News From Our Lobbyist  

Current list of house bills (April 2018).

Legislative News, Winter 2016/17

Maureen Mulhall, ILOTA Lobbyist

The more things change, the more they seem the same (at least in Illinois)

Much, if not most of the media attention since Nov 9 has been focused on the unexpected, at least to some, election of Donald Trump as President.  Not only has this been viewed as an upset, but it also marks a changing of the political party of the President and all of the ramifications that go along with that.

In Illinois, however, not much changed on November 8.  The Democrats still control the General Assembly, with the Senate still maintaining a veto proof majority by 1 vote.  “But Speaker Madigan lost his veto proof majority; that’s a pretty big change isn’t it?” you might ask.  Well, not so much.  Although Speaker Madigan has had a veto proof majority for the past two years it has only been on paper.  When it came time for critical votes to be taken, especially those to override the Governor’s action, the Speaker most often could not muster the necessary “super majority” of 71 votes.  Time and again 3 Democrat members did not follow the marching orders of the Speaker and without those three votes there was no “super majority”. In the two years that Governor Rauner has been in office, only 1 of 86 vetoes has been overridden, thus the veto proof majority in the House clearly has only been on paper. The House Democrats had a net loss of 4 members so now the lack of a veto proof majority is a fact on paper as well as action.

The real change that happened election night was the change in faces, not in the changing of the guard in Illinois. Of the Senators sworn in, in 2011, only 44% will return in 2017.  Similarly, in the House only 42.5% of the Representatives from 2011 will return in 2017.  These statistics should make you question whether there really is a need for term limits.  Yes, much of the leadership in both the House and Senate is very tenured.  But, the rank and file members do turn over at a remarkable rate.

Therein lays the challenge for the ILOTA and you as a member.  The General Assembly has rarely had health care practitioners as members, and yet the legislators vote on issues that have a bearing on how you practice, how you are reimbursed, and on whom you practice.  Part of the role of ILOTA in the Capitol is to educate legislators on the practice of occupational therapy – what your education is, who your clients are , in what settings you work, etc.  While a lobbyist can talk to legislators in more general terms, the best advocate for your profession is YOU!  YOU know why you chose this profession and can explain why you devoted your time and money to your education.  YOU know what makes you excited about your clients.  YOU know best what the needs of the profession are.  The passion that you bring to your clients and students every day is the very passion that legislators need to experience.

The 99th General Assembly has 2 days of “lame duck” session scheduled, January 9 and 10.  On January 11th the 100 Illinois General Assembly will be sworn in (our bicentennial as a state is a mere 2 years away!).  Make the commitment today to reach out to your legislator.  Shortly after January 11, 2017 you will be able to find the contact information for your legislators at www.ilga.gov.  If you don’t know your district/legislators, simply go to “Legislator Lookup” at this website and you’ll find everything you need to contact your legislators.

What is at stake in the next 2 years of the 100th General Assembly?  Illinois is in the unprecedented territory of not having a state budget crafted by the General Assembly for more than 18 months.  How, when or whether educational institutions will be funded, and the OT/OTA programs within those institutions, is at stake.  Whether the elderly are allowed to remain in the community, with the help of OTs, is at stake.  Whether Illinoisans with developmental disabilities or mental health challenges receive the services they need, including OT, is at stake.  And finally, whether unlicensed individuals, who often provide services at a lesser rate, are allowed to practice occupational therapy is at stake.  The health, safety and welfare of your clients is at stake.  The future of your profession is at stake.  Make a New Year resolution to become an OT advocate to your legislators.