New Chief Justice; grant for mental health care

Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier
New Chief Justice for the Illinois Supreme Court
The Illinois Supreme Court will now be presided over by Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier of Nashville, in Washington County. Chief Justice Karmeier is a former Washington County State’s Attorney, and spent more than 20 years working in a private law practice. He was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2004 and was retained in 2014. Justice Karmeier became the 120th chief justice of the state when he took the gavel on October 31.

Relinquishing the gavel was the outgoing Chief Justice Rita Garman, who remains on the court, serving the 4th Judicial District which includes Woodford, Livingston, Ford and Vermilion Counties. Justice Garman, a former assistant state’s attorney in Vermilion County, completed a three-year term as chief justice. The Illinois Supreme Court not only serves as the state’s highest court, but it also sets the rules and procedures of the lower (circuit) courts throughout the state. Chief Justice Karmeier served as a circuit judge for nearly 20 years before being elected to the Supreme Court.

State receives federal grant for mental health care oversight
The Illinois Department of Insurance announced earlier this month that they have been approved in their request for a $1.3 million grant intended to improve the agency’s computer software. Illinois is currently in the midst of a series of initiatives, which includes requesting a major waiver in the federal Medicaid program, meant to help Illinois residents with both mental and behavioral health challenges. The grant will be used to obtain new software to collect and maintain information on how well various private-sector insurance firms are responding to the mental health needs of Illinois policyholders, and will also keep track of consumer complaints and appeals.

October revenue numbers come in lower than last year
The monthly report of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), which is the General Assembly’s budget watchdog office, shows that revenue to the state for the month of October 2016 came in more than $300 million lower than October 2015. The COGFA report is based on figures on cash-flow from the Illinois Department of Revenue that tell how much money came into the state’s coffers last month from sources such as the state’s income and sales tax. Overall, revenues to the treasury fell by $316 million compared to October 2015. Reduced monies from income taxes and also transfers from the federal government made up the majority of the shortfall, with Illinois receiving $133 million less in income tax revenues and $119 million less in federal funds transfers this October versus last October.

These poor cash flow patterns are a big contributor to the mountain of unpaid bills being piled up by the state. At the beginning of November, the office of Comptroller Leslie Munger reported that the state has more than $9.07 billion in unpaid bills for goods and services rendered. A good-sized portion of these unpaid bills are owed for health care services to state employees: nearly $3.86 billion in unpaid bills for health care for state workers, educators at public colleges/universities, and retired teachers.

Hairdressers, beauty technicians to receive domestic violence recognition training
This summer, Illinois became the first state to mandate that the training that must be undertaken by cosmetologists, estheticians, nail technicians, and hair braiders to receive their Illinois license must also include training on how to recognize and report cases of suspected domestic violence and sexual assault. The new law requires that applicants for licenses take a one-hour class every other year when they get their license renewed.  The new law will go into effect on January 1.

To write this law; which stems from an understanding that a wide variety of licensed beauty professionals get close to their clients; the legislature worked with law enforcement as well as domestic violence and sexual assault policy advocates. The legislation was approved by the House back in May by a vote of 115-2-0 and was signed by the Governor in August.

Deer harvest off to a slow start
New figures reported by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) tell us that the 2016 fall archery season is trailing behind the 2015 numbers. As of the final weekend in October, Illinois bowhunters had taken 16,793 deer thus far this year, down by 14.3% from the numbers up to the same point last year. Nearly three-fifths (10,139) of this year’s harvest so far has been made up of doe deer. When broken down by county, the largest numbers of 2016 tags were once again returned from Pike County in west central Illinois. That county, which has a large area of rolling hills, second-growth woodland, and abundant farm fields between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers south of Quincy, have made it a desirable location for deer and deer hunters.

Did You Know?
On November 17, 1834, William L.D. Ewing became Governor of Illinois. His term is notable because it lasted for only 15 days. Earlier in the month, the sitting Governor, John Reynolds, was elected to Congress and Joseph Duncan was elected to succeed him. But Governor Reynolds resigned and left for Washington before his term officially ended, so Lieutenant Governor Ewing was sworn in to finish the term. His governorship ended on December 3 when newly-elected Governor Duncan took the oath of office. Ewing later served as a U.S. Senator for two years.