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Budget negotiations continue as May 31 deadline approaches

by Beth Camplain | May 21, 2018
Highlights include: teacher pay, Equal Rights Amendment, graduate employee rights, and more.
Legislative update 5.21.18

The General Assembly returned last week to consider pending legislation before the May 18 deadline for Senate bills to be out of House committees. For the remainder of the session, both chambers will focus on passing bills to send to Governor Rauner. Budget negotiations continue, with the goal of reaching an agreement before the end of May.

Here are highlights of last week’s action:


Senators approve teacher pay increase
An effort to increase teacher pay and attract more young people to the profession was approved by the Illinois Senate on a vote of 37-16. Under SB 2892 (Manar) the state would phase-in updated minimum mandated salaries for teachers each year for the next four school years:

•    $32,076 for 2019-20
•    $34,576 for 2020-21
•    $37,076 for 2021-22
•    $40,000 for 2022-23

After that, increases would be based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and subject to review by the General Assembly. IFT advocated for passage of SB 2892. The measure now moves to the House.


ERA poised for House action
The Illinois House Human Services committee approved SJRCA 4, the Equal Rights Amendment, but the sponsor said that he does not yet have enough votes for approval. If passed, Illinois will become the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
 
IFT President Dan Montgomery released this statement: 
“Although our nation has made great progress in the struggle for civil rights, we are far from a society that treats all people fairly. Today, we have an opportunity to take another crucial step towards women’s equality in the workplace. As union members, we negotiate contracts that provide equal pay for equal work, but without the ERA - a critical and commonsense amendment to the U.S. Constitution - that right is not granted to all working women.
 
It is unfortunate and revealing that Governor Rauner continues to dodge questions about the equal rights bill and refuses to state his unequivocal opposition to gender discrimination.
 
Still, we are proud that the Illinois Senate passed the ERA and encourage members of the House to do the same and level the playing field for women across the United States.”

Pension bill reactivated
HB 4045 was released from Senate Assignments committee and is now on 3rd reading. The legislation provides for a voluntary plan of allowing individuals in Tier 1 to receive a 10 percent refund of contributions and/or a 10 percent reduction in their contribution rate in exchange for accepting a Tier 2 Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) of the lesser of 3 percent or half the CPI. Current Tier 1 members would have the choice to utilize this option or decline it. A buy-out of vested, inactive members is allowed for those not currently working in a covered position. The legislation also requires the pension systems to offer a voluntary Defined Contribution plan that can be chosen by up to 5 percent of Tier 1 members for future service. Again, this is at the discretion of the member and can only be offered if the applicable pension Board of Trustees approves it. The intention of this legislation is unclear at this time, and the IFT is closely monitoring the legislation.          


Bill would expand graduate employee rights
The House Labor and Commerce committee passed SB 2546, legislation that would allow graduate employees of all classifications to unionize. Under current Illinois labor law, research assistants and pre-professional graduate assistants are considered students, not workers, so cannot organize. This bill would allow those graduate assistants to be covered by contracts negotiated by the Graduate Employee Organization/IFT.


Public employees would receive back pay
The House Executive committee passed HB 4290, legislation appropriating back pay for public employees. This bill would finally pay the nearly $60 million in wages owed since 2011 to some state employees, including IFT members of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408.


Solar energy to be assessed and taxed
SB 486 (Harmon) makes changes to how assessment and taxation of solar energy systems are calculated. The measure offers developers and owners of commercial solar energy systems preferential assessment and property tax treatment, in addition to the generous renewable energy credits they already receive, to the detriment of local taxing bodies and their constituents. The IFT and other education stakeholders are continuing to work on SB 486 to address these concerns. The bill advanced through the House Revenue committee this week.  
 

Hold harmless for CPPRT-reliant districts
SB 2260 (Tracy) creates a loss of CPPRT hold harmless for schools where their total revenues reach 13 percent or more. The bill was posted and expected to be heard in the House Revenue committee last week but was not called. The IFT supports this measure.


Substitute contracting bill inches closer to passage
SB 2838 provides that, by January 1, 2019, the Illinois State Board of Education shall implement a program to allow school districts to supplement their substitute teacher recruitment for elementary and secondary schools with the use of recruiting firms. The measure passed out of House committee last week and now moves to the floor.


Medical cannabis in schools bill heads to the governor
HB 4870 (Lang) requires school districts to authorize a parent or guardian of a student who is a qualifying patient to administer a medical cannabis infused product to the student on school premises or a school bus if both the student and the parent or guardian have been issued registry identification cards. The bill previously passed the House and was approved by the Senate last week. It now moves to Governor Rauner’s desk.


A look ahead
Lawmakers return on May 21 and are scheduled to be in session every day until the scheduled May 31 adjournment. Watch Under the Dome for updates.


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