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Legislative update from the week of Jan. 28


The General Assembly convened last week for the first time since the new administration’s inauguration.

Here are the highlights:

Democrats now control 74 House seats to Republicans’ 44 – a net gain of seven seats – comprising the most democratic legislature in modern history. This is three more than the 71 seats required for a three-fifths supermajority to override gubernatorial vetoes and pass constitutional amendments. In the state Senate, Democrats already held a supermajority, but they expanded it to 40 seats, to Republicans’ 19.

With expanded Democratic supermajorities in the legislature, and a Democrat in the executive branch, it’s expected that the legislative climate will change significantly. 

The Pritzker administration agenda:

Progressive Income Tax. The centerpiece of Pritzker’s campaign was the adoption of a progressive state income tax. Currently, Illinois has a flat income tax rate: 4.95 percent for individuals and 7 percent for corporations. The Illinois Constitution mandates a flat tax, so adoption of a true graduated income tax would require a constitutional amendment. This means a three-fifths majority in each chamber (36 votes in the Senate and 71 in the House) would have to approve the amendment. If passed, the amendment would be placed on the ballet in the next general election. Polls indicate public support for such a measure. Watch for additional communication from the IFT.

Legalization of Recreational Marijuana. Governor-elect Pritzker also campaigned on the legalization of recreational marijuana and has indicated it will be a focus early in his term. Illinois already has a medical marijuana pilot program under which a limited number of conditions are approved.

Minimum Wage Increase. During the campaign, Pritzker supported a $15 minimum wage. Illinois’ current statewide minimum wage is $8.25. In Chicago, the minimum wage is now $12, set to rise to $13 in July 2019. State Senator Kimberly Lightford has initiated negotiations on a proposal to raise the minimum wage. A formal proposal has yet to surface. IFT is in support of raising the minimum wage.

Capital Bill. The state has not passed a major capital bill in approximately a decade. Conversations are ongoing on how to fund much-needed road, rail, and other infrastructure projects across the state.

IFT initiatives advance:

Repeal 3% Salary Limitation. SB 60 (Bertino-Tarrant) and HB 350 (Willis) would repeal the 3% pension liability limit on the state responsibility for pay raises that are used in the calculation of a pension. If the legislation is enacted the limitation would revert back to the previous 6% threshold. SB 60 has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee and is expected to see legislative movement in the coming weeks.

Please contact your legislators now to help the IFT repeal this harmful and unfair cap that is impacting you and the students you serve.

Restoration of 105 ILCS 5/18-8.05. SB 28 (Bertino-Tarrant) and HB 247 (Crespo) are IFT initiatives that would restore section 18-8.05 of the School Code, which required a full instructional day to be a minimum of five clock hours and a half-day to be a minimum of two clock hours (or one hour in the case of a disabled student below the age of 6).

ISBE states that the repeal of section 18-8.05 was a drafting error in a school funding trailer bill; however the agency issued a memorandum to provide “guidance” regarding the repeal of Section 18-8.05, which created confusion among the education community and appeared to advocate for districts to make significant changes to their instructional day. 

In the Senate Committee, testimony made clear that flexibilities contemplated in the memo existed already through the school code waiver process allowed under 105 ILCS 5/2-3.25g and for districts participating in competency-based pilot programs.

SB 28 was voted out of the Senate Education Committee on a vote of 16-0 and is expected to be heard on the Senate floor in the near future.

Resetting PERA. While language is still making its way through the legislative drafting process, the IFT plans to reintroduce legislation that would provide relief to members from the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA).

Changes at Illinois State Board of Education expected:

Thursday January 31 was state Superintendent of Education Tony Smith’s last day. Gov. Pritzker’s administration has not yet named a replacement. In addition to Smith’s departure, several ISBE Board appointments are anticipated to change.

Other bills to note:

SB 80 (McConchie) – The legislation would re-establish the Board of Regents within the Illinois Board of Higher Education. The Board would have financial oversight of all public universities including the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University.

SB 164 (Schimpf) – The legislation would allow members of TRS to purchase up to 2 years of service credit for time served as an employee at a private school. All costs associated with the purchase of this service credit would need to be provided by the applicant.   

A look ahead

The House and Senate return to Springfield this week. Gov. Pritzker’s budget address and State of the State message will be delivered on February 20.



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