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Legislative update 5.8.15

5/08/2015
ALERT: Watch for email updates on IFT LOCAL POWER WEEK from May 18-22.

The Illinois General Assembly concluded its business on Thursday this week. Both chambers will return on Tuesday, May 12, when they plan to begin discussions on the Governor’s pension reform plan and vote on his anti-union “turnaround” proposal.

This week’s highlights:

Supreme Court unanimously rejects pension cuts, upholds Constitution
In a huge victory for IFT members, retirees, and the rule of law, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned pension-slashing SB1 on May 8, declaring it unconstitutional. Learn more and read the statement from We Are One Illinois here. LINK

Tier 2 pension resolution moves to Senate
Senate Resolution 317, sponsored Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), questions the compliance of Tier 2 with Social Security and asks TRS and SURS to request a letter from the IRS that would rule on the issue. The Tier 2 pension plan includes all public employees in state-funded pension plans hired after January 1, 2011. The Senate Executive Committee approved the resolution (10-0-3). It now moves to the full Senate.

Governors’ pension proposal
The House Pension Committee will hold a subject matter hearing on Governor Rauner’s pension proposal on May 13. Details of the proposal are unclear because Rauner has not provided legislative language for his plan, instead choosing to work behind closed doors with legislative members who he has sworn to secrecy.

Budget working group begins work under gag order from Rauner
During the last few weeks, the Governor’s office has convened secretive meetings with lawmakers and staff regarding his “turnaround” agenda. The stated goal is to seek a compromise on the items in the agenda, including so-called “right-to-work” zones, budget implementation, pension reforms, and more, but the Governor has denied stakeholders a place at the table in these important discussions.

Meanwhile, the Civic Federation blasted Rauner’s budget proposal, saying it is “not achievable.”  


House vote scheduled on so-called “right to work”

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D- Chicago) announced that he has scheduled a vote on the Governor’s “right-to-work” proposal for Thursday, May 14.

IFT President Dan Montgomery responded, urging the legislature to follow the lead of the 95% of citizens, represented through their city councils and county boards, who have already rejected Governor Rauner’s misguided proposal during public meetings held around the state. View the meeting outcomes and find out about upcoming meetings where you can speak out here.

Resolution urges districts to explore alternative breakfasts
HR 398, sponsored by Rep. Will Davis (D – E. Hazel Crest), seeks to increase school and district participation in alternative school breakfasts, particularly for districts with more than 70% of students eligible for free or reduced lunch. HR 398 passed the House Education Curriculum and Policies Committee and now heads to the House floor.

Resolution exploring PARCC contract with ISBE
HR 404, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R – Crystal Lake), requests that ISBE reevaluate its contract with PARCC so the state may meet its requirement to assess students while maintaining high standards. HR 404 urges ISBE to better communicate with the public and elected officials before agreeing to significant changes in learning standards and assessments.

School Security Taskforce extends reporting date
SB 1340, sponsored by Rep. Elgie Sims (D – Chicago) and Sen. Neil Anderson (R – Moline), extends the deadline for the School Security and Standards Task Force to submit a report to the General Assembly and the Governor to January 1, 2016 (instead of January 1, 2015). The task force is charged with studying school security, making recommendations, and drafting minimum standards to increase security and to provide a safer learning environment for Illinois’ children. The bill passed the House Education Curriculum and Policies Committee (5-6-15).

Committee explores best charter school practices
The Elementary and Secondary Education: Charter School Policy Committee held a subject matter hearing to discuss charter school innovations in instructional strategies and methods. Rep. Monique Davis (D – Chicago) pointed out that a rationale for passing the original charter school law in Illinois related to charters’ freedom to become laboratories for innovation and creativity. Rep. Emily McAsey (D – Romeoville) queried the president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools about new instructional strategies that could be shared with traditional public schools.


Governor’s call for a property tax freeze heats up

Governor Rauner said again this week that he hopes to permanently freeze statewide property taxes. To date, no bill has been introduced, but the Governor’s “taxpayer protection” working group issued a report detailing a potential freeze proposal that would impact all local units of governments, including school districts.

The Governor’s “turnaround agenda” includes some basics of this proposal:

  • Starting in property tax year 2016 (payable in 2017), all property tax extensions from local taxing districts will be equal to the extension from 2015.
  • Home rule and non-home rule units of government would be affected, as would taxing districts in both PTELL and non-PTELL counties.
  • Units of local government could increase extensions by referendum with a majority vote. 

House Committee of the Whole addresses workers’ comp

The House held a rare Committee of the Whole hearing last week to listen to testimony about workers’ compensation from both sides of the issue. The AFL-CIO and other groups previously agreed to workers’ compensation reforms in 2011, but the Governor is proposing additional and unfair restrictions. Unions testified that evidence shows that savings from the 2011 reforms have not been passed on to businesses as intended, so enforcement of current reforms - not additional ones - is the answer. Business interests argued that additional reforms are needed. The IFT will continue to work with the AFL-CIO to support the current workers’ compensation system.

Back pay for state employees’ moves to the Senate

HB 3763, sponsored by Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur), would finally pay off back wages owed to some state employees since 2011. A portion of these back wages was appropriated by the legislature last year, but approximately $60 million is still owed to these employees, including IFT members who belong to the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408. The bill unanimously passed out of the Senate Executive Committee and now moves to the Senate. 


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