Record cold temperatures reported in Chicago, other regions of Illinois. Repeated recordings of below-zero weather were reported this week throughout the State, with temperatures as low as -8° F. at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Thursday, February 19. Warming centers are operated for challenged people by municipalities, including the city of Chicago and by private sector entities such as the Salvation Army and the United Way.

Illinois residents are urged to monitor the health and safety of their neighbors, and to work with them should trouble appear. Conditions of extreme cold are also dangerous to the life and safety of companion animals.
Last fall, I reported progress on halting an appalling practice that is much closer to home than most of us realize, human-trafficking. Human-trafficking is a modern-day version of slavery that is thriving in the United States and sadly, in some our own communities. Every day, human beings are bought, sold, or smuggled so that others can profit from their forced labor or sexual servitude. While every state criminalizes at least some forms of trafficking activity, legislators across the nation continue to explore new ways to combat traffickers and provide support for victims.

Most of us are unaware, but human-trafficking is a lucrative business right here in northern Illinois. In this area, human traffickers are using the massage parlor industry as a cover and method for connecting sex-trade customers with mostly East Asian women, both documented and undocumented, who are being forced to perform sex acts. Operators of these parlors locate in communities where zoning laws do not specifically address licensure, lighting, dress codes, and hours of operation for massage parlors.

To counter the spread of this revolting industry, in August of last year, then Gov. Quinn signed into law a bill that takes a three-pronged approach to attacking human-trafficking issues. Senate Bill 3558, signed into law as Public Act 98-1013, sets fines against pimps, traffickers, and those who buy services from trafficking victims. The new law also expands forfeiture to those convicted of promoting this form of prostitution. Given that the physical, mental, and emotional toll the victims suffer is so significant, the new law also allows the state’s Department of Human Services to issue grants to support specialized services to aid in the healing process for victims. We are fortunate in Illinois to also have a “Safe Harbor” law on the books, which prevents sex-trafficking victims from being treated as criminals for the prostitution activities in which they were engaged.

Rep. David Harris introduces the Right to Try Act. HB 2508 would provide that an eligible patient with a terminal illness who has considered all other treatment options approved by the federal government may obtain and take an unapproved drug. Unapproved drugs and devices included in this limited carve-out of rights for the terminally ill are limited to those that have successfully completed Phase I of a clinical trial and have not yet been approved for prescription or use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In almost all cases when a drug or medical device shows promising results in preliminary “Phase I” studies, the FDA will require extensive follow-up studies to be done. These studies, often called “Phase II,” have several goals. If successful, they gather statistical confirmation that the treatment succeeds, learn more about side effects and contraindications, and learn more about why and how the treatment works so that physicians will learn when and where it should be prescribed and who is helped/not helped by it. In many cases, Phase II studies last for years. While Phase II is ongoing, access to a drug or treatment is severely limited – in effect, sharply rationed – by the maker or provider. Patients and care providers have no right to ask that the drug or device be provided to them.

Chicago-area measles count notches 14 cases, including 13 at Palatine daycare center. Public health officials do not know how the daycare infants caught the virus; a search is on for the person or persons who infected five infants. The count of 14 measles cases was released on Tuesday, February 17. The extremely contagious virus broke out two weeks ago at a day care center located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

While most Illinois adults are protected from catching measles by the vaccines they have received in the past, the 13 Palatine patients were all under 12 months of age or were not old enough to get a doctor’s approval for these shots. KinderCare, operator of the daycare center identified as the principal location of the Illinois infant outbreak, has told employees at its 1,900 day care centers nationwide that they must get vaccinated for measles as a condition of being allowed to continue to work in infant rooms.
Illinois House committee to hold hearing on controversial test mandate. The House Education – School Curriculum and Policies Committee will meet on Wednesday, February 25, to take testimony on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test mandate. The hearing is scheduled to be held at 4:00 p.m. in Room 114 of the State Capitol.

House members on the 26-person committee are expected to hear concerns from affected parents, teachers, and representatives of school districts. Many people are opposed to both the new test and to the way it is being implemented here in Illinois. Educators have raised concerns about inadequate technology, lack of testing infrastructure to match the spaces required to administer the test, overall school funding issues as they intersect with this test mandate, and issues of student preparation for the test. Procedural challenges include questions of whether this test has been sprung on Illinois school districts, teachers, students, and parents and whether they received adequate warning of this new mandate.

The budget for fiscal year 2016 (FY16) presented by Governor Bruce Rauner to the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, February 18 contains many challenges to traditional spending patterns in Springfield. Serious cuts are imposed on a wide variety of expenditures, especially in areas covered by GRF spending ($31.5 billion). Rauner says Illinois taxation and spending has, for too long, been on autopilot and that he was elected to pull the State’s government out of a death spiral.

“Even after we solve this fiscal year’s crisis, we will still be left with a budget hole of $6.2 billion for the coming fiscal year,” the newly-elected Governor told lawmakers. “Waste and inefficiency are rampant in our current system,” he reported. “To be compassionate, we must be competitive.”
Public health officials do not know how the daycare infants caught the virus; a search is on for the person or persons who infected five infants. The count of 8 measles cases was released on Monday, February 9. The extremely contagious virus broke out last week at a day care center located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. While most Illinois adults are protected from catching measles by the vaccines they have received in the past, the infant patients were all under 12 months of age or were not old enough to get a doctor’s approval for these shots. KinderCare, operator of the Palatine daycare center identified as the location of the Illinois infant outbreak, has told employees at its 1,900 day care centers nationwide that they must get vaccinated for measles (http://www.kindercare.com/uploadedfiles/documents/measlesletter.pdf) as a condition of being allowed to continue to work in infant rooms.

A major outbreak of measles has broken loose in the United States this winter. The outbreak has been partly traced to contacts made between a patient and other visitors to Disneyland in southern California. At least 121 infections have been counted, spread across 17 states. ABC News/Channel 7 covers the outbreak: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/investigators-unsure-started-measles-cluster-illinois/story?id=28802471.
"Today, Gov. Rauner followed up the sobering fiscal assessment he gave in his first State of the State Address by giving another even more sobering look at the reality of our state’s finances in his first Budget Address. The challenges facing our state are no secret and as I’ve said before, it gives me hope to see this reality being acknowledged by the Governor.

Gov. Rauner laid out his priorities to focus core spending toward public safety, education, and paying our states seemingly endless backlog of bills. However, as I and my colleagues review the full proposal and make recommendations, it will be my top priority to ensure that the needs of the 64th District are met.

Make no mistake, the next couple years may be very difficult, but turning Illinois around now is essential for the sake of current and future generations."
Gov. Rauner will be giving his first budget address today at noon. If you would like to watch the address, click the link below to watch. The video will be available a few minutes before the address begins.

Watch video here: http://www.ilga.gov/house/audvid.asp
"Today, in Gov. Rauner’s first State of the State Address, he showed the necessary willingness take head-on the fiscal challenges facing our state. He didn’t hold back in providing an honest assessment of the desperate state of affairs and this will be very important to putting our state back on the path to prosperity.

The Governor highlighted key goals to fix our broken regulatory climate to improve our business and manufacturing sectors to create the jobs Illinois families are in desperate need of. He also noted reforming worker’s compensation and property tax relief, and how important prioritizing our education funding will be in his upcoming budget.

I’m very pleased to see that he is not afraid to take on the big issues confronting Illinois, and I look forward to his upcoming budget speech in two weeks as we strive to make these goals a reality."
State of the State address preparations
· Governor’s message: Turnaround necessary. Preparations continue for the State of the State address to be delivered by Governor Bruce Rauner to the General Assembly on Wednesday, February 4. The Governor and his executive staff have published an advocacy platform, “The Illinois Turnaround,” that sets forth the broad goals he will be looking for in State policymaking. Gov. Rauner has fleshed out the points made in this package in a series of speeches delivered in key Illinois cities. For example, the governor spoke in Champaign on Thursday, January 29.

Posted directly to the Internet for readers of crowdsourced news platform Buzzfeed on Thursday, the “Illinois Turnaround” platform aims to “return Illinois to a place people want to live, work, invest, and flourish.” Quoting data from the U.S. Census Bureau showing major net out-migration from Illinois, the platform calls for making significant improvements to Illinois’ lawsuit climate, job-creation environment, property taxes, and the burdens of unfunded mandates on businesses and local governments.