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Legislative Update - Week of 11.18.16

11/18/2016
The General Assembly reconvened this week for the first of two weeks of veto session. Traditionally during this time, lawmakers take up the items that were partially or completely vetoed by the Governor during the previous session. Lawmakers will return for the second week of veto session after Thanksgiving to conclude their business for 2016.

Illinois still does not have a full year budget. Funding for many critical items like higher education and social services is being paid under the stop-gap budget passed by lawmakers this summer. That money will run out on January 1, 2017.

Here is an update on actions taken this week:
Chicago Elected School Board Bill discussed in Senate hearing
HB 577, sponsored by Rep. Bob Martick (D-Chicago) and Sen. Kwame Raoul (D- Chicago), was the subject of a lengthy discussion in a Senate Education Committee hearing on Wednesday. No vote on the measure has been scheduled, but Senators on both sides of the aisle expressed support.
 
The legislation overwhelmingly passed (110-4) the House in March with bipartisan support. It would allow Chicago to establish an elected school board and provides for a nonpartisan election of the Chicago Board of Education during general primary elections, beginning in 2018. Under the original proposal, the City of Chicago shall be subdivided into 20 electoral districts by the General Assembly for seats on the Chicago Board of Education. The IFT strongly supports this legislation.
House fails to override veto of PSRP rights legislation - on PSRP Day
The House attempted to override Governor Rauner's unfair veto of HB 6299, but failed by 64-40. To add insult to injury for PSRPs, the vote occurred on November 16, which was PSRP Day in Illinois, an annual day established to recognize the important contributions of teacher aides, secretaries, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and others who support student learning in our schools and campuses. See how your Representative voted.
 
The bill was an IFT member initiative that resulted from an unfair Reduction In Force (RIF) situation that harmed PSRPs in a downstate school district. Sponsored by Rep. Andrade (D-Chicago) and Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), HB 6299 would have established the same recall rights for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs) that teachers already have. This commonsense measure passed both chambers earlier this year with bipartisan support, but the Governor vetoed it.

The IFT is extremely disappointed that some Republican lawmakers who previously supported the bill voted to uphold the Governor's veto this week.
ISBE Updates House committee on ESSA progress
State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tony Smith testified before the House Elementary and Secondary Education School Policy and Curriculum Committee to give a status update on ESSA efforts in Illinois.

Smith spoke about the two rounds of listening tours held to date, and a third round planned in the next few weeks. He indicated that a second draft of the state's ESSA plan is scheduled to be released on November 18. IFT’s efforts to bring all stakeholders to the table - most importantly educators and PSRP’s - were lauded by Chairman Crespo and other members of the Committee.

Check the IFT's ESSA webpage for updates on the draft plan and what it means for students, teachers, and schools, and for more information on how to make your voice heard on this critical subject.
House adopts waiver resolution – HJR 163
Both the House and Senate Education Committees considered testimony this week about school district mandate waiver requests for school code modifications. School districts seeking waivers were required to submit those requests by October 1, 2016
 
Requested waivers are approved automatically, unless the Illinois General Assembly acts to deny them. The largest number of applications received – 29 – sought waivers from the requirements for non-resident tuition. Additional requests were related to daily physical education, school improvement/in-service training, raising driver's education fees, and other issues.
 
The House approved the waivers by unanimously passing House Joint Resolution 163 (HJR 163). One waiver was denied; Central School District 104 applied for a waiver that would expand their debt limitations. The IFT believes the district will pursue their request via the legislative route in the spring. The Senate is expected to consider HJR 163 when the chamber reconvenes at the end of this month.
Chicago school support staff pension measure advances
SB 2437 would provide that members of two Chicago city workers pension funds - Chicago Laborers Pension Fund and Municipal Employees Fund - hired after January 1, 2011 (Tier 2) may choose to pay an additional 3 percent of salary in exchange for an earlier retirement age. Currently Tier 2 members in both systems can retire at age 67 without a reduction in benefits. Under SB 2437, members who opt to pay the additional 3 percent will be eligible to retire at age 65 without a reduction.
 
The systems are the worst-funded in the state and are in perilous financial condition. The legislation also allows for the board of trustees of each fund to sue the city if the required contributions are not made. In addition, the boards can notify the state that the full contribution was not made. The amount needed to fulfill the amount would then be deposited by the state through a deduction in grants to the city.         
 
The measure passed out of House Personnel and Pension Committee and is on second reading. The IFT is opposed to the bill.
Both chambers will return to Springfield on November 29 for the final week of veto session.
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