SPRINGFIELD – Three years after the initial outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease at the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy, residents of that facility and others like it are still waiting for Gov. Bruce Rauner to be proactive in detecting and removing Legionella bacteria from state-run facilities.

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has taken charge in the governor’s absence, advancing bipartisan legislative measures this week to improve water management and notification requirements at state facilities.

“If the governor’s administration refuses to take charge to make our state-run facilities Legionella free, the legislature will continue to aggressively work toward a meaningful solution,” Cullerton said.

Cullerton pointed out that Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah said cases of Legionnaires’ disease continue to grow in Illinois, yet the legislature, not Shah, is working to combat the spread of the bacteria.

With support of State Senator Sam McCann (R-Plainview), Cullerton advanced Senate Bill 272, which creates the State Facility Public Health Water Management Plan Act. The act will require every state-operated residence facility to create plans for water management and Legionella culture sampling.

Cullerton also advanced Senate Bill 3301, which requires an Illinois veterans home to notify facility residents and their emergency contacts within 24 hours if two or more residents in the home are diagnosed with an infectious disease within a one-month period.

“These are commonsense bills that I believe can and will save lives,” McCann said. “We owe it to our veterans, our hard-working employees, and all those in the care of the state of Illinois to do everything in our power to ensure their safety.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner has played politics and created powerless taskforces to study possible solutions to the spread of bacteria, but even some of the task force members believe they fall short. Included on one such task force is State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton), who is not pleased with the progress being made.

“The governor’s handling of the Quincy veterans home has become a political treadmill – there has been a lot of movement, but no forward progress,” Haine said. “It’s past time for the governor to introduce a concrete plan to protect our veterans instead of announcing another media tour or task force. These heroes’ lives are at stake.”

Despite Cullerton’s efforts, this morning he received news of opposition to the proactive legislation from the governor’s agencies – more than a month after the legislation was filed.

Cullerton said he will continue to work in a bipartisan manner – with or without help from the governor’s office – to protect the United States veterans who have sacrificed so much to protect Illinoisans.

“The governor’s administration needs to learn to be proactive,” Cullerton said. “Coming in at the 11th hour to voice opposition to these bipartisan measures is counterproductive and creates road blocks in our quest to provide our veterans with the best possible care.”

To State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park), the problems at the Quincy veterans home rest on the lack of leadership from Gov. Rauner.

“We are looking for leadership and consistency from Gov. Rauner. Three years later we have yet to see either,” Hastings said. “Our nation’s heroes have lived in the veterans home three years without a solution or any semblance of a strategy. When can we expect a real plan?”

PHOTO Tom Cullerton advances legislation to eliminate office of lieutenant governorVILLA PARK – As Illinois struggles to reduce its $9 billion bill backlog, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is astounded that Gov. Bruce Rauner would leave millions of dollars on the table.

Cullerton’s concerns are reinforced by an Illinois Audit Commission report that reveals Rauner’s administration failed to collect $2.4 million in federal rebates owed to the state for payments made on bond debt.

“Details don’t seem to matter much to Bruce Rauner,” Cullerton said. “Not attempting to collect $2.4 million in funding is another sorry example of the level of ineptitude of this administration. The governor’s hyper-focus on pitting working and middle-class Illinoisans against one another has terrible consequences. He’s spent over three years telling anyone who’ll listen that Illinois government is busted and full of incompetence. By throwing away taxpayer dollars without any remorse, he’s proving his own pathetic premise.”

The bipartisan commission found that there were five other receipts that show the administration left an additional $183,000 uncollected as well.

“Every last cent of taxpayer money needs to be invested effectively and efficiently to ensure Illinois properly funds our schools, takes care of our seniors and disabled populations, and provides the best service possible to DuPage County residents,” Cullerton said. “The governor needs to take his fiscal responsibilities seriously or allow someone else to lead.”

As a member of the Illinois Audit Commission, Cullerton says additional investigations will surely follow to identify areas of ineptitude that led the governor’s administration to fail to collect the money.

“Gov. Rauner has made a fortune in business bankruptcy and it seems he’s taking every step to bankrupt Illinois,” Cullerton said. “It’s no secret that one way to fast-track failure is to not collect on what is owed. That’s what he’s done here and it’s an example of fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement that I’m not sure he can easily blame on somebody else.”

Cullerton refused to vote for a tax increase last year until the government explored every possible cost-saving measure.

“The governor’s administration is actively wasting money,” Cullerton said. "DuPage County residents cannot afford to pay more in taxes especially when there is clear evidence that Gov. Rauner is mismanaging state funds.”

american flagVILLA PARK – State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is frustrated with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s insincere efforts to rid the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy of Legionella bacteria.

The governor’s administration flip-flopped on its original proposal this week after spending three years examining pipe cost estimates to refit the building. In a change, the governor now wants to build entirely new buildings – an idea which first surfaced in a January veterans affairs committee hearing.

“We are going on three years of inaction and lack of leadership from Gov. Rauner’s administration. It is clear he has no intention to rid the Quincy veterans home of Legionnaires’ disease,” Cullerton said. “At this point, his photo ops and press conferences provide nothing but lip service to our nation’s heroes while we wait on a real plan to guarantee our veterans receive the care and service they deserve.”

The governor’s administration has created two task forces to examine the issue, but they only meet for one hour each month.

“Three years later, all the governor has to show for his efforts to combat an outbreak that caused 13 deaths are two engineering reports, two monthly task force meetings, dramatically misquoted figures and no real solution,” Cullerton said. “That is a long laundry list of nothing.”

Due to high temperatures expected during the upcoming summer months, the veterans will be at a greater risk than ever, and Cullerton said he is furious to see the inaction continue.

“How many more United States veterans need to die on the governor’s watch before he actually does something? I refuse to sit quietly as the governor makes a mockery of state government,” Cullerton said.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) once again urgently requested Gov. Rauner’s detailed plan of action for ensuring the safety of residents, family and staff at the home. They also pressed Rauner’s Administration to accept the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ offer of technical assistance – which includes a site visit to the Quincy home – as well as ongoing VA financial support and expert assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If Gov. Rauner cannot lead us to a remedy, he should move out of the way and allow us to fix this problem,” Cullerton said. “Our nation’s heroes cannot afford to wait one more day.”

On Monday, Cullerton, who serves as the Chairman of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs committee, called a bipartisan hearing to further investigate and push the governor’s administration toward a solution. But committee members once again left with unanswered questions and further confusion as to why the governor’s administration refuses to act.

The administration claims that they will have a preliminary report by March 31.

02072018CM0131 RSCHICAGO -- State lawmakers, veterans and their families are still waiting for action nearly two months after Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration was asked to come up with a construction plan to remedy a public health crisis at a state-run veterans home in Quincy.

In the meantime, Legionnaires’ disease infections have continued and media reports have raised numerous questions regarding the Rauner administration’s priorities and focus.

It is against this backdrop that a bipartisan legislative committee assembles today to continue probing what happened at the Quincy facility and, more importantly, why more hasn’t been done to solve the underlying problems, specifically the century-old plumbing that is known to harbor the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires’ disease.

The joint House-Senate Veterans Affairs Committee meets at 9 a.m. Monday, March 5 in Chicago at a legislative hearing room on the 6th Floor of the Michael A. Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle St., to resume questioning of key Rauner officials.

“What I’d really like to see is the Rauner administration use this opportunity to finally make public a specific construction plan to replace the plumbing, beginning with the most at-risk buildings housing the most at-risk veterans,” said Sen. Tom Cullerton, co-chair of the committee and a veteran himself. “There are lots of questions to be answered, but the biggest would be why hasn’t the Rauner administration done anything? They’ve got two engineering reports detailing options. They’ve got lawmakers ready to support their actions. But for more than two months they’ve done nothing but create task forces and hire more bureaucrats. That’s not going to replace the plumbing, which everyone knows is a key source of the infections.”

“I just want to tell them, please, do something,” said Cullerton.

Read more: Lawmakers still waiting for Rauner’s plan to address Quincy problem as “crisis” continues

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