Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins secured passage in the Senate today of a package of reforms designed to protect Illinoisans from financial exploitation when they pay their taxes and when they buy a home. Once signed by the governor, Senate Bill 1692 will impose stricter controls on tax refund anticipation loans facilitated by tax preparers; it will also ban balloon payments and prepayment penalties on high-risk residential mortgages.

“Exorbitant interest rates, undisclosed terms and hidden fees associated with loans help keep the poor in poverty,” Sen. Collins said. “Measures like this one empower borrowers to make informed decisions as they seek to meet their financial obligations and improve their families’ quality of life.”

Tax refund anticipation loans (RALs) allow customers to get their refund money up front after a tax preparation firm estimates the amount. RALs have come under scrutiny recently, especially after problems at a Chicago location of Mo’ Money Taxes spurred the Office of the Attorney General to open an investigation. Customers complained that their refund checks were late, much smaller than promised or couldn’t be cashed. SB 1692 prohibits tax preparers from charging extra fees for facilitating these loans and caps RAL interest rates at 36% for non-bank entities like payday lenders.

Read more: Sen. Collins Announces Passage of Major Consumer Finance Reforms

Category: Press Releases

Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 2840 – Medicaid reform legislation containing program eliminations and reductions, provider rate cuts, procedures for removing ineligible individuals and families from medical assistance, and other cost-cutting measures:

“I am disappointed that the General Assembly has passed a package of Medicaid cuts that asks the sickest, poorest and most vulnerable among us to sacrifice disproportionately. From the deep reductions this legislation makes in critical services like prescriptions for seniors and adult dental care, it appears as though the burden of the reforms is being carried on the backs of ‘the least of these.’

For too long, Illinois nursing home residents and families have struggled with weak regulation that has allowed for substandard care, neglect and abuse. Over the past several years, I’ve worked with advocates and my fellow legislators to guarantee quality care for all nursing home residents, regardless of race, geography or income. Unfortunately, by setting the minimum RN staffing time at 10 percent instead of 15 percent, the measure passed today will in fact perpetuate the unjust disparities between black and brown nursing homes and majority-white facilities. Illinois still ranks number one in the most poorly-rated black nursing homes in the nation. This legislation represents a devastating step backwards for the nursing home reform movement.

I maintain there can be no true nursing home reform without addressing the registered nurse staffing disparity, and there can be no true Medicaid reform where this racial gap is exacerbated and vulnerable Illinoisans are punished for a fiscal situation not of their making.”

SB 2840 has also passed the House and requires only the governor’s signature to become law.

Category: Press Releases

The Illinois Senate passed a balanced budget for the next fiscal year that spends $255 million less than last year’s, fully funds the state’s pension obligations, and sets aside $1.3 billion to pay old bills. While making across-the-board cuts to most agency budgets, it avoids reductions to K-12 education, MAP grants, and other priorities. The budget uses extra money from special funds to pay vendors like childcare providers and nursing homes. The budget stays within caps established earlier this year based on the state’s expected revenue.

“I’m glad to see increased funding in this budget for programs that serve the needs of youth in our communities – notably the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, Teen Reach, and the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. These programs help ensure kids have a safe, secure and productive summer. The budget passed today also protects early childhood education, funds indigent burials and increases support for home health care. It is by no means an ideal budget, and real people will be affected by its cuts. At the end of the day, we need to direct dollars to our most vulnerable populations and our most critical priorities, and this budget is an effort to do that.”

 

Category: Press Releases

Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins sponsored two pieces of legislation aimed at protecting the public from exposure to radon in homes and daycare facilities. House Bill 4665 was approved by overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate and awaits the governor’s signature; HB 4606 has passed the House and will soon be called for a vote in the Senate. 

“Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and keeping radon levels low in homes and facilities must be a statewide priority,” Sen. Collins said. “The measures approved today move Illinois in the direction of safer homes and safer environments for our youngest children.”

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) estimates that radon levels in 36 percent of houses – more than one-third – are unacceptably high. Over 1,000 Illinois residents each year are at risk for lung cancer caused by radon because of prolonged exposure to the gas. Testing is the only way to determine if radon levels in a building are harmful.

“Making new homes radon-resistant and testing existing buildings for radon are relatively inexpensive measures, but taking steps to prevent and address radon build-up is priceless to those at risk,” said Sen. Collins, chief sponsor of the measure requiring radon-resistant construction. “Parents shouldn’t have to worry when they drop their children off at daycare that the building itself is dangerous to their health. It is high time to eliminate this common and preventable risk factor.”

HB 4665 requires a task force to recommend standards for radon-resistant construction by January 1, 2013. All new residential construction in Illinois must include passive radon-resistant construction techniques. In most cases, this would involve a pipe running from the foundation to the outdoors to vent radon from the structure. Preventing radon from building up inside a new home is cheaper, safer, and less unsightly than mitigation done after a high radon level has been found inside an existing building.

HB 4606, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans and co-sponsored by Sen. Collins, will require daycare facilities to test for radon at least once every three years, then post the results for parents to see. In-home daycare providers can purchase a home radon test for under $25; commercial facilities are required to hire a licensed professional when they test for radon, but IEMA officials say they are looking into including daycare providers in an online training program that currently teaches school district facility directors to conduct initial radon tests in schools.

Category: Press Releases

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