Legislative update 4.10.17

by Amy Excell | Apr 10, 2017
Before adjourning for a two-week break, House lawmakers offered a lifeline to higher education and social services.
The Illinois House and Senate adjourned last week for a two-week break. During the week, both chambers worked on approving bills and amendments through their respective committees. The most important item before lawmakers was the “lifeline” budget for higher education and social service agencies, which was passed in the House (see details below).

Your lawmakers will be in their home districts until April 21. Now is a great time to meet with them to discuss the “grand bargain,” pensions, PERA, or any local issues in your school district or community! Lookup your lawmakers here and schedule a visit.

Here are a few highlights of last week’s action in Springfield:
Lifeline budget passes House
The Illinois House approved HB109 by a vote of 64-45. The legislation would provide partial funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017, including $150 million in critical additional funding for higher education. Even with this money, colleges and universities will experience cuts of up to 34 percent this fiscal year. The legislation appropriates a total of $817 million which is currently sitting in the Education Assistance fund and the Commitment to Human Services fund. Social service programs that are in danger of closing would also receive $258 million.

It is unclear how the Senate will respond. The Governor has indicated that he will not approve this lifeline measure if it reaches his desk, despite the harm his budget impasse continues to inflict on students and communities.
    
Watch last week’s full House debate on HB 109 here.
House sends tax relief measure to Senate
The Illinois House passed legislation last week that would provide statewide property tax exemptions. Currently, homeowners receive a General Homestead Exemption of $6,000. Under HB156, the exemption would increase to $8,000. The exemption available to seniors would increase from $5,000 to $6,000.

HB156 also creates the Disabled Persons Freeze, which is similar to the Senior Property Tax Freeze but would only be available to individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To help veterans and their families, the bill would allow veterans with a 20 to 30 percent disability and veterans over the age of 75 to qualify for a $2,500 exemption. The legislation would also expand the Long-Time Owner Occupant Exemption. This would allow Illinois homeowners who have lived in their home for more than 8 years and earn less than $100,000 an additional exemption based on the length of time they have lived in the home.
House committee holds hearing on Northwest Evaluation Association testing
A subject matter hearing on Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing was held in House Education Curriculum committee last week. Members discussed the possibility that NWEA testing could replace the PARCC test when that contract expires.

NWEA representatives presented and asserted that their adaptive test offers educators specific, detailed information on students’ strengths and weaknesses. Lawmakers expressed concerns about ensuring all schools and students are taking identical assessments, discrepancies in technology among districts, and excessive testing. Stay tuned for updates on further action.
House Ed Funding Taskforce discussions continue
The House Education Funding Task Force met last week to continue discussions. HB2808 and SB1 are current bills which would provide for new school funding formulas.

Prior to the meeting, the IFT outlined for members the following points that we believe must be present in any revamp of the funding formula:
•    School districts must not lose funding.
•    Additional state revenues need to be part of the solution.
•    Special education services and ELL must be fully funded.
•    IFT must analyze district-by-district revenue projections before we take a position on either bill. This data has not yet been made available.

Watch for updates on additional discussions as they occur.
A look ahead
When lawmakers reconvene at the end of April, the House and Senate will focus on floor action and sending measures over to the other chamber for consideration. Stay tuned.