Cardinals Opening Day against the Chicago Cubs is on the horizon, which is something most baseball fans can all look forward to. But there is something else I look forward to happening, and that is for both Democrats and Republicans to work together and approve a balanced state budget.

The Illinois General Assembly held its version of Opening Day on January 11, 2017 when all 118 representatives and 59 senators took the oath of office, marking the first day of business for the new legislature following the November election. It was a fresh start, a new year, and a real opportunity to accomplish what many promised to do after the election – pass a balanced budget. Yet here we are today, halfway through the season we call ‘session’ and the legislature has accomplished little to brag about in the record books except more losses and less victories for the taxpayers.

To make matters worse, two Senate Democrat Leaders recently went on the record to say they don’t believe we will have a budget until after the Governor’s election in November 2018. The unpaid bills are stacking up, our universities and community colleges are exhausting their emergency funds to stay open, healthcare providers are not getting paid. The lack of a state budget is continuing to harm our most vulnerable. The fact that some Democrats are already signaling they are giving up on the taxpayers and giving up on bipartisanship is outrageous.

House Republicans have repeatedly called for action on issues Illinois residents care about such as property tax relief for homeowners, redistricting reform that will give more power to the voters, not the politicians, and furthermore my Republican colleagues introduced a plan to ensure our State can pay down its massive pension debt. Unfortunately, the majority of House Democrats have not shown a willingness to work together on a balanced budget or compromise on any of the issues Illinois residents care about. Instead we are faced with silence and talk of giving up from the other side of the aisle.
The Illinois House of Representatives recently approved legislation directing the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) program administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). The resolution (HR 34) sponsored by State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) was introduced in light of the abuse and neglect which took place throughout the state in group homes for the developmentally disabled dating back to 2011.

The tragic reports of abuse and neglect came to light thanks to the Murray Parents Association’s work with the Chicago Tribune, sparking an investigation by the newspaper, then followed by the Tribune publishing its story earlier this year titled SUFFERING IN SECRET: Illinois hides abuse and neglect of adults with disabilities,” in which the newspaper “identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 and determined at least 42 deaths linked to abuse or neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years.”

“The audit unfortunately can’t undo the abuse and neglect which occurred, however this audit will help us learn more about what went wrong and how Illinois can improve the quality of care for our most vulnerable,” said Rep. Meier. “DHS has already made improvements, though I am optimistic this audit will further improve how the state properly cares for the developmentally disabled.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services has seven State-operated developmental centers (SODCs) serving approximately 1,800 residents. Individuals also receive services in community-based settings through Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs), which house one to eight residents each otherwise called “group homes”. In 2012, then-Governor Quinn announced a "rebalancing initiative" with the goal of moving individuals from SODCs to community settings. In 2012, the SODC in Jacksonville was closed and the majority of its residents were transitioned to CILAs. Followed by the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia being slated for closure, resulting in some residents being transitioned out of their home they call Murray and being placed into group homes. However, as it stands today, Murray Center is and will remain open.

Rep. Meier added, “There are good CILAs and there are some bad CILAs. My goal is to help make sure unsafe CILAs are a thing of the past.”