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The 98th General Session in Review

6/11/2014

Illinois lawmakers adjourned on May 31st after passing a flat-rate budget which saves education from draconian cuts in Fiscal Year 2015 but may harm other state services. Still, there was significant progress this session on some important bills that benefit IFT members and those we serve. Here’s a detailed run-down of the action on our key initiatives and other important legislation addressed this session.

IFT INITIATIVES

Testing Review Committee
HB 5330 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia/Sen. Kimberly Lightford) passed both chambers and now moves to the Governor for his signature. The bill requires the formation of a committee to study the cost, number of assessments at the state and district levels, and instructional time. The committee makeup includes teachers, parents, school board members, an early childhood educator, and other stakeholders.

Data Privacy in Continuing Negotiations
On the heels of the IFT Convention where delegates unanimously approved Resolution No. 4, the IFT Department of Political Activities introduced SB 3092 (Rep. Scott Drury/Sen. William Delgado), a measure to protect student and teacher data from being sold to third party vendors. The bill passed the House and was placed in a subcommittee for further negotiation between the IFT, stakeholders, and lawmakers.

K-2 Assessments
The IFT filed and testified in support of SB 3460 (Sen. Bill Cunningham), a measure which would limit unnecessary testing of students in grades K- 2. Our testimony can be found here. The bill was assigned to committee. The IFT will continue to advocate for this important legislation.

Restoring Recall Rights
We successfully passed HB 5546, important legislation (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia/Sen. Kimberly Lightford) which restores additional recall rights many educators lost under SB 7. The IFT was a key advocate for this bill on behalf of our members.
                    
HB 5546 returns a level of fairness to the recall process by making key changes and cleans up some language in SB 7 which caused confusion and unintended consequences. Once signed by Quinn (as we expect), it will take effect immediately.



BALLOT INITIATIVES

There will be potentially seven important questions posed to voters on the November ballot. Two citizen’s initiatives (signatures) – one for redistricting and one for term limits – were also filed with the State Board of Elections. Exact ballot language is not yet in place and won’t be certified until August 22. IFT monitored these ballot initiatives:

Millionaire’s Tax
HB 3816 (Rep. Michael Madigan/Sen. Michael Noland) would support a 3 percent surtax on all individual income over $1 million to be used for education spending. The measure passed both chambers and has moved to the Governor’s desk.

Minimum Wage
The IFT-supported HB 3814 (Rep. Michael Madigan/Sen. Kimberly Lightford), legislation which will place an advisory referendum question on the ballot in November. Voters will be asked, "Shall the minimum wage in Illinois for adults over the age of 18 be raised to $10 per hour by January 1, 2015?" The bill passed both houses and moves to the Governor. Update: signed 6/22/14

Women's Health
IFT-supported HB 5755 (Rep. Kelly Cassidy/Sen. Iris Martinez) will place an advisory referendum question on the ballot asking whether any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage should be required to include prescription birth control as part of that coverage. The bill was approved in both chambers and moves to Quinn’s desk.

Election Discrimination Amendment
An amendment seeking to preserve voting rights of all Illinois citizens also passed this session. House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 52 (HJRCA 52) clarifies that "no person shall be denied the right to register to vote or to cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or income."

Voters will now decide whether or not to add these provisions to the Illinois Constitution. A three-fifths majority of those voting on each amendment or a majority of those voting in the election is required to add a provision to the state's governing document.



EDUCATION FUNDING REFORM

SB 16
In April, the Senate Executive Committee approved SB 16 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia/Sen. Andy Manar), a bill to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. The plan would streamline the current formula funding structure into a single formula that would account for school district variables and most importantly, students' needs.

The proposal is the result of the Education Funding Advisory Council (EFAC), a panel established last year to conduct a comprehensive review of the current K-12 education funding system in Illinois and make recommendations for a more fair and adequate system. Some concerns surfaced about various components of the bill. In response, Sen. Manar worked with stakeholders to amend it six times. The Senate approved the bill, but the IFT opposed Amendment No. 4, and it was tabled before the bill was approved.

ISBE has run data modeling on the impact the new formula would have on districts. (District allocations for the new formula are based on FY13 expenditures and data.) Stakeholders plan to meet this summer to discuss further how best to reform school funding in Illinois.



STATE BUDGET

FY15
The Illinois General Assembly approved a flat-rate budget for FY15 that attempts to strike a balance between the recommended budget proposed by Gov. Quinn and the “doomsday” budget that failed in the House in the last days of session. The IFT urged lawmakers to support a plan that would increase K-12 funding and provide the Governor’s recommended appropriation levels for other areas, including state universities and other higher education entities.

Gov. Quinn's plan was predicated on extending the current 5 percent income tax rate. Despite intense efforts from the IFT, our members, and other advocacy groups, the attempt to extend that 5 percent tax rate stalled, so the rate will return to 3.75 percent on January 1, 2015. The result will be a massive loss in revenue and possible cuts to state services.

This set the stage for the passage of a middle-of-the-road budget proposal comprised of five bills (Rep. Michael Madigan/Sen. John Cullerton) which allow lawmakers to borrow $600 million from other state funds through budgeting maneuvers:

  • HB 6093 will fund K-12 school districts and the State Board of Education. It is generally flat-funded, with the same appropriations as in the FY14 budget in the areas of transportation reimbursements, bilingual education, and early childhood education. Some additional funding was dedicated to the General State Aid formula to maintain the per pupil foundation level proration of just under 89 percent. The budget fully funds the assessment line item to include funding for the ACT examination. Update: signed 6/30/14

  • HB 6094 will fund Higher Education, including Community Colleges. Update: signed 6/30/14
  • HB 6095, HB 6096, and HB 6097 will fund constitutional offices and agencies including the Department of Revenue, Secretary of State, and others. The budgets are similar to FY14, but were appropriated as lump sums which the legislature does not parse out in specific line items, but allows the governor’s office or state agencies to do so. Update: signed 6/30/14
 

In addition to passing agency budgets, the General Assembly also approved HB 3793 (Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie/Sen. Dan Kotowski), which provides funding for capital infrastructure projects. Update: line-item vetoed 6/30/14

This bill included:

  • $50 million for the Chicago Teacher's Pension Fund - the appropriation is designed to reduce by that amount the money that Chicago Public Schools is required to contribute. The state contributed $65 million to the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund from FY88 to FY09. The appropriation was discontinued several years ago but is being slowly reinstated.

  • $35 million for School Construction in the Chicago Public Schools

  • $40 million for School Maintenance Grants for Chicago Public Schools, and

  • $50 million for the back payment of wages owed to state employees since 2011.


No Vote on Fair Tax

As part of the A Better Illinois coalition, the IFT fought to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot asking whether the wealthy should pay a higher income tax rate than others. Unfortunately, lawmakers allowed the deadline to expire on the proposal, denying voters the chance to be heard on the fair tax issue.



CHARTERS

Virtual Charter School Moratorium
IFT-backed HB 3937 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia/Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant) passed both chambers and heads to the Governor. It extends the moratorium on the establishment of charter schools with virtual-schooling components through December 31, 2016 and exempts Chicago. This will give Illinois more time to create rules regarding how these schools will be regulated in Illinois.

Charter School Control Put Back Under ISBE
HB 3754 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia/Sen. Kimberly Lightford) originally sought to eliminate the charter commission altogether, but was amended to replace it with a Charter School Appeals Board under the Illinois State Board of Education. The bill transfers all the powers, duties, assets, liabilities, contracts, property, records, and pending business of the State Charter School Commission to the new appeals board. The state superintendent, instead of the Governor, will have the authority to select the members of the board, which will be charged with making recommendations about whether to override a school district's decision about a charter, with ISBE having the final say.

Although this is a step in the right direction, the IFT opposed the measure due to concern that it doesn’t go far enough to return local control.

"Money Follows the Student"
HB 4591 (Rep. Robert Martwick/Sen. Jacqueline Collins) was supported by the IFT. It provides that if a charter school dismisses a pupil after receiving a quarterly payment from the school district, the charter school shall return to the school district an amount equal to 100 percent of the school district’s per capita student tuition, on a pro rata basis, for the time the student is not enrolled at the charter school. This measure now goes to the Governor’s desk.

Charter Accountability Act
IFT-supported HB 3232 (Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch/Sen. Jacqueline Collins) makes crucial changes to charter school law that force them to be more transparent and accountable to taxpayers. The measure requires charter schools to have a transparent process for admission lotteries, prohibits staff double-dipping, codifies how property is transferred once a charter is dissolved, and requires disclosure when advertisements for schools are paid for with public dollars. The bill passed both chambers and moves to Gov. Quinn’s desk.

Charter Contracts Streamlined
SB 3081 (Rep. Daniel Burke/Sen. Daniel Biss) passed both chambers and now moves to the Governor’s desk. It aligns the beginning of the fiscal year for charter schools with state and school district fiscal years and makes changes regarding the review of material modifications to charter agreements. IFT took a neutral position.

Statutory Clarification of ELL and Special Requirements for Charters
IFT-supported HB 4527 (Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia/Sen. Kimberly Lightford) makes it explicit that charters are subject to all state laws, regulations, and rules regarding Special Education and English Language Learning instruction. The bill passed both chambers and was signed by Gov. Quinn. It is now in effect.



PENSIONS

SB 1 Lawsuit
The IFT and our We Are One Illinois coalition won a major victory for members in May when a state circuit court issued a temporary restraining order and injunction to halt the implementation of pension-slashing SB 1 (Public Act 98-599). The ruling prohibits any public system to implement the measure until such time as the court issues an order on the constitutionality of the legislation or otherwise orders it to be enacted. This decision may foreshadow our ultimate victory and impacted the General Assembly’s consideration of pension reform measures.

Chicago Pensions
SB 1922 (Rep. Michael Madigan/Sen. Kwame Raoul), Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to overhaul and cut pensions for Chicago municipal workers and laborers, passed both chambers and was signed by Governor Quinn on June 9. It is now in effect. This legislation does not contain changes to the police, firefighters, or teachers’ pension plan. The We Are One Chicago coalition, which includes the Chicago Teachers Union, is preparing to file a lawsuit to stop this unfair bill.

IMRF 13th Check
The IFT, along with our labor partners, acted quickly to stop HB 3898 (Rep. Deborah Conroy), a measure which would have eliminated the “13th check” for Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) employees. After the IFT and members informed the sponsor of the detrimental impact this legislation would have on IMRF retirees, it was removed from consideration.

Cook County Pensions
HB 1154 (Rep. Michael Madigan/Sen. Kwame Raoul) failed in the final days of session. The measure represented Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s public pension reform plan. IFT does not have any members in this system, but we proudly stood with our union brothers and sisters in opposition to this unconstitutional proposal.



HIGHER EDUCATION

Pay It Forward Study
Both chambers passed HB 5323 (Rep. Jack Franks/Sen. Michael Frerichs), which requires the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to study Pennsylvania’s “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” program and similar programs around the country. Its report is due back to the General Assembly by December 1, 2014. The IFT will closely monitor this study over the summer.

Smoke Free Campus
SB 2202 (Rep. Ann Williams/Sen. Terry Link) prohibits smoking on higher education campuses in Illinois. The bill requires that a smoke free campus task force be established for all institutions by December 31, 2014 to coordinate implementation of smoke free campuses by July 1, 2015.



STATE EMPLOYEES

IFPE Reaches Agreement with the Governor's Office
With assistance from the IFT, the Illinois Federation of Public Employees (IFPE), Local 4408, reached an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to fill 16 positions over the next two years, concluding a multi-year lobbying effort with lawmakers and the Governor. IDOT will hire five mechanics and two storekeepers for FY15, and six mechanics and three storekeepers for FY16. The agreement helps to address public safety concerns the IFT brought to the forefront earlier this year.

HB 3793 (Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie/Sen. Dan Kotowski) contains $50 million to pay state employees who are owed back wages earned from July 2011 to July 2013. IFT members are among the 20,000 state employees in Corrections, Juvenile Justice, Human Services, Public Health, and Natural Resources who will receive back pay. This appropriation is less than half of the $112 million owed to state employees, so the IFT will continue to work with other public employee unions to fight for the wages still due. The Governor is expected to sign the bill.

Without the extension of the 5 percent tax rate, lawmakers approved a flat-rate budget which they acknowledge won’t cover the state’s costs. While the final details are dependent on agency budget management, it’s possible that the FY15 budget as passed could lead to layoffs and delays in paying bills. Read more in the FY15 Budget section above.



WORKPLACE INITIATIVES

Pregnancy Fairness
HB 8 (Rep. Mary Flowers/Sen. Toi Hutchinson) makes it a civil rights violation for an employer to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations for medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. The bill gives pregnant employees the same rights as others who require temporary accommodations due to a medical condition. The IFT supported this legislation.  

Payroll Card Protection
Employees who receive their wages on a payroll card instead of a paper check will now be protected under HB 5622 (Rep. Arthur Turner/Sen. Kwame Raoul), which passed both chambers and awaits the Governor’s signature. Payroll cards look and operate much like debit cards, and can be used to make retail purchases and withdrawals from an ATM. The bill prohibits unreasonable fees and places regulations on any fees associated with the cards. The IFT worked with the AFL-CIO to lobby for this worker-friendly bill.


The IFT will continue to monitor legislation and advocate for members in Springfield during the November Veto Session and when the 99th General Assembly convenes in January 2015. Watch your inbox and the IFT website for the most up-to-date legislative news and important Action Alerts.

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