Arc and Governor Appoints Secretary & HFS Director
Melissa Wright has been named Interim Secretary of the Dept of Human Services today.
Melissa succeeds Secretary Michelle Saddler. Melissa is a former Director of the Division
of Developmental Disabilities and instrumental in the closing of the state institution in
Lincoln many years ago. The Arc has a good working relationship with Melissa and looks
forward to working with her as Secretary.
Here are Secretary’s Saddler comments:
I am very pleased to announce that Melissa A. Wright has been named Acting Secretary
for the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). Representatives of Governor
Bruce Rauner’s office released the news of Melissa’s appointment yesterday and noted
that the interim term will be effective as of Tuesday, January 20, 2015.
Melissa has been a public servant for the last 27 years. Serving the Department of
Human Services since its inception in 1997 and with two of DHS’ legacy agencies prior to
that year, Melissa has served in key leadership roles with both the Divisions of
Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and Community Health and Prevention (CHP). Not
only does Melissa have the programmatic knowledge and experience, she has also
served in Operations as Director of Business Services since 2011.
Melissa began her career as a Budget Analyst for the Bureau of Management and
Budget at the former Illinois Department of Public Aid (DPA) in the late 1980s and went
on to serve as DPA’s Assistant Bureau Chief in its Bureau of Long Term Care.
From 1990 to 1997, Melissa served in various capacities for the Illinois Department of
Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, where she had responsibilities over
Budget and Policy. In 1997, Melissa served as DHS’ first Director of the Division of
Developmental Disabilities. From 2008 to 2010, Melissa served respective terms as:
Director of Operations (Community Health and Prevention), State-Operated
Developmental Center Specialist (DDD), and Assistant Center Director for Jacksonville
Melissa is originally from Godfrey, Illinois. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree
from Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and she has completed coursework at
Southern Illinois University and the St. Louis University School of Law. Melissa has two
adult daughters and two beautiful granddaughters.
I have appreciated working with Melissa Wright as a member of DHS’ Executive Team for
the past five years, and she is an excellent choice for Acting Secretary. Please help me
in welcoming Melissa Wright and wishing her much success in her new post.
Michelle R.B. Saddler
Felicia Norwood has been named as the new Director of the Dept of Health Care &
Family Services (HFS). Felicia succeeds Director July Hamos. The Arc has a great
working relationship with Felicia dating back to Governor Edgar. Felicia has most
recently been working at Aetna. With the new Director’s extensive time spent at Aetna,
only managed care can come to mind. My first meeting with Director Norwood will
certainly cover our determined opposition to Phase III of Integrated Care.
Minimum wage, from the Care Campaign, Senator Hunter Wednesday, filed Senate Bill
12 which “provides that when recalculating rate and reimbursement methodologies, the
Departments shall account for (i) mandated increases in the State minimum wage rate;
and (ii) any increased payroll taxes required of providers or vendors contracting with the
Departments. Provides that the Departments must fully fund recalculated rate and
You are going to want your Senators to become Co-Sponsors of Senate Bill 12.
Budget news does not look good with a $1.5 billion hole in this year’s current budget
from a press release last night from the Governor’s Office:
GOMB Meeting with Agency Chief Financial Officers
SPRINGFIELD – Tim Nuding, director of the Governor’s Office of Management and
Budget, led a meeting and conference call with state agency chief financial officers to
discuss Executive Order 15-08 addressing the state’s fiscal crisis. Nuding stressed the
dire fiscal condition of the state and the need to eliminate a mid-year budget hole totaling
nearly $1.5 billion. He strongly emphasized the seriousness of the executive order and
that agencies must aggressively determine spending that can and will be halted. He also
asked agencies to begin building their reserves as much as possible by retaining money
from items like unspent grants wherever applicable. Nuding made clear that the
Administration is preparing to responsibly manage the inherited budget hole without inter-
fund borrowing and the governor does not want to push more unpaid bills into next year.
Last, Nuding said that the governor is not afraid to take the arrows and do what it takes so
we can get to the point where Illinois doesn’t have fiscal crises year after year.
New CMS Rules, the State’s Transition Plan to comply with the new CMS rules on
community services will be available for comment probably tomorrow. The Arc
Leadership Conference will have a special session on the “New CMS Rules on
Community: What They Mean to Illinois” panel members on this session include Arc US
Public Policy Director Marty Ford, Director of the Division of Developmental Disability and
Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities Director Sheila Romano. Join us!
New legislators were sworn into office Wednesday with the Democrats still holding veto
proof majorities in both the House and Senate setting the stage for a interesting
legislative session. Story below from the Chicago Tribune.
Seeds of discord quick to surface
At legislature’s swearing-in, divisions are evident
By Rick Pearson and Kim Geiger | Tribune reporters
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois formally entered a new era of divided government Wednesday
with the swearing-in of a new Democratic-led legislature, but amid promises of
cooperation with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, an undercurrent of political discord was
Democrats hold veto-proof majorities of 71-47 in the House and 39-20 in the Senate,
providing a significant check to the agenda of the new Republican governor, a first-time
officeholder who has vowed to upset the status quo in Springfield that he contends has
inhibited the state’s economic growth.
Senate President John Cullerton used his inauguration speech after being chosen for a
fourth term as leader to offer a response to Rauner, who castigated Democratic
lawmakers and some Republicans as “corrupt” during the campaign and who criticized
politicians in his own inaugural address Monday.
Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, said, “Each and every one of us is an honest,
hardworking, ethical public official committed to improving the lives of people in this great
And House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat who has held the post for 30
of the past 32 years, congratulated Republicans for winning the governor’s office.
Noting that recent budgets have been approved with only Democratic votes, Madigan
pointedly said to GOP members that House Democrats “wish to welcome you back —
back to the active participation of state government.”
The inaugurations this week of Rauner and the 99th General Assembly herald an
uncertain time for a state gripped by an uncertain future.
Revenues are dropping because of a scheduled income tax cut, state agencies are
facing cash shortages, billions of dollars’ worth of overdue bills are piling up, and hanging
like a cloud over the economy is a near-$105 billion unfunded pension debt.
Just how well Rauner and lawmakers will cooperate to try to solve those problems
remains one of Illinois’ biggest questions.
One indicator of how ruling Democrats in the legislature may view the politically untested
Rauner came when state Sen. Bill Haine nominated Cullerton for another term as Senate
president as the rookie governor presided over the ceremonies.
“The Founding Fathers looked upon the legislative branch as the pre-eminent of the
three branches of government,” said Haine, D-Alton.
Republican lawmakers looked to Rauner to elevate their status in the General Assembly
after a dozen years of one-party Democratic rule in Springfield, though it will require them
to cast more difficult votes in support of their governor.
“The election of Gov. Rauner changes the political dynamic dramatically. Now we can
hope, but we cannot assume, that change will result in better outcomes for our state,” said
Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont.
House Republican leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, said voters “have said they are
ready to go in a dramatically different direction to make our state strong and prosperous again.”
For his part, Cullerton said he supported efforts to cut bureaucratic red tape for new
businesses and improve education across regional boundaries.
He also announced a task force on prison sentencing to look at alternatives to
incarceration — a concept embraced in a report from Rauner’s transition team.
But Cullerton also challenged Rauner to raise the minimum wage, something the governor
supports only if accompanied by pro-business changes.
And Cullerton said he would support efforts to reduce unnecessary Medicaid spending if
solutions could be found, not just pledged, in a “press release.”
At the House ceremony across town inside a University of Illinois at Springfield auditorium,
Madigan called for lawmakers to work to pass a major infrastructure plan while
acknowledging the difficulty of finding money to pay for it and other programs.
“Now with the loss of revenue caused by the expiration of the Illinois income tax increase,
there will be many difficult roll calls up ahead. And we Democrats are very anxious to work
together on those tough roll calls,” Madigan said to cheering colleagues.
Madigan also unveiled plans for a group to study a report made in the wake of the 2012
Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, when 20-year-old gunman Adam
Lanza killed more than two dozen students and adults.
Madigan said the goal would be to develop recommendations regarding safety and
mental health to try to prevent a similar tragedy.
“There were several missed opportunities to help Lanza. Additional intervention might ’ve
helped,” Madigan said.
“We should do all that we can to prevent kids like Lanza from falling through the cracks.”
Back in the Senate, Radogno admonished Democrats and members of her own
Republican Party to listen to each other and not to rely on easy ways to avoid confronting
the state’s problems.
“We will only be successful if our knee-jerk response to other people’s ideas is not to fall
back in the comfort of partisan rhetoric and run for the cover of special interests,” she said.
Tribune reporters Monique Garcia, Ray Long and Jessie Hellmann contributed.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423