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Legislative Update – Week of 3.3.17

3/06/2017
Senators convened in Springfield, while House members spent the time in their district offices. Notably, Illinois’ bill backlog grew to over $12 billion this week under Governor Rauner’s nearly two-year budget impasse.
 
There was some good news at the capitol though, thanks to the overwhelming efforts of IFT members who called and emailed lawmakers. The Senate rejected SB 16 (formerly SB 11), unconstitutional pension-cutting legislation that would have forced Tier 1 members in TRS, SURS, CTPF, and SERS to choose between two benefit cuts. The bill was placed on postponed consideration, meaning it can be considered in the future. Call your Senator at 217-733-5010 to keep the pressure on to kill this bill!
 
Senators also approved SB 6 (Cullerton, D-Chicago), a supplemental appropriation to fund higher education, human services, group health insurance, and state operations for the remainder of this fiscal year, but a procedural hold prevents the bill from advancing to the House for action.
 
Here are a few more highlights of this week’s action on the “grand bargain” and other key bills:
 
Fate of bad “grand bargain” looks grim
The efforts of IFT members who have urged lawmakers to oppose the bad “grand bargain” paid off this week. On Wednesday, Senators ditched their plans to vote on additional pieces of the legislation due to lack of Republican support. It was a surprising development since the Senate had taken up the following pieces of the 12-piece package earlier in the week:
 
  • SB 3 (T. Cullerton) Local government consolidation (Passed 43-14-2)
  • SB 5 (J. Cullerton) Pension parity legislation for Chicago Teachers (Passed 41-16-2)
  • SB 6 (J. Cullerton) FY17 Appropriations/state budget (Passed 42-16-1) (See details above)
  • SB 7 Expanded gaming/casinos (Passed 31-26-1)
  • SB 8 (Harmon) Procurement changes (Passed 41-16-2)
  • SB 10 (J. Cullerton) Local government debt consolidation (Debate, but no vote)
  • SB 16 (J Cullerton) Pension reforms (Failed 26-27-2)  (See details above)

“Grand bargain” bills that were NOT called for a vote include:
 
  • SB 1 - Education reform
  • SB 2 - Minimum wage
  • SB 4 - $7 billion in bonding to pay down state bills
  • SB 9 - Revenue/tax increase SB 10 - local government debt consolidation
  • SB 12 - Workers compensation
  • SB 13 - Privatization, “mandate relief,” and a property tax freeze

Since all the bills in this package are linked together, they all must pass or the “grand bargain” fails. Its future is now uncertain.  
 

House creates education funding task force

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) created a bipartisan education funding task force this week. The group is tasked with expanding on the work of the Governor’s Illinois School Funding Reform Commission by addressing unanswered questions in the commission’s final report and crafting equitable school funding reform legislation. Democrats appointed to the task force include House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (Chicago), as well as Representatives Linda Chapa LaVia (Aurora), Fred Crespo (Schaumburg), William Davis (Hazel Crest), Marcus Evans (Chicgo), Laura Fine (Glenview), Jay Hoffman (Belleville), Rita Mayfield (Waukegan), Emily McAsey (Romeoville), Michelle Mussman (Schaumburg), Elgie Sims (Chicago), and Justin Slaughter (Chicago). Republican appointments are pending.  A hearing schedule has not yet been announced.
 

AFSCME authorizes strike

Last week, AFSCME Council 31 announced that 81 percent of its members voted to authorize a strike if a contract agreement cannot be reached. It was the first strike authorization by AFSCME in state government history, and a last resort in response to the Governor’s claim more than a year ago that negotiations had reached an impasse. The vote does not guarantee a strike.
 
The Illinois Labor Relations Board ruled last fall that the Governor could implement his last, best, and final offer but AFSCME filed suit to prevent the implementation of that unfair contract. A final ruling on the case has yet to be issued. AFSCME’s bargaining committee will meet in the coming days to determine next steps. Pending litigation may play a role in the committee’s ultimate decision. Stay tuned.
 

Committee action to note

 HB 440 (Ives, R-Wheaton) would remove the requirement that physical education be offered in Illinois public schools. IFT opposed this legislation. It failed on a vote of 4-15.
 
HB 459 (Ives, R-Wheaton) would limit the ability of school districts to refinance debt, prohibit the issuance of capital appreciation bonds, and limit the ability of districts to issue debt beyond the amount indicated in statute. IFT and other education stakeholders opposed this bill due to the limitations it places on school district financial process.
 
HB 670 (Morrison, R-Palatine) would alter driver’s education requirements, including: allowing school districts to contract for driver’s education with commercial driver training schools without having to go through the waiver process; allowing school districts to use simulators for up to five of the six clock hours required for practice driving; and, allowing districts to adopt policies permitting proficiency exams after students complete three hours of practice driving under direct instruction. The bill failed on a vote of 4-15.
 

A look ahead

The Senate and House will reconvene on Tuesday, March 7. The Senate Education Committee plans to hold a subject matter hearing on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). To view IFT’s recent ESSA comments to the Illinois State Board of Education, click here.
 
The budget process will begin in both chambers, as well. The Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee will hear from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) regarding revenue projections for Fiscal Year 2018, and the House Appropriations Committees will hear subject matter on Fiscal Year 2018 budgets.
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