Update: Medicare Event, New Session, Firearms

New Legislative Session Convenes. The Illinois General Assembly convened in Springfield last week for the beginning of the new legislative session

To start off the new year and new session, the House Republican caucus welcomed two new members: State Representative Nicole La Ha and State Representative Brandun Schweizer. Leader McCombie proudly welcomed them to the chamber this week.

After adjourning the legislative session on Wednesday, January 17, the Illinois House will not convene again until February 6. The House and Senate will prepare to receive Governor Pritzker’s proposed Fiscal Year 2025 State of Illinois budget, which will be presented to a joint session of the General Assembly on Wednesday, February 21.

Illinois State Police set to file rules governing firearm registration under the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA). The controversial new gun ban law covers a wide variety of firearms and ancillary items, including ammunition, owned within Illinois. Key elements of the new law requires every Illinoisan who owns any of these items to go to an Illinois State Police website and register these items, using the registrant’s legal name and address. The registration must include an affirmation affidavit statement that the firearm(s) or other items had been possessed in Illinois as of January 10, 2022, the effective date of the new law. 

By mandating that a possessor of Illinois firearms must add an enumeration of individual weapons to his or her name and address, which is information already on file within the Illinois State Police databases as part of the Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) Act, the new PICA law has come to be seen by many firearm owners as a potential threat to overall gun ownership and gun possession in Illinois. The State Police submitted the text of their proposed rule last week to an Illinois General Assembly panel, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). Led by Deputy House Republican Leader Ryan Spain, House Republicans offered a motion to block, or “prohibit,” the new rule from taking effect. However, unanimous Democrat opposition to the Republican move blocked the prohibition motion, clearing the way for the new rule to be filed and take legal effect

Legal action continues against the Protect Illinois Communities Act, including efforts before the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the new Illinois law as a violation of the federal Second Amendment. Many Illinois gun owners have not filed registration papers for the firearms and ancillary items that they own or possess. Advocates for the new law are attempting to downplay the low registration numbers. The JCAR vote took place on Tuesday, January 16.     

“These firearm registration rules are vague and complicated, and will only cause more frustration for law-abiding gun owners,” said Rep. Ryan Spain. “Although my Republican colleagues and I on JCAR were not able to prevent these permanent registration rules from being adopted, we were able to pass a formal objection for the registration rules failure to meet ‘simple and clear’ statutory requirements. ISP has 90 days to respond.”

University of Illinois (U of I) system freezes undergraduate tuition for 2024-2025 school year
. The tuition freeze will apply to tuition at all three of the system’s campuses at Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield. This was the first annual system-wide tuition freeze in more than 25 years. The current U of I in-state tuition rate schedule is $12,712 per year at Urbana-Champaign, $11,178 per year at Chicago, and $321.50 per credit hour at Springfield. Other state universities, such as Illinois State University and Northern Illinois University, are not part of the U of I system and set their own tuition rates. 

U of I student costs will continue to go up for ancillary expenses, headed by on-campus and off-campus housing. An “in-state” student is a student who achieves admission to the University of Illinois system from a home in Illinois. The U of I Board of Trustees’ decision on tuition was made public on Thursday, January 18.    

Republican lawmakers call for legislative solutions to address migrant crisis. At a Capitol press conference last week, State Senators Andrew Chesney and Dave Syverson, along with Assistant House Republican Leader John M. Cabello and State Representative Joe Sosnowski, discussed the actions that led to the crisis and steps they believe will address it. According to the lawmakers, weak border policies by the Biden Administration and Illinois laws that act as incentives to lure undocumented people to the state are largely to blame for the 34,000 migrants that have come to the state thus far.

“We have a governor and a Chicago mayor who loudly proclaim that Illinois welcomes anyone, regardless of their immigration status, so they shouldn’t be surprised when they show up,” said Senator Chesney. “They rolled out the welcome mat for illegal immigrants and asylum seekers, and are now pointing fingers everywhere but at themselves.”

All four legislators represent the region of Illinois that includes the Chicago-Rockford International Airport, and Senator Chesney spoke about the chaos that ensued after a plane filled with over 350 migrants arrived with little notice at the Rockford airport in the early morning hours of New Year’s Eve. “The arrival of this plane threw airport and local officials into a state of panic and emergency mode,” said Chesney. “No one knows if this was a one-time event or if more planes carrying migrants will be landing in Rockford.”

One piece of legislation that will be filed in the coming days is a repeal of portions of the Trust Act that prohibit law enforcement from working with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to ensure enforcement of federal immigration laws.

“For state law to actively prohibit local law enforcement from collaborating with federal immigration authorities via the TRUST Act is a major policy failure that threatens public safety, burdens our local governments, and comes at a huge cost to taxpayers, said Leader Cabello. “Repealing the TRUST Act is absolutely required to solve the Illinois illegal immigration crisis and it’s the right thing to do for the citizens of this state.”

A second policy proposal seeks to roll back laws passed in recent years that provide free healthcare for migrants and illegal immigrants in Illinois – a program that exceeded its yearly appropriation in the first month it was in place. And Democratic lawmakers have expanded the program so this year it is expected to cost taxpayers as much as $1.1 billion. With no co-pays or premiums charged, the highest quality healthcare the Governor offers in Illinois is for illegal immigrants and migrants.

“This program has ballooned out of control, and we can expect this number to continue to grow as more non-citizens learn about the program,” Senator Syverson said. “Yet programs to help Illinoisans with developmental disabilities – whether in services, housing, or jobs programs – have been shortchanged for years. We currently have Illinois veterans who struggle to find adequate services, and we have citizens living with disabilities that struggle to find services. But migrants and illegal immigrants pay nothing for high quality healthcare.”

Senator Syverson said hard-working Illinois families with insurance have deductibles and co-pays and are required to pay premiums, in many cases substantial premiums. Yet at the same time, they are seeing their tax dollars go to fund health programs for non-citizens that provide better coverage than they could ever afford. Even those low-income struggling families who get coverage through the marketplace healthcare.gov or Medicaid do not have the same benefits or limitations that the non-citizens’ plan does.

“Our focus as a state should be on taking care of our own citizens, especially the most vulnerable, before opening our doors to undocumented individuals from countries all over the world,” Senator Syverson said. 

A third bill would provide a framework that migrants and illegal immigrants can use for free travel back to their home country or to another sanctuary city or state.

“Illinois taxpayers deserve accountability and solutions; and right now, both those are lacking in the Administration’s response to the migrant crisis. The initiatives we outlined today will help deliver meaningful solutions if Democrats are willing to work with us,” Representative Sosnowski said.

According to the legislators, the legislative package is being finalized and will be filed prior to the February 9 deadline for the introduction of bills.

Illinois Secretary of State tells drivers ‘don’t come’ to DMV unless absolutely necessary. Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias is suggesting a New Year’s resolution for Illinois motorists: Ditch the DMV

The Democrat announced expanded online services for the “Skip the Line, Do It Online” program to save taxpayers’ time and reduce historically long queues at driver and motor vehicles services facilities, which Giannoulias shortens to “DMV.” If not via the web, mail and telephone transactions are available.

So, Giannoulias urged, just stay away.

“I’m serious. Don’t come unless you are 100% certain that you need to visit one of our facilities,” Giannoulias said at a Chicago news conference. “The reason is obvious. Most people do not need to go to a DMV facility to get what they need.”

The expansion includes varied services. A website portal now helps customers determine the exact service they need and necessary subsequent steps. When a visit is necessary, appointments can be made online. Now, text messages will follow to remind them and ask them to confirm or cancel. Two separate telephone lines now cater solely to seniors and teens and their questions. […]

Since the program launched in September, the secretary of state has taken care of 800,000 motorists by appointment, resulting in little to no wait time, according to Giannoulias. Of 2.25 million drivers needing to renew licenses this year, 1 million can do it online, through the mail or by phone, and the same is true for 10 million vehicle registration renewals.

Rep. Spain hosting ‘Medicare 101’ event for seniors on Jan. 31. State Representative Ryan Spain (R-73rd District) will be hosting his second “Medicare 101” event in as many weeks in collaboration with the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) on January 31. The event will assist seniors in the community and those who help care for an eligible loved one in understanding the intricacies of the Medicare sign-up process. 

During the informational seminar, an expert from SHIP will offer insights and guidance on the many facets of Medicare. Attendees will have an opportunity to have their questions answered and gain a clearer understanding of the Medicare system, empowering them to make informed decisions about their healthcare coverage options.

The event is free and open to anyone looking to enhance their understanding of Medicare. Attendees are encouraged to bring their questions and engage in this informative session.

Event Details:
Medicare 101
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31 | 10:30 A.M. – 12 P.M.
Peoria Public Library – North Branch
McKenzie Room
3001 W Grand Parkway | Peoria, IL 61615

For questions or more information, call Rep. Spain’s office at 217-782-8108.

About SHIP:
The Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) is a free statewide health insurance counseling service for Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers. The Illinois Department on Aging sponsors SHIP.