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Illinois Legislature Passes Pay-to-Play Contracting Reform, Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

Illinois Legislature Passes Pay-to-Play Contracting Reform, Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

Thursday, June 19, 2008

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Increasing-Democracy

Illinois Legislature Passes Pay-to-Play Contracting Reform, Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

Illinois stands out as a state famous for corrupt politics.  For generations, patronage and pay-to-play politics have been raised to an art form by state and local politicians.  The state's last governor is in jail for racketeering.  The current governor is under federal investigation for allegedly giving jobs and no-bid contracts to campaign supporters, more than 200 of whom have given the governor checks for exactly $25,000.  Advocates of good government such as the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform have fought for years to bring the states' corrupt government officials to heel.

Now, it appears that they are on the cusp of celebrating their first major victory - a law that would ban campaign contributions from government contractors to elected officials who have control over giving out contracts.  Seven other states currently have some form of pay-to-play contracting law.  This bill, HB 824, would be a radical change in a state that doesn't put any limit on the size of campaign contributions.  It has passed each house of the legislature unanimously and now sits on the governor's desk.  He has expressed reluctance to sign the bill, claiming that he doesn't feel it goes far enough.  However, with the recent indictment of Tony Rezko, a major contributor, and the frequent mention of the governor at his trial, the pressure may just be too much to resist.  But even if he alters the bill or vetoes it, the lack of no votes in the legislature and statements from the leadership suggests that an override is likely.

Specifics of the pay-to-play bill:

  • Applies to current or prospective government contractors who have a total of $50,000 or more in contracts.
  • Establishes a registry of such contractors.
  • Prohibits contractors from making campaign contributions to elected officials who have control over the contracting process or persons running for such office.
  • Requires these contractors to report all campaign contributions.

Hopefully, passage of this important reform will be the first in a series that address the woeful state of government accountability in Illinois.

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Strengthening-Communities

News State Gains on LGBT Rights

While national press coverage has focused on the historic ruling which made California the second state to allow same-sex nuptials, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are making slow and steady progress across the country.  In the recent weeks a few more states have taken action to help further civil rights for the LGBT community.  

Kentucky Governor Grants Increased Protections for State Employees: Governor Steve Beshear this week signed an executive order reversing policies of his predecessor, by granting employment protections for gay and transgender state employees. Former Governor Ernie Fletcher, had in 2006, stripped from his administration's equal employment opportunities policy phrasing that barred employment discrimination in state government on the basis of "sexual orientation or gender identity.”?  Beshear, stated that the employment protections he granted meant "a gay person could not be fired simply for being gay. A person should be hired or dismissed on the basis of whether they can do the job. Experience, qualifications, talent and performance are what matter." The order includes protections relating to "hiring, promotion, termination, tenure, recruitment and compensation."

Christina Gilgor, executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, said the executive order "puts Kentucky among 26 other states, and ahead of the federal government, on this issue."

Colorado Enacted Non-Discrimination Law: Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Representative Joel Judd and Senator Jennifer Veiga, which expands language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including transgender status, in housing practices, public accommodation, eligibility for jury service, availability of family planning services, as well as many other areas.  Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese stated, “[o]pponents of equality did their best to scare and divide Coloradans, but it’s heartening to see that their tactics were rejected. This is a positive step forward for Colorado, coming on the heels of two pro-equality laws enacted in 2007.”?

Two Big Strides for Human Rights in New York State:
The New York State Assembly amended the state’s human rights law to include anti-discrimination protections based upon gender identity and expression.  The bill, known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), is now under consideration in the Senate, and bans discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and other areas of everyday life. The Empire State Pride Agenda, and over 200 organizational members of the GENDA Coalition worked closely with Assembly member Gottfried and other Assembly supporters to build the momentum for passage that resulted in this vote.

“Transgender New Yorkers are in constant fear that they will lose their jobs, get kicked out of their home, or simply be denied service when they go into a restaurant. It goes without saying that these members of our community should be able to go about the business of living their lives openly and without fear,”? said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.  Ending the discrimination targeted by this legislation is supported by over three quarters of New York voters.

Additionally, appellate judges ruled there is no legal impediment in New York to the recognition of a same-sex marriage. Based on the court's ruling New York Gov. David Paterson instructed state agencies - including those governing insurance and he4alth care - to immediately change policies and regulations to recognize gay marriages. The move has generated little serious opposition and it is supported by a majority of voters.

For years, gay rights advocates have sought state recognition for same-sex marriages so couples could enjoy a number of basic family protections controlled by the state, such as shared family health care plans, medical decisions making rights, stronger adoption rights and inheriting property. These and all state marriage rights now appear to be available to New Yorkers who legally wed same-sex partners in other states and countries, according to the memo sent earlier this month from the governor's counsel. Agencies have until June 30 to report back to the counsel on how, specifically, the directive will change existing state benefits and services for gay couples.

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Valuing-Families

Connecticut Governor Vetoes Health Care Pooling Reform

Bowing to health insurance industry pressure, Republican Governors in Connecticut and Minnesota vetoed legislation that promised to cut health care costs for municipalities and small businesses and to save taxpayer dollars.  While Connecticut's initiative was more expansive, both legislation would have authorized the pooling of employees in order for employers to wring more affordable rates and better quality coverage out of the insurance industry. 

Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell vetoed HB 5536, the Connecticut Healthcare Partnership, which would have opened the state employee health plan to municipalities, small businesses and non-profits.  Pooling small groups with the state employee plan, which has more than 200,000 members, would have generated significant bargaining power and enabled small employers and municipalites to negotiate better insurance rates.  While more than 20 states allow similar pooling of state and municipal workers, Connecticut would have been the first to allow small businesses to join the plan at such a large scale.  House Majority Leader Chris Donovan, who sponsored the legislation, projected millions of dollars in savings to municipalities who choose to join the state plan.  New Haven, for instance, could have saved over $8.6 million in annual employee health insurance costs, freeing up scarce dollars for property tax relief and improvements to roads, schools, and public safety.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed HF 1875, which would have created a board to design a statewide health insurance pool for local school employees.  The initiative was designed, in part, to assist municipalities that do not currently provide coverage.  Elsewhere, Kansas legislation (HB 2172) establishing a pilot project allowing certain small businesses to join the state employee health plan died in committee this session.

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Research Roundup

The Center for American Progress has released The ID Divide: Addressing the Challenges of Identification and Authentication in American Society, which investigates the complex issues surrounding identification and the movement toward greater demands for identity verification.  It also details the growing marginalization of people who lack ID as they are excluded from a host of political and economic activities.

Average Americans may be seeing wages stagnate, but there is Surging wage growth for the topmost sliver of the richest Americans, according to snapshot published by the Economic Policy Institute.   Rising inequity means that where in 1979 it took the highest-paid earners 12.4 days to make what most other earners did in a year, by 2004 that feat was accomplished in a mere 3.7 days.

The Casey Foundation has released its 19th annual Kids Count databank, where you can see data on poverty, health, education, income and other issues, listed by city, county, metro area, congressional district or state.

In the The Strains and Drains of Long-Term Care, the Urban Institute finds that unpaid family members supply most long term care, struggling to balance that care with work and other responsibilities. Because public help to pay for a nursing home is not generally available until a person exhuasts almost all their resources, most moderate-income families  find the burden of long-term care overwhelming.

Medicaid, SCHIP, and Economic Downturn: Policy Challenges and Policy Responses by Families USA examines how recessions may impact health coverage and state programs and projects the impact of a one percentage point rise in the national unemployment rate on Medicaid and CHIP and the number of uninsured individuals

Medical research by the government is often not just key to scientific progress; for many communities, it's a key component of economic growth, as new products and jobs are generated, a point that Families USA makes in their new report, In Your Own Backyard:  How NIH Funding Helps Your State’s Economy.  The $29 billion annual budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a key funder of universities, medical centers and research institutes in every state in the country.


Please email us leads on good research at research@progressivestates.org

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