Friday, July 5, 2013

Urge Legislators to Vote NO on motion to override Governor’s Veto

"...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."                 
- Isaiah 2:4                                                 
Gun violence is destroying our communities. As people of faith, we know that more guns are not the answer. Due to your dedication this past legislative session, we passed a guns package (HB1189) that included universal background checks and mandatory reporting of lost and stolen firearms.
But our gun safety bill was not the only gun legislation that passed that day. 
This concealed carry bill – HB183 – also passed the Illinois General Assembly.  The bill allows for many frightening possibilities, including the following:
Guns Permitted in Establishments with Alcohol Sales
Mixing alcohol with guns is irresponsible and dangerous. As drafted, this bill allows people to carry guns into establishments serving alcohol, including most family restaurants and other places where large amounts of alcohol are consumed.
Unlimited Number of Guns and Ammunition
The bill provides no cap on the number of guns or on the size or number of ammunition clips that may be carried.  Instead, it allows individuals to legally carry multiple guns with unlimited rounds of ammunition, which is a public safety hazard.
Restricting Local Authority to Regulate Guns or Assault Weapons
This bill strips the authority of Illinois “home rule” governments to enact future laws on assault weapons to protect their local communities. This NRA-inspired provision is NOT related to the concealed carry of handguns and should be removed from the bill.
Fortunately, Gov Quinn has proposed changes in the form of an amendatory veto (to see full list of changes click here). The veto would allow this bill to fulfill its original purpose (the regulation of concealed weapons), while challenging the above provisions.   Among other important changes, the governor is proposing:
  • NO Guns in establishments that serve alcohol
  • A concealed carry limit of one gun per person and only 10 rounds
  • Preserves local “home rule” communities’ authority to pass laws that ban assault weapons.
We SUPPORT the Governor’s veto!  Pro-Gun legislators are trying to override these critical changes. It’s up to us to urge our legislators to VOTE NO ON THE OVERRIDE.  Time is short.  The General Assembly will likely take a vote on Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Call or e-mail your representative TODAY (click here to look up their contact information)!  You can use the message below for a phone call or an e-mail.
“Hello, my name is ________________.  I support the Governor’s common-sense changes to the concealed carry gun bill. I urge the senator (or representative) to vote NO on the motion to override the governor’s veto.  Thank you.”
Thank YOU for your advocacy!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Urgent: Common-Sense Concealed Carry Bill Stalled

During the 2013 legislative session, PCG, CRS, and our partners, have been advocating for common-sense gun regulations – universal background checks on all gun sales, reporting lost or stolen firearms, and titling handguns similar to car registration – to be included in any gun trafficking legislation considered by the Illinois General Assembly.  The Illinois legislature was ordered by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to craft a law by June 9 that will allow responsible gun owners to carry concealed weapons in public.  Two radically different concealed carry bills are currently moving.

The House passed SB 2193 (Amendment #1), sponsored by Representative Brandon Phelps by a vote 85-30-1 on Friday.  While this new measure bans firearms in some places, it strips all other gun regulations off the books, including assault weapon bans, and would allow nearly unrestricted carrying of concealed weapons.  What’s more, it overrules local municipalities with existing sensible regulations and prohibits towns and cities, including Chicago, from enacting new common-sense gun regulations in the future.

Governor Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are all strongly opposed to SB 2193.  Both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune editorial boards are against SB 2193 and support HB 183 instead.

Contact your Senator and tell them SB 2193 is bad for Illinois and overturning existing local laws will NOT make us safer.  Tell your Senator to support HB 183 Senator Kwame Raoul’s true compromise legislation!

HB 183, sponsored by Senator Kwame Raoul, includes common-sense provisions for mandatory reporting lost or stolen firearms and universal background checks on all gun purchases, unlike SB 2193, which lacks any gun safety measures.  Additionally, HB 183 allows local authorities and law enforcement to pass ordinances regarding who should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon.  We support Sen. Raoul's amendment to HB 183, which was voted overwhelmingly out of committee but has yet to make it to the floor of either house.

Contact your legislators now and urge them to support common-sense gun regulations by voting YES for HB 183 and NO for SB 2193.

This is a crucial time to help stop the flow of illegal guns into our communities.  Since the legislative session ends on May 31, lawmakers will be considering these proposals any day now.  Please don’t delay. The legislative session will end soon, but gun trafficking won’t—unless we take action and make our voices heard.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Illinois Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana!

Thank you advocates and patients!
Protestants for the Common Good has been advocating for legislation to legalize medical marijuana in Illinois for years. We are almost there!  The Illinois General Assembly recently passed HB 1, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, which creates a four-year pilot program during which individuals with serious diseases would be able to buy limited amounts of medical marijuana from one of 60 state-licensed dispensaries   

HB 1 passed the Illinois Senate by a 35-21 vote on May 17, 2013.  The House previously passed HB 1 on April 17, 2013 by a 61-57 vote.  

Please join us in thanking the legislators who supported this legislation to show mercy and compassion to people suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, HIV, spinal disease, ALS and other terrible ailments.  Find out how your Senator and Representative voted.

Thank you to Chief Senate Sponsor William Haine and Chief House Sponsor Lou Lang!

Read Rev. Alexander Sharp’s Op-Ed in the Chicago Sun-Times and Shouts of Joy! article urging the Illinois Senate to pass this bill.  You can also watch video of the recent Senate floor debate and the House floor debate.

The fate of this legislation now rests in the hands of Democratic Governor Pat Quinn.  Gov. Quinn is reviewing the bill and remains “open-minded.”  Read recent editorial blogs from the Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post and Chicago Magazine.

HB 1 has the support of Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, in addition to over 260 doctors in Illinois, religious leaders, and medical organizations, as well as a majority of Illinois voters according to recent polling.

Patients have waited far too long in Illinois.  We urge Gov. Quinn to show compassion and mercy for those suffering from debilitating pain and swiftly sign HB 1 into law.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tell Gov. Quinn: Record High Coal Exports at Huge Costs

By Heartland Coalfield Alliance
Illinois’ abundant high-sulphur coal saw record demand oversees last year, according to according to a new report commissioned by the Illinois Office of Coal Development that was released Wednesday, May 2, 2013.

Click to read report

The study, prepared by Energy Ventures Analysis Inc., found that 13 million tons of Illinois coal was exported in 2012.  That’s a fivefold increase from the 2.5 million tons shipped out of the U.S. in 2010.
Please take a moment to remind Governor Quinn this increase in coal exports comes at a huge expense to Illinois communities:
  • New surface and underground mines threaten the state’s agricultural communities by destroying and subsiding prime farmland.
  • “Jobless” coal boom – Illinois exported 5 times as much coal in 2012 as in 2010, but mining jobs only increased by 14% (~3,500 to 4,000 miners) – the fact remains, coal mining is an insignificant part of the state’s economy, so why is DCEO bending over backwards to please the industry?
  • Digging coal is digging Illinois even deeper into debt as the coal industry raids our mineral wealth without sending so much as a cent back to the state in severance or sales taxes, which all neighboring coal producing states collect.
Click for more and contact information for Governor Quinn.

Protect Illinois communities: Take action now!
PCG is a member of the Heartland Coalfield Alliance, which works to reduce impacts from dirty coal mining, coal burning and coal waste disposal while promoting cleaner, more sustainable and affordable energy solutions for the Illinois Coal Basin.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Testimony to Improve Charity Care Rules

On April 17, 2013, Laura Dean F. Friedrich, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Protestants for the Common Good, a unit of the Community Renewal Society, testified at the public hearing on the Proposed Rules for Hospital Financial Assistance under the Fair Patient Billing Act to the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Illinois on April 17, 2013.  Her testimony is below. Read Making Rules, Playing Fair for more information about PCG's and the Fair Care Coalition's involvement in the rule-making process. Final rules will be issued in June 2013.

Protestants for the Common Good appreciates this opportunity to comment on the Proposed Rules for Hospital Financial Assistance under the Fair Patient Billing Act.  We commend the Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, and her staff for their diligent work on this important matter for the people of Illinois.

We affirm the clear definition of “Hospital Financial Assistance” which specifies that bad debt and uncollectible charges cannot be recorded as financial assistance, and we agree with the criteria established for presumptive eligibility. We also support the clear reporting requirements for hospitals, the opening language stating that a Social Security is not required to qualify for free or discounted care, and the best-practice language requirement of having the application in every primary language of at least 5% of patients served by the hospital. These provisions will help reduce barriers to free and discounted care for low-income, un-insured or under-insured individuals and, at the same time, ensure that hospitals meet their responsibility to provide charity care.

We at Protestants for the Common Good also believe that the Proposed Rules can be improved in the following ways:

Specify the Presumptive Eligibility Process.  While the criteria for presumptive eligibility are appropriate, the rules do not clearly establish a process or timeline for determining presumptive eligibility. The rules should include language that requires that patients be asked about the presumptive eligibility criteria before being discharged from the hospital and that decisions determining presumptive eligibility be made before the patient is billed.

Simplify the application.  The application proposed in the rules is long and burdensome to patients needing free or reduced hospital care.  The application should ask only the minimum questions necessary to determine income eligibility for charity care and omit those questions more appropriately related to Medicaid eligibility.  Detailed information about employers of the applicant and his/her family members and personal expenses, among other items, should not be required.

Include an affidavit for income verification.  We support the language in the rules that allows for “other documentation provided by the patient” to verify family income, but it is unclear how patients who have no income or cash-only income should report that information.  We suggest that the rules indicate that patients in this situation can sign a simple statement saying that they have no income or receive cash from their employers to verify that they do not have the customary documentation for their incomes.

Allow only one application.  Additional language should be added to the rules indicating that a hospital may not create an additional application or add a form, e.g., a cover sheet with a list of required documents for multiple programs, to the eligibility/application process.

Revise the application certification.  The certification paragraph at the end of the application is overwhelming and intimidating.  A simple statement to the effect that the patient certifies that the information contained in the application is “true and complete to the best of my ability” should suffice.  Some hospitals are already using a short and concise statement on their applications.  We recommend that practice be applied to the universal application for the charity care process.

Protestants for the Common Good appreciates this opportunity to comment on the Proposed Rules for Hospital Financial Assistance, and we thank the Attorney General for her consideration of our recommendations.