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.

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.”


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.

Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins lauded the unanimous passage today of legislation designed to make it easier for child victims of sex-trafficking to obtain justice. House Bill 5278, approved by the Illinois Senate, extends the statute of limitations for sex-trafficking offenses involving child victims to one year after the victim turns 18. It will go to the House for a concurrence vote before awaiting the governor’s signature.

“It is extremely difficult for a child who has been a victim of sex-trafficking to press charges against the exploiter when as a minor she is still in a vulnerable and dependent position, often unable to live on her own,” said Sen. Collins, the legislation’s sponsor in the Senate. “Giving victims an extra year past the age of majority can make the difference between living in fear and seeing justice done.”

Sen. Collins’ legislation also specifies that when perpetrators – by deceiving their victims – cause them to fear they will suffer serious harm if they attempt to escape, they are forcing them into involuntary servitude, even if they do not physically restrain or injure them. LeAnn Majors, a survivor of human trafficking, testified in a Senate committee that expanding the definition of involuntary servitude is essential to rescuing human trafficking victims, especially children, from their captors.

“I was told [by police], ‘Come back when you have bruises,’” Majors said. “Victims don’t always have bruises, but inside they have fear. [This protection] wasn’t there for me, but I want it to be there for others.”

"We have made significant progress in the legislative arena in recent years when it comes to cracking down on the sex trafficking of children and this legislation is another step forward that will help police and prosecutors obtain justice for the youngest victims of this horrific crime," Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said. "We are grateful to Senator Collins for her hard work on this legislation and her leadership on this important issue." 

The current statute of limitations for sex-trafficking – whether involving a child or an adult – is three years from the time of the last offense against the victim. Other sex crimes involving children allow for an extra year after the victim turns 18 if three years have already passed. For instance, if a victim was 12 when the trafficking offense occurred, charges could be filed against the perpetrator until the victim’s 19th birthday. However, charges could be filed against the exploiter of a 17-year-old at any time until the victim turns 20, because the statute of limitations cannot be less than three years.

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