Government
10:41 am
Mon April 23, 2012

Issues around Illinois - Apr. 23

  • MetLife settles questionable practice investigation
  • A new way to train for alcohol awareness
  • Why aren't day-care facilities being inspected?
  • Moving forward on passenger rail service
  • Will expressway finally live up to its name?
  • How can regional agencies improve transportation funding?
  • What's happening to Illinois influence in Congress?

MetLife agrees to $540 million settlement

CHICAGO – A six-state task force led by the Illinois Department of Insurance has announced a $540 million settlement with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and its life insurance affiliates. MetLife and its affiliates agreed to pay more than $500 million in life insurance benefits and to pay $40 million to the states in the settlement to pay for increased monitoring.

The investigation, led by Illinois, found that MetLife used the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File” to confirm the death of policyholders and stop annuity payments. MetLife, however, did not use that information to identify beneficiaries who were eligible for payment under the policies.

“As a result of the examination, MetLife has agreed to fundamentally change its business practices to proactively seek, locate and pay beneficiaries when MetLife knows a death has occurred,” said DOI Director Andrew Boron, “and not just wait until a beneficiary contacts it.”

MetLife agreed to match all of its insureds against the DMF monthly to help confirm when a client has died, and to promptly locate and make payment to beneficiaries. The settlement also requires MetLife to pay a total of $40 million to the states for examination, compliance and monitoring costs.

The agreement will become effective after it is signed by 20 states. Illinois and the other five states on the task force have signed the agreement thus far.

A copy of the settlement agreement is available on the DOI website at http://www.illinois.gov/.

Hospitality workers get training in Chinese

For the first time in the United States, alcohol training was taught today in the Asian languages of Cantonese and Mandarin in Chicago's Chinatown. During the training, students from the hospitality industry learned how to spot signs of over-consumption and detect fraudulent identification.

“We want our businesses to operate profitably and legally, and alcohol training is a key component in achieving these goals,” said Illinois Liquor Control Commission Executive Director Gloria L. Materre.

The Asian Health Coalition, a Chicago-based non-profit healthcare agency, funded translation of the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe curriculum. Then the NRA staff trained bilingual community members to be instructors.

“We were thrilled when the Chicago Police Department’s beat officer in Chinatown was among the first to answer the call,” said Edwin Chandrasekar, Executive Director of the Asian Health Coalition. "This will allow the training to be more personal and responsive to the community’s needs.”

With support and assistance from the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and Chinese American Service League, class times were set.

To learn more about alcohol training in Illinois, please visit the ILCC’s home page at www.state.il.us/LCC and click on the “BASSET Program” link on the left side of the screen.

State reportedly falls far short on day-care inspections

More than half of Illinois' day-care operations haven't been inspected by the state during their current license period, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Reporters Christy Gutowski and Bill Ruthhartcite figures from the Department of Children and Family Services, where officials blame budget cuts and staffing shortages for their inspection failures.

The story cites specific examples – a couple of them tragic -- from northeast Illinois facilities and takes a look at pending legislation. You can read their article by clicking here.

Who wants to build 130 new passenger rail cars?

The federal Department of Transportation is seeking proposals to manufacture approximately 130 new standardized bi-level American-made passenger rail cars.The cars willbe used on Amtrak’s intercity routes in five states including Illinois.

In the last complete fiscal year, 1.75 million passengers rode Amtrak’s four state-supported routes in Illinois, twicethe ridership of five years ago. The Illinois Department of Transportation currently is upgrading to 110 mph service on the Chicago-St. Louis route, with the faster trains running between Dwight and Pontiac later this year. New passenger service also is being added on the Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque and Chicago-Moline lines. 

“We are proud to have taken a lead role in this multi-state effort that will support rail and help increase passenger rail travel across the country,” Quinn said in a news release.

One provision of the proposal requestrequires that all components of the cars are built by American workers and with American-produced steel, iron and manufactured goods. Selection of the manufacturer will occur this Fall, with delivery scheduled to begin in 2015. 

Road to somewhere may finally get there

In keeping with the tradition of giving optimistic names to projects, the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway purports to give motorists an easy way to get from that Kane/Cook County city – Illinois’ eighth largest – to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

Currently it goes to neither Elgin nor O’Hare, but the Illinois Department of Transportation is taking public comment for the next three weeks on a plan to extend the expressway to the airport. Marni Pike has a pretty thorough overview of the issues in The Daily Herald, which you can read by clicking here.

If you prefer to dive right in, you can offer your comments at www.elginohare-westbypass.org/SitePages

A better way to fund transportation?

Seven transportation agencies – including the Illinois Tollway, Metra and the Regional Transportation Authority -- are attending the third annual Earth Day Transportation Summit in Chicago to promote coordination among the region’s transportation leaders.

This year, nearly 100 leaders are expected to pursue ways to finance multimodal transportation projects. Economist Charles Wheelan is a key speaker, proposing a ranking system for project financing and promoting growth and environmental quality. Stay tuned for news!

Our federal lawmakers at work …

Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says disaster relief standards need to be clarified. He and Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk are backing legislation that would define how the federal government decides to give out federal aid after a disaster.

The bill comes after Harrisburg and other areas of downstate Illinois were hit by tornadoes and denied federal aid.

“The (current) law basically says, ‘Because you have a large population you can't become a federal disaster area,'” explained Durbin, a Democrat who’s sponsoring the legislation. “That's not fair. It isn't as if our state is rolling in money; just the opposite is true.

"So we're going to try to change this formula make it more realistic.”

The proposal would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to consider a town's income and poverty level in comparison with the rest of the state after a disaster.

… but maybe they won’t have as much clout?!?

Paul Merrion, of  Crain’s Chicago Business, notes that Illinois used to swing the big bats when it came to influence in Congress, but various factors – including illness, retirement, and political maneuverings – are depriving our state of that influence.

The days of Hastert and Rostenkowski are gone, Merrion writes, and a total of 56 years of seniority are being lost with the retirements of Urbana Republican Timothy Johnson and Belleville Democrat Jerry Costello, and the defeat of Rockford-area Republican Don Manzullo in the March primary.
What will that mean for Illinois? To read Merrion’s take on it, click here.

Party protection built into new law on candidacies

A new Illinois law that took effect March 30 puts the kibosh on defeated primary candidates getting back in the general election race. It also strictly limits candidacies of people based on their voting records – even if they want to run as independents.

And, according to Rockford Register Star blogger Kevin Haas, that doesn’t sit very well with Pecatonica Republican State Rep. James Sacia, among others. You can peruse that discussion when you click here.