Session Update

We will start this update with a bit of good news! Congratulations to our state champions! The 109th District is home to four girls basketball state championship teams! Congratulations to the Class A Champions the Okawville Lady Rockets, the Class 2A Champions from Mater Dei in Breese, the O’Fallon Lady Panthers our 4A State Champions, and to the Lady Titans from Trinity & Emmanuel Lutheran from Okawville and Nashville. I took a moment on the House Floor this week to congratulate all of our State Champion athletes!

Legislative Update:

This week, the Illinois House met Tuesday through Friday in Springfield. The main legislative action this week was in committees, as Friday marked the deadline to get house bills passed out of committee. There were over 400 bills that passed out of House committees this week. I was able to pass two of my legislative proposals out of committee including a bill to better reimburse hospital districts and a bill designating the first week of March, this year and every year, as Soil Health Week in Illinois.

While I spent a lot of time in committees and working on legislation, my main focus of the week was on protecting our Illinois residents with developmental disabilities and the Governor’s announcement on Choate Developmental Center. You can read more about my work on this important topic and on the Governor’s announcement below.

As always, if there are issues that are important to you, bills that would negatively impact you, or bills you would like me to sign on to as a co-sponsor, please let me know.

You can find a list of the current bills I have introduced here.

Highlighting Legislation to Improve Safety and Care at Illinois Group Homes

On Tuesday, I held a press conference with Representative Paul Jacobs at the Capitol highlighting important legislative proposals to help improve the safety and well-being of residents at Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) otherwise called “group homes”.

We were also joined by Clinton County Sheriff Dan Travous, Aviston Police Chief Mike Kuhl, and Peggy Strong, the mother of Marjorie, a former CILA resident who is now thriving at Murray Center. Clinton County Sheriff Dan Travous shared his experience with the increase in 9-1-1 emergency calls to specific CILAs in the county. Aviston Police Chief Mike Kuhl detailed one CILA in his community that has had 67 emergency calls since 2020. And, Peggy Strong, a mother of a resident now in the Murray Center shared her experience about how her daughter was literally on her death bed while living in a CILA in Pinckneyville but is now thriving after leaving the CILA. Ms. Strong’s daughter Marjorie was put on hospice and was not fed while living in a CILA.

I want to be clear, not all CILAs are bad, we have many good ones, but we sure do have some bad ones. Changes need to be made to help prevent abuse and neglect from ever happening again.The legislation I have introduced will help protect residents of CILAS (group homes) and State Operated Developmental Centers (SODCs). The three bills Rep. Meier sponsored to help improve the safety and well-being of residents at Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) include HB 1298, HB 2998, and HB 3545. These are bills to help people that can’t talk for themselves.

House Bill 1298 requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to establish a system of regular and ongoing on-site inspections and unannounced visits. The second bill, House Bill 2998 will require authorized video surveillance of common areas. Before video surveillance equipment is installed or operated in the common areas of a State-operated developmental center, DHS must obtain unanimous consent from the residents of that facility or their guardians. The third and final bill, House Bill 3545 requires that reports of violations at CILAs shall be made no later than 5 days after the incident. If a person involved in direct care for a CILA resident commits battery towards a client, patient or resident can be charged with a class 2 felony.

You can watch the video of our full press conference here:

Additionally, WAND covered our news conference. You can view their story here:

Reaction to the Governor’s Proposal to Repurpose Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center

I have been proud to help lead the work to identify and correct ongoing problems at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center with the goal of keeping the facility open to serve residents living with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Less than two weeks ago, I joined my colleagues to roll out a plan to protect the residents at Choate and improve their home. This week, DHS affirmed they agree with us on making sorely-needed improvements. We are here to fight for our most vulnerable population under state care and to make sure they are safe and healthy. We will continue to provide oversight during this transition and will not turn our back on our developmentally disabled residents that call Choate their home. This announcement is a positive step, but the job is not done yet. I want to ensure both Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs) and State Operated Developmental Centers (SODCs) are safe for all residents and want assurances that residents are only relocated to a new CILA or SODC if approved by their parent or legal guardian. We want residents to live as close to their loved ones as possible.

On Wednesday, Governor JB Pritzker held a news conference at Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine to announce that Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center will undergo a three-year transformation that will effectively repurpose Choate while implementing new safety enhancements and expanding support for families and the residents living there.

The Department of Human Services announced Wednesday it will partner with SIU’s School of Medicine to shape Choate’s transformation.

Our plan for ensuring safety and quality for residents include:

– Installing cameras in common areas
– Implementing ongoing staff training
– A mass hiring of qualified staff to help
– Tracking staff incidents by location and trends
– Increasing administrative and security inspections
– Improving overall accountability of staff performance
– Reminding employees if they see something is wrong, report it
– Increasing the amount of active treatment and activities for residents
– Encouraging and welcome parents/guardians visiting their loved ones
– Assigning an interim director or assistant director to Choate Developmental Center
– Reevaluating the Office of Inspector General reporting system as it currently operates

My colleagues and I want to keep Choate open and make it a safer place for residents. We will continue to fight for families to have a quality home for their family members who rely on these facilities. We will also stay vigilant to make sure that this transformation accomplishes our goals and to hold the administration accountable.

Farmland Assessment Meeting

On Monday, I am co-hosting a farmland assessment meeting on March 13th. As farmers continue to see increases in the assessed value of their farmland, farmers may have many questions about the assessment process. I want to encourage farmers to please join me at this important informational meeting to learn more about how the property tax assessment is conducted for farmland. The property tax assessment on farmland can be complicated, it’s very useful to make sure you get a fair assessment and understand the farmland assessment process.

Meeting Details:

When: Monday, March 13th at 6:00pm|
Where: Greenville SMART Center, 3rd Floor, 102 2nd Street, Greenville, IL

Space is limited, please RSVP at 618-664-3100 to reserve your spot. Refreshments will be provided.

This Week on the Farm:

The daffodils are beginning to bloom around the farm! 

The Week Ahead:

  • Next week, the Illinois House is scheduled for legislative session Tuesday, March 14th through Thursday, March 16th.
  • I try to make it to as many local events as I can. If you have an event coming up in your community that you’d like for me to attend, please let my office in Highland know: 618-651-0405.
  • On Monday, March 13th, we are hosting our Farmland Assessment Informational Meeting in Greenville. More details are listed above.

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