News from Senator Peter Roskam Senate Republican Whip
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For Immediate Release

Date:  April 11, 2005

Senate Week in Review: April 6 - 8

Springfield, IL – State legislators reconvened in Springfield this week after a two-week break, and the General Assembly quickly got to work considering a multitude of bills, passing more than 200 pieces of legislation, including legislation that would assist the criminal justice system in addressing the rapidly growing number of methamphetamine users in Illinois.

Senate sponsors worked closely with the Attorney General to draft the legislation (SB 562), which organizes methamphetamine-related provisions into a single law that is designed to assist judges, law enforcement authorities, prosecutors and defense attorneys in attending to the rising number of methamphetamine cases plaguing many communities throughout Illinois. The new act specifically addresses the manufacturers of methamphetamine, who frequently adjust the production tactics to avoid detection, arrest, and prosecution—often in ways that pose new dangers for children, law enforcement authorities, and other Illinois residents.

By enacting provisions that make it illegal to engage in the possession, procurement, transportation, storage, or delivery of anhydrous ammonia in an unauthorized container, and targeting individuals who knowingly possess a substance containing methamphetamine, Senate Bill 562 would allow law enforcement to keep pace with the ever-evolving production methods of methamphetamine producers.

In other news, on Thursday members of the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) passed a motion allowing the Commission to hire a consultant who will explore the potential savings the state could realize if Illinois was to administer its own prescription drug benefit program to state employees. Although the state recently brokered a $2 million dollar contract with Medco—a mail-order pharmaceutical provider contracted—Commission members suspect that Illinois could accrue greater savings if it served as its own pharmaceutical provider.

Senate Republicans had encouraged the Commission to investigate the contract, and determine the amount of cost savings Illinois will benefit from by using a mail-order pharmaceutical provider. Republicans emphasize that exploring alternative healthcare options has the potential to save the state money, as well as prevent the state from entering into future contracts that might negatively impact taxpayers’ access to life-saving medicines and medical assistance.

Also on Thursday, Governor Blagojevich signed a measure (HB 949) that will restructure judicial boundaries in several of Illinois’ rapidly-growing suburban counties. Senate Republicans contested Democratic claims that the measure will promote the election of African American and Latinos into judicial seats, arguing that the measure was really an attempt to introduce partisan Democrats into judicial sub-circuits that are currently dominated by Republicans, rather than a sincere effort to increase the number of minority judges in these counties. Republicans stated that the new law dilutes minority populations by dividing the minority districts, thereby separating these communities and reducing the large minority populations.

In other news, Senate Republicans introduced a measure that would require Democrat leadership to reinstate $14 million that the Blagojevich Administration had previously siphoned from the Mental Health Trust Fund as a way to supplement the state budget. As a result of the fund diversion the state is now unable to pay mental health providers for their services, forcing some providers to take on credit to pay their own bills. Unfortunately Senate Democrats did not support the measure, and in Thursday’s Senate Appropriations Committee they instead advanced a measure that would sweep a Medicaid fund to supplement the current funding gap.

On Friday, the Senate paid tribute to Pope John Paul II, passing a death resolution honoring the pontiff for his 26 years of service and sacrifice. Legislators mourned the passing of this great historical figure as an, “extraordinary hero for our time, an inspiring leader of the Catholic Church, and a wonderful warrior for freedom and democracy.” This great man gave inspiration and hope to people all over the world, and we will all mourn his passing.

Finally, the following bills also passed the Senate this week:

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