Springfield events focus of Capitol News recap
Early childhood grant, discrimination worries and grow center approval among activity in state capital
Last updated 12/30/2019 at 9:10pm | View PDF
SPRINGFIELD – Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office announced Dec. 23 that the state will receive $40.2 million in federal grants over the next three years to improve early childhood programs.
The competitive grants are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and they require a 30-percent cost-sharing commitment from non-federal funds. The grants are used to build early childhood program infrastructure and expand high-quality preschool programs in targeted communities, the governor’s office said in a news release.
“From our aggressive efforts to secure federal funding to our historic investments in early childhood programs and facilities, Illinois will become the best state in the nation for families raising young children,” Pritzker said in the release.
Last week, Pritzker announced that the state is increasing child care provider reimbursement rates by 5 percent statewide and by 20 percent for providers in what the Illinois Department of Human Services calls “Group 2” counties, which are primarily rural counties.
The budget lawmakers passed during the 2019 session included a $50 million increase in the state’s early childhood education block grant. In addition, the capital improvements program known as “Rebuild Illinois” provides $100 million for construction of early childhood facilities across the state.
Raoul opposes new federal rules
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has joined with 18 other state attorneys general in opposing proposed new federal rules they say could strip many LGBT individuals of many health care rights.
The proposed rule deals with nondiscrimination policies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It would delete current language in HHS regulations, adopted in the final weeks of the Obama administration, that prohibits discrimination in the agency’s programs “based on non-merit factors such as age, disability, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.”
That rule was based, in part, on the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The proposed new rule would replace that language with a generic ban on discrimination “to the extent doing so is prohibited by federal statute.”
The proposed change was published in the Federal Register Nov. 19. In that notice, the agency cited concerns that the Obama-era rule violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which prohibits the federal government “from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion.” That law, however, also allows exceptions when there is a “compelling state interest” in doing so and the burden is the “least restrictive means of furthering that interest.”
In a letter to HHS dated Dec. 19, the deadline for public comment on the rule, the 19 attorneys general challenged that assertion.
“Our federal tax dollars should not be funneled toward organizations that openly discriminate against certain groups,” Raoul said in a separate statement. “I am committed to ensuring that all Americans are protected against discrimination and have an equal opportunity to apply for and take advantage of programs funded through federal grants.”
Cultivation centers approved
The state Department of Agriculture announced Dec. 23 that all 21 cultivation centers that have been licensed to grow medical marijuana are now licensed also to grow for adult recreational use, which became legal Jan. 1.
The final three companies to be approved were Bedford Grow LLC in Bedford Park, IL Grow Medicine LLC in Elk Grove Village and JG IL LLC in Edgewood.
Under the marijuana legalization law passed during the 2019 legislative session, cultivation centers already licensed to grow medical marijuana were allowed to apply for early approval of licenses to grow for adult use.
Other applicants will have an opportunity to apply for licenses in an upcoming phase of the implementation process, with priority going to “social equity applicants” — generally, applicants from communities “disproportionately impacted” by the war on drugs, or individuals with previous arrests or convictions for minor marijuana violations.
In addition to the three companies whose approvals were announced last month, the department said in a news release that the other 18 cultivation centers are
• Ataraxia, Albion
• Compass Ventures Inc., Litchfield
• Cresco Labs LLC, Joliet
• Cresco Labs LLC, Kankakee
• Cresco Labs LLC, Lincoln
• Curative Health Cultivation LLC, Aurora
• GTI Oglesby LLC, Oglesby
• GTI Rock Island LLC, Rock Island
• IESO LLC, Carbondale
• InGown Farms, Freeport
• Nature’s Grace and Wellness LLC, Vermont
• PharmaCann LLC, Dwight
• PharmaCann LLC, Hillcrest
• Progressive Treatment Solutions, East St. Louis
• Revolution Cannabis LLC (DBA Ascend Illinois), Barry
• Revolution Cannabis LLC, Delavan
• Shelby County Community Services, Shelbyville
• Wellness Group Pharms LLC, Anna