The Illinois House will convene this afternoon in Springfield for the first day of the scheduled Fall Veto session. As the name implies, this is supposed to be reserved for taking action on bills that the Governor vetoed from the Spring session, but I expect that we will see more legislation before the General Assembly in the coming days. We may even take up more controversial legislation that did not get passed in the Spring. Here’s a brief rundown of what I’m watching for:
- The Governor vetoed Senate Bill 76 that lifts the moratorium on building new advanced nuclear reactors in Illinois. We may take up that veto.
- House Bill 3445 is an energy bill that the Governor vetoed that among other provisions changes the way that transmission lines are built carrying power in to mainly the southern part of the state.
- We may also take up changes to the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit that is scheduled to sunset at the end of the year.
- Speaker Welch has introduced a bill that would allow legislative staff to unionize, and
- A map for the Chicago School Board might be introduced.
Everything changes quickly in Springfield, so I’ll keep you updated as the weeks go on.
Hot Topic of the Week:
Illinois DCFS Needs Transformational Change To End Its Cycle of Failure
Last week, I published a guest column in the Daily Herald responding to the news that the Director of DCFS is stepping down by the end of the year:
When Marc Smith was appointed director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in 2019, the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board warned that he would be set up for failure if he and the agency did not receive adequate support.
Inadequate support is not the reason Marc Smith failed as director. The reason Marc Smith and so many of his predecessors have failed is that the system itself is broken and cannot be redeemed.
The agency’s budget nearly doubled since Smith was named director, and still we see failures running throughout the agency as disclosed in the recent Auditor General’s adverse opinion which found 33 instances of agency noncompliance with its own rules and with Illinois law, some going back as far as 1998. Blaming these failures on COVID or prior administrations is not solving the problem.
DCFS has lost sight of its core mission which is to protect children from abuse and neglect. It doesn’t matter what the race, ethnicity or religion of a child is when that child is being abused. Focusing on statistics instead of the root causes of abuse and neglect, while trying to fit all parts of the state into a one-size-fits-all manner of enforcement does nothing but perpetuate the problem. And when the system fails, we get excuses.
The agency has engaged in years of mission creep, where it takes upon itself responsibilities that are not part of its mandate and then turned those things into an excuse for its systemic failures which are writ large in the Auditor General’s report and years of Inspector General reports.
Many of the problems we see stem from the fact that we have a statewide agency that is imposing its procedures and its policies upon local jurisdictions instead of working within a system of multidisciplinary teams consisting of agencies and authorities which see the problems firsthand in their own communities every day. From investigations to medical determinations to foster care, we need to localize the function of child welfare.
As McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Keneally said in a letter in 2019:
“[T]he primary responsibility for protecting children in a community should belong to the community, not the state. Moreover, and in my opinion, the agents designated to protect children in a community should be primarily accountable to the community, not the state. As such, I would strongly urge you to consider legislation that would provide a significant measure of control over DCFS operations within a county to county government.”
Within the next few weeks, I will be proposing legislation that creates a pilot program within the 22nd Judicial Circuit here in McHenry County that will do just that. The program will take the functions now performed by DCFS and integrate them into a multidisciplinary team concept within the boundaries of a single judicial circuit.
It’s time for bold action, because we cannot continue with what we have seen for so long. Kids have shelf lives, and it’s important that we break the cycle that leads us to seeing children grow up to either be part of the juvenile justice system or become adults who then become abusive or neglectful parents on their own because that’s all they know.
Gov. Pritzker needs to find a director who will have the vision to see things not as they are but how they can be. He must also not be afraid to give that director the freedom to build a management team dedicated to implementing new ideas.
We can’t continue along the same path we’ve been on because if we do, we’re going to lose another generation.
Last week the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules had a meeting in Chicago. Before us were both rules from DCFS about child daycare licensing and rules from the Illinois State Police on the gun registry requirements. Here’s a brief story on the committee hearing.
First an update on the State Police rules – the legislature passed a bill that creates an “assault weapon” registry. That bill is being challenged in Federal Court, but since the State Supreme Court upheld the law, implementation of the legislation has continued. Within the passed legislation, it clearly states that the Illinois State Police must give clear guidelines on which firearms are subject to the registration requirement each year. Instead, the agency brought forward unclear rules that would be difficult for citizens to follow.
The Republicans on JCAR offered an objection to the rules from ISP but that motion failed on a partisan vote. However, we did reach unanimous agreement that ISP must continue to seek input and provide more clarity on their proposed rules. You can read more about the ISP rules here.
As for DCFS, the agency came before JCAR with proposed rules on childcare licensing and staffing. These rules have been an issue where the agency has deliberately ignored stakeholders and if it is implemented the way the agency intends, daycare centers could be forced to close for lack of staff. This was made worse by the fact that the emergency rules under which the centers have been operating expire at the end of the month, and if that happens without new rules to replace them, daycare centers will have no guidance whatsoever regarding staffing. There was bipartisan frustration expressed at the meeting for the agency’s mishandling of this issue, because basically DCFS ran out the clock and forced an unsustainable situation upon daycare providers. You can hear more about my frustration here.
Happenings Around McHenry County:
Woodstock’s final outdoors farmers market of the season will be held on the historic Square on October 28. To add to the occasion, there will be a Trick or Treat event for the whole family. Click here to learn more. While you’re there, check out the newly remodeled Courthouse Center, which serves as the centerpiece of our lovely downtown.
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