Springfield, Ill. – After years of preparation, video gaming is about to become available in hundreds of establishments across the state, according to State Sen. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove).
In other news, Illinois’ Health Care Implementation Council has set a Sept. 19 deadline for public comments on Obamacare coverage, while the loss of a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant to Iowa indicates that Illinois’ fiscal problems continue to make employers leery.
Also this week, Sen. Sandack was named a “Champion of Free Enterprise” by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, the Illinois Chamber recognized him as the outstanding freshman of the Senate.
Every two years, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce recognizes legislators that have made special contributions in the defense of free enterprise and the promotion of economic opportunities for people in Illinois. The Chamber rates each legislator’s vote on what the Chamber has designated as a list of key business legislation. Legislators that receive a rating averaging 85% or better are declared a Champion of Free Enterprise.
Sen. Sandack voted with the Chamber on several pieces of legislation, such as opposing the 67% tax increase in January 2011, and supporting the Enterprise Zone extensions, which resulted in the Chamber recognizing him as both a Champion of Free Enterprise and an outstanding freshman.
“I am very pleased to be recognized by the Chamber in this manner for my first two years in the General Assembly,” Sen. Sandack said. “Supporting free enterprise and economic growth is extremely important if this state is ever going to climb out of the hole that it’s dug itself into. By casting votes in ways the Chamber sees as promoting business friendly policies, we can start to foster a better environment for people to do their business in the state. I plan to continue to vote in business friendly ways and promote the free enterprise system for the people of Illinois.”
To view the legislative ratings, visit the Illinois Chamber of Commerce website at www.illinoischamber.org.
More than three years after it was approved by the Governor, video gambling is coming to Illinois.
According to the Illinois Gaming Board, testing of the electronic monitoring system is now complete and the Board has gone "live" at four locations for a two-to-three-week test of the full system. Following those tests, there will be a layered expansion of the system statewide.
The implementation of video gaming represents the latest legalized form of gambling in Illinois.
Approximately 200 establishments have been approved by the Gaming Board and about 170 pages of pending applicants are still listed on the Gaming Board's Web site. News stories have estimated that up to 75,000 video gaming machines will be installed statewide once video gaming is fully operational.
Video gaming was passed in May 2009, as a funding source for a long-delayed capital construction program for Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn signed House Bill 255 into law on July 13, 2009; however, implementation was delayed when the Gaming Board was forced to re-bid the contract for the central communications system, due to errors with the first bidding process.
Within the next several weeks, many Illinois residents older than 21 will be able to legally bet on video games, such as poker, blackjack and "line up" at bars, truck stops and veterans and fraternal organizations.
However, while gaming may be expanding in Illinois, recent news reports indicate that some employers aren’t willing to gamble on Illinois.
Sen. Sandack says the state’s financial problems have been a well-documented cause for concern, and Illinois’ mountain of debt and perpetual budget deficits make business leaders uneasy, as well. Most recently, it was reported that despite aggressively pursuing a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant project, Illinois lost the project—and the hundreds of associated jobs—to Iowa.
According to the company's CEO Nassef Sawiris, the state’s staggering overdue financial obligations undercut the tempting incentive package Illinois offered to Orascom Construction Industries. Media reports quote Sawiris as saying, “We were quite concerned, honestly with Illinois’ budget” and noting that though “The promises we got in Illinois were extremely attractive…[the offered incentives] “are not sustainable in our view given the balance sheet of the state of Illinois.”
Of note, Sawiris pointed to the pension reform issue, which left unresolved leaves current and potential employers wondering exactly how Illinois is going to address the state’s at-least $130 billion in liabilities. Sawiris joins other jobs providers who express concerns that as costs mount state leaders will once again look to tax increases as a way to reduce the budget deficit and pension liabilities.
Also during the week, Illinois consumers have been given a narrow window to offer their opinion on the benefits that should be included in basic health insurance plans offered under Obamacare in Illinois.
The state's Health Care Implementation Council has set a Sept. 19 deadline for the public to offer comments. The composition of basic insurance plans will be critical if the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is ultimately implemented.
A narrow selection of services will keep policy prices down and save consumers money, but may leave some patients without adequate coverage for some conditions. A broad range will assure that more conditions are covered, but would also drive up the cost of the insurance.
The standards will set only the baseline or "floor" of coverage. Insurers will be free to offer more comprehensive plans, and consumers would be able to spend more to secure broader coverage. But, since the standards will set the minimum coverage, consumers will not have an opportunity to select less coverage than what the state dictates. Gov. Quinn has already said he wants the plan to cover all the state's current insurance mandates, which are extensive.
Comments can be submitted through the state's Health Care Reform Implementation Website. Available at the Web site is a link for submitting comments, as well as background information including a chart that lists what benefits are currently offered by major healthcare plans.
On a related note, Sen. Sandack said there is a statewide, toll-free resource available for residents with insurance questions. The Illinois Insurance Hotline assists thousands of people each year with a variety of matters. Consultants routinely provide financial strength rating and complaint record information on prospective insurers for those exploring the different insurance options available. Consumers also contact the Hotline for insight into the claim process, insurance company contact numbers, and more. Educational materials on auto, homeowners, life and health insurance topics are also available.
The Hotline does not sell insurance, but rather provide information that consumers can use to make informed decisions about insurance matters. Contact the Illinois Insurance Hotline by telephone toll-free at 1-800-444-3338 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark your calendars for Oct. 6 when Sen. Sandack and State Rep. Chris Nybo (R-Lombard) host the Mortgage Relief Project in Downers Grove. The event will be held at Downers Grove North High School from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The project can help you take advantage of programs to help you lower your mortgage, avoid foreclosures, and keep your home. Free housing counseling will be available and you will also learn how to recognize the tell-tale signs of mortgage fraud. To register for the event or for more information, please call toll-free at 1-800-532-8785 or visit www.idfpr.com.