State Capitol Notebook: Failed follow-through

State Capitol Bureau

Play of the Week

Follow-through isn't one of the strengths of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration, as evidenced by his expansion of the state-subsidized health-care program known as FamilyCare.

Even though lawmakers never gave him the authority or the money to do so, Blagojevich late last year directed state government to enroll new participants in the revamped FamilyCare, which expanded income-eligibility requirements to cover more people. The new signups ended in May.

Last week, The Associated Press reported that Illinois pharmacists would wind up eating the cost of the drugs they dispensed as part of the expanded program. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which administers FamilyCare, has told pharmacies that government won't reimburse them for the drugs.

So while offering health care to more people might sound like a great idea, it's also crucial to hammer out the details needed to make such a plan work. One of those details, you'd think, would be to ensure that health-care providers get paid so they can keep providing services.

Head Scratcher

A new company, looking to horn in on the Ameren Illinois utility companies, wants to offer electric service to residential and business customers throughout the state.

But the newcomer, New Illinois Cooperative Energy (or NICE), left a number of questions unanswered when officials unveiled their plans last week.

The biggest question: Would NICE's prices be lower than Ameren's? The short answer: No one knows.

NICE hopes that by buying electricity more frequently than Ameren does, it also can buy electricity more cheaply, which would benefit NICE customers.

Because there are "so many variables," NICE CEO Kerry Slone can't make any guarantees. "We absolutely don't know what our price would be."

Quote of Note

"Well, I don't think he's in a place where he can take a phone call." - Blagojevich, explaining to reporters why he has not spoken with Tony Rezko, his friend and former top fundraiser who is in jail while he awaits sentencing on federal corruption charges.  

Number to Know

100. The number of Pontiac Correctional Center inmates being moved elsewhere in the next couple of weeks, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents prison workers.

The Illinois Department of Corrections would say only that 50 inmates were transferred Friday from Pontiac to East Moline, and that inmates commonly get transferred. The department has said for months that it plans to close the Pontiac prison by early 2009, and the union believes the inmate transfer is part of the closure process.

Coming Up

Tuesday (Oct. 14) marks the start of the "early voting" period that precedes the Nov. 4 general election. That time frame, which runs through Oct. 30, is when Illinois voters are permitted to cast ballots at specified locations - often, the local election office - if they don't want to wait until Election Day. Early voters must display a driver's license or another form of government-issued identification that has their name and photograph.