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Legislative update 11.13.15

The House and Senate returned to Springfield this week but adjourned again with no progress on a final FY16 budget agreement.
Here are the highlights of this week's action:

Higher Education funding
The House of Representatives heard testimony from several universities and students about the ongoing higher education funding crisis. The presidents from the University of Illinois, Western Illinois University, and Chicago State University all detailed the detrimental impact of the lack of state appropriations for FY16 on their institutions. 
Students also testified about the Monetary Award Program (MAP). This program helped more than 136,000 students attend an Illinois college or university in 2014 alone. The money for this program has not been appropriated for FY16, and soon, universities may be forced to stop providing funding to these students, leaving some students unable to continue their education.
The House of Representatives adopted an amendment to HB4156, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Burke (D-Oak Lawn), that would fund the universities at the level that was vetoed by the Governor earlier this year. This amount is a six percent cut from FY15 appropriated amounts. The legislation also contains funding for MAP.
House Education hearing on EdTPA - Teacher Licensure Assessment:
The House Education Curriculum and Policies committee hosted a hearing to explore issues with EdTPA, the new teacher licensure assessment. Jason Helfer of ISBE addressed concerns from legislators regarding the assessment's impact on teacher diversity, cost, and overall appropriateness, given that the scoring for two ten-minute videos is completed by out-of-state contractors. Mr. Helfer expressed flexibility in adapting EdTPA to Illinois' needs in a way that is beneficial to aspiring teachers and the profession. Supporters of the current practice argue that the assessment is new and unfamiliar, but that in time, it will serve well to identify teacher candidates who have demonstrated evidence of effectiveness of teaching. Opponents, headed by a coalition of higher education teacher preparation professionals, shared a number of concerns, including that EdTPA takes licensure and assessment out of the hands of those closest to the student teachers.

SB 570 fails to pass Illinois House
SB570 sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago), a measure that would have overturned Gov. Rauner's harsh restrictions on the state’s Child Care Assistance program, failed by one vote this week in the House. The lone democratic holdout on the legislation was Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago).
The good news: Gov. Rauner and the administration did their own about-face on the Child Care Assistance program this week, reversing eligibility requirements after the last several months of public outcry. The Governor has said that he will raise the eligibility to 162 percent. Prior to his administrative change during the summer, eligibility was set at 185 percent.
Lawmakers may still try to pass SB570 when the General Assembly returns in December to seek a full reinstatement of the program.
Unemployment insurance reform passes the Senate
Representatives of labor and business reached an agreement on unemployment insurance reform this week during negotiations with the Governor’s office. The agreed language was placed into HB1285, sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville), and passed the Senate unanimously.

Under the agreed framework, an individual would be ineligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits following separation with an employer under a number of scenarios including negligent damage to equipment or harm to other employees. Additionally, the framework allows recently separated workers who are eligible for Social Security to receive a full unemployment insurance benefit. Under current law, 50 percent of the amount an older worker receives for Social Security is subtracted from the potential unemployment insurance benefit.

“Because it is so vital to the economy and safety net for working families, unemployment insurance negotiations are always difficult, but all parties were committed to the process and an equitable agreement was achieved,” Illinois AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Tim Drea said.

Access to oral health care passes
The Senate passed  HB500, House Amendment #2, sponsored by Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), a measure that allows individuals who are eligible for Medicaid or who are uninsured and whose household income is not greater than 200 percent of the federal poverty level to directly access dental hygiene services provided by a Registered Dental Hygienist in some public health settings without a prior examination by a dentist. HB500 creates a new category of provider called a Public Health Dental Hygienist (PHDH). HB500 also allows dental assistants to provide supragingival scaling on healthy mouths under the direct supervision of the dentist after taking a 16-hour training course (only 12 hours if they are already certified in sealants, polishing, and fluoride treatments) and documenting 2,000 hours of full-time clinical work experience.

A look ahead
The House is scheduled to return to Springfield on Dec. 2. No date is set for the Senate.
Keep watching Under the Dome for important updates on legislative action.




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