SPRINGFIELD – College students needing to buy a new computer for school use or who utilize special needs services could soon be able to use their Illinois’ College Savings Plan to do so due to a measure passed by the Illinois Senate on Thursday.
“Today, computers are just as necessary as textbooks,” Cunningham said. “If you don’t have easy access to a computer your chances of succeeding plummet.”
Senate Bill 1758 would add computers and other technology based expenses to the definition of qualified expenses for the purposes of one’s Illinois’ College Savings Plan. Expenses from special needs services connected with enrollment or attendance would also be defined as qualified expenses.
“The state restricting a student with special needs from using their college savings accounts to pay for required expenses related to successfully attend college is ridiculous,” Cunningham said. “By passing this legislation, we can put every student closer to succeeding in their post-secondary goals.”
The measure passed the full Senate unanimously. It moves to the House for further consideration.
SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has advanced plans to tackle issues found during the Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.
Cullerton passed Senate Bill 1693 to allow deceased veterans with military service to include their veteran status, branch of military and the period of time served in the military on their death certificate.
“We need to get to the root of veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said. “We can only tackle this problem after we have a complete picture of cause of this problem. This is a simple way to collect statistics and honor Illinois’ veterans.”
The idea was suggested by DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgenson, who indicated that veteran suicide was under reported since Illinois death certificates do not include information on the history of U.S. military service.
“Our veterans are our community’s heroes. Illinois’ military members and veterans put their life on the line every day, now is the time for us to take care of them,” Cullerton said. “Every life we save is priceless.”
Cullerton also passed Senate Bill 866 to require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans.
Under current law, the DVA isn’t required to provide information or resources on how a veteran might obtain a service animal.
“The DVA should be a one-stop shop for our veterans,” Cullerton said. “There is a stigma within the veterans’ community on using traditional treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We haven’t been able to explore the effects of using service dogs as alternative treatments since there is a lack of awareness in the veterans’ community.”
Cullerton hopes this small step will help make service dogs readily available to veterans to cope with PTSD. Among who have used or are aware of service dogs there is a high demand. However, trained dogs can be difficult to find.
“Using service dogs as treatment for PTSD could be the key to ending the veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said.
Senate Bill 866 and Senate Bill 1693 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now move to the House for consideration.
SPRINGFIELD – People struggling with multiple sclerosis could have an opportunity to ask for an exception to treatment limitations due to legislation passed by State Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills).
“Restricting treatment for the more than 20,000 Illinois residents living with multiple sclerosis is atrocious,” Link said. “These restrictions mean that people diagnosed with MS are not allowed to get the medically recommended treatment they need.”
Senate Bill 193 would require that insurance companies offer an exceptions process for patients with multiple sclerosis to request an exception to a treatment limitation. It would also require that the insurance company would have 72 hours to accept or deny the exception request. Limitations include being subject to waiting periods, cost sharing limits and other limits.
“By taking this step, insurance companies now have to justify to people why they are denying their medically necessary treatment,” Link said. “This is a small step in the long fight to push for a compassionate Illinois that helps people manage their symptoms appropriately.”
Currently, insurance companies can limit the number of physical therapy session covered even if more sessions are deemed medically necessary.
The legislation moves to the House for further consideration.
SPRINGFIELD – A permanent property tax freeze from Springfield will only squeeze local schools and park districts according to one Illinois State Senator.
State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) says that while the freeze may be a good talking point, in reality it squeezes school districts that have been shortchanged by Springfield for years.
“Before the governor demanded a permanent property tax freeze, he never met with the Illinois State Board of Education to determine what it would do to local school districts,” Bennett said. “I don’t know how you make a decision that consequential without talking to your own experts.”
In a hearing on Thursday at the Senate Appropriations Committee, Bennett challenged the assertion that Springfield’s freezing of property taxes permanently will amount to returning control to taxpayers.
“Springfield does not spend or collect a single dollar of property taxes,” said Bennett. “Property taxes are set locally by people we elect, that is the very essence of local control.”
Bennett later said that while he agrees that the property tax burden is large, he believes the Senate’s bipartisan plan to temporarily freeze property taxes will bring stability and predictability.
“What we have proposed in the Senate is to freeze property taxes for a few years so we can see the results,” Bennett said. “If there are no negative effects and the voters are happy with the freeze, they will be more than able to decide to extend it.”