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Five terms enough, says Jesse White

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By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

After five terms as Illinois secretary of state, Jesse White will retire from public office when his current term ends, he said Thursday.

The Chicago Democrat, a former Cook County Recorder of Deeds and state legislator, said his decision to not seek re-election in 2018 is final.

“Take it to the bank,” said White, who has previously discussed retirement. “This is it,” he said.

The 81-year-old native of Alton said he’d surely be on the job for the remainder of this term, though. “Oh, sure, I’ll be there every day, at my duty station and discharging my duties to the best of my abilities,” White told reporters at the Illinois State Fair.

A former Army paratrooper, White also played minor league baseball and spent three decades in the Chicago public school system as a teacher and administrator. In 1959, he founded the acclaimed Jesse White Tumbling Team for children in the Chicago area.

Federal funding bill

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed a bill to access about $5.4 billion in federal funding for Illinois programs that would have been otherwise tied up because of the lack of a state budget.

The measure, Senate Bill 2042, “will help those in need without adding to the state’s budget deficit,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said in a news release. The “bill allows the state to provide some services to the state’s most vulnerable citizens,” he added.

The bill also authorizes the state to pay $166 million from its own funds toward debt service for Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority.

House Democrats last week attempted to add another $585 in state general fund spending, but they backed off that effort when it appeared they were lacking votes.

The bill passed the House by a 98 to 0 vote. The Senate on Wednesday night sent it to the governor on a vote of 52 to 0.

MAP Grant funding

By a vote of 37 to 0, the Senate on Wednesday passed a measure to provide roughly $373 million in state funds for the Monetary Assistance Program, which provides need-based aid to college students in Illinois.

The amount is in line with Gov. Rauner’s budget proposal from February and will help from 125,000 to 135,000 students, said State Sen. Don Kotowski, D-Chicago.

Deputy Republican Leader Matt Murphy of Palatine said there was no debate whether the MAP program was worthy of support, but he spoke against passing the legislation while the state remains without a budget.

“We’re talking about spending $38 billion when you have $32” billion, Murphy said.

Kotowski and other Democrats argued the program was worthy, keeps deserving students in school and should be funded in any state budget that is reached.

Senate Bill 2043 passed with 36 votes from Democrats and a vote from one Republican, State Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville. Fourteen Republican senators voted “present.”

The measure now moves to the House.

DON scores

By a vote of 36 to 2, the Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that its sponsor says would maintain services for an estimated 40,000 people as the state transitions to new Medicaid rules.

State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, said a current effort by the Rauner administration to lower Medicaid costs would change an important qualifying measure — the determination of need, or DON, score — from 29 to 37.

Biss argued that move could disenfranchise “tens of thousands” of elderly and disabled Illinoisans who currently receive at home or in-facility care by way of Medicaid.

The General Assembly in 2012 approved the potential change as part of the Saving Medicaid Access and Resources Together, or SMART, Act. The Rauner administration now asks the federal government accept the requested change.

The administration says the state must focus on rebalancing the system and ensuring that individuals receiving state- supported services actually need the level of support they receive.

Biss argued the administration’s transition plans are so lacking as to be non-existent, and that means those currently in the system and having DON scores from 29 to 36 need to be protected.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said the measure “absolutely stops any kind of meaningful reform dead in its tracks.”

Biss said the measure is necessary and a reasonable effort “to protect the people already in the system.”

The bill now returns to the House for a concurrence vote.

License plates

By a vote of 51 to 0, the Senate on Wednesday approved a measure to take control of the number of Illinois specialty license plates.

The state now has more than 100 specialty plates, which causes confusion for police officers and others, said State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Loves Park.

Language in House Bill 1081 would establish a single, universal specialty license plate that would have space for groups requesting specialty designs to add their own decal.

Most of Illinois specialty plates are fundraisers for various causes, from autism awareness to wetlands preservation.

Pricing for a random-number specialty plate generally involves an additional charge of $40, $15 of which stays with the state so taxpayer dollars aren’t used to make the special plates. The remaining $25 goes to the motorist’s cause.

The bill now returns to the House for a concurrence vote. The House is next scheduled to convene Aug. 25.

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