generation capacity that was lost through the forced closure of fossil fuel plants. MISO further explained the lack of capacity will lead to massive price increases for energy, and an inadequate energy supply on summer’s hottest days. The rolling brownouts and blackouts that were summarily rejected by those pushing for quick passage of the energy bill are now presented as a very real possibility. According to MISO, several mostly downstate areas that don’t have enough power generation to cover normal load and required reserves, will likely face controlled rolling outages this summer as energy suppliers try to maintain system reliability.

Ameren Illinois, the primary electricity provider for downstate communities, has estimated that average consumers may end up paying an additional $500 this year for electricity. This spike is a direct result of supply and demand economics (Ameren does not profit from the cost of energy supply).

For energy consumers in this part of the state, ComEd recently filed a request with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to implement a $199 million rate hike in 2023. This request is also a direct response to the capacity issues that resulted from hasty passage of the clean energy bill.

Further exacerbating the issue, during the final days of the recent spring session, a bill was presented that would create an energy availability task force. The legislation simply called for a comprehensive study that monitored electricity generation to ensure an adequate supply. The environmentalists quickly denounced the bill as an attack on clean energy. While it passed in the Senate, it died in the House.

It’s a shame that legislators that vote “no” on impactful bills are labeled as obstructionists, when in reality most of us agree with overall goals of reform legislation. The fact that we prefer a more measured and responsible approach that examines legislation from every angle should not be viewed as a negative. Especially on an issue as important as Illinois’ transition to clean energy, we owe it to the people who elected us to make sure this transition does not occur at the expense of people’s ability to keep their lights on and be comfortable in their homes.

 

ICC offers tips to avoid being scammed by movers
With the start of spring and the upcoming end of the school year for kids, moving season is here. The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) recently released a few “smart tips” to help Illinoisans in the process of moving avoid being taken advantage of by dishonest or rogue movers.

These tips include:

  • Get recommendations from friends, relatives, and coworkers.
  • Do not choose a company that only advertises a phone number.
  • Ask the mover to visit your home and to provide a written estimate. If you can, show them the contents of every room, closet, attic, cellar, and garage you want moved, and talk about what they can expect at the new home. A written quote is not a binding quote, but it will give you a reasonable expectation of what you will be required to pay on moving day.
  • Discuss your options for loss and damage protection – get it in writing.
  • Call the ICC at 217-782-6448 to verify rates on file.
  • On moving day, be prepared to pay 110 percent of the written estimate. The mover cannot hold your goods if you pay the amount on the written estimate, plus 10 percent if the estimate was too low. You have 30 days to pay the balance due. Paying with a credit card offers more protection.
  • If a mover offers “freebies” (cartons, tape, etc.), ask questions to avoid surprises later.
  • A legitimate, licensed moving company will not demand cash up front before loading your possessions and tipping is not required. If the crew demands a tip, call the company immediately.
  • Start your search at least six weeks in advance of your move.

 

Consumers can also check to see if a household goods mover is properly licensed to operate in Illinois as well as the number of complaints filed against each company on the ICC website here. Consumers wishing to file a complaint against a household goods mover may do so here.

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