Legislative update 3.27.15

by Beth Camplain | Mar 27, 2015
Wrapping up their work for the first half of the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers adjourned on Thursday, March 26th, for a two-week Spring break.
Wrapping up their work for the first half of the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers adjourned on Thursday, March 26th, for a two-week Spring break. Legislators will return to Springfield on April 14th, when they will begin in earnest the consideration of legislation that has been approved by committees in the chamber where the legislation originated. For example, House Bills that have passed House committees will be considered by the entire House of Representatives.
Legislation to “close the books” on the fiscal year 2015 budget has been signed into law, so now the focus turns to the budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1, 2015.
Legislators will be in their districts during this break, which is why it is more important than ever to make sure they hear from you as they consider the upcoming FY16 budget. There are revenue solutions that will ensure stability in Illinois' budget. Encourage your lawmakers to consider the Millionaire’s Tax and the need for fairness in revenue through reasonable taxes. Lawmakers also need to be reminded that the Governor’s mean-spirited, anti-worker agenda is fundamentally flawed and misguided. Study after study reveals that “right-to work” is a scam that not only erodes hard-fought collective bargaining rights and benefits, but also reduces average working and middle class incomes by over $1500 per year. 
Calling, writing, and scheduling meetings with your legislators are all effective ways to communicate how you feel about the serious issues that confront our state. Remember, lawmakers have an obligation to hear from you. We all need to remind them that we are paying attention.
In addition to the looming budget battle, Governor Rauner continues his laser-focused crusade to weaken (and in his ideal world, eliminate) labor unions. After Attorney General Lisa Madigan shot down the Governor's "employee empowerment zones" (aka right-to-work — for less), he revealed his latest effort to restrict collective bargaining rights, reduce public pension benefits, and undercut worker protections. The Governor's new plan depends on having municipalities pass resolutions in support of his “Illinois Turnaround” agenda. The proposals are nearly identical to recommendations promoted by the anti-worker, corporate-funded ideologues of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Despite his recent failures to institute these policies through executive order, the Governor is singularly focused on destroying organized labor and, as a result, the growth and stability of the middle class in Illinois.

Highlights of Springfield action this week include:

Right-to-work legislation stalls under union pressure

HB 4139, statewide right to work legislation sponsored by Rep. Reginald Phillips (R-Charleston) was not called for a vote in the House Labor and Commerce Committee this week. The sponsor requested to have the anti-union bill called, but Chairman Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) clearly stated that he would not call the bill under any circumstances. IFT position = OPPOSE
This bill was not an initiative of Governor Rauner and this week the Governor unveiled a new scheme to entice local governments to support local right-to-work (for less) zones. The IFT will continue to oppose the Governor’s attacks on working class families.

Back pay for state employees’ advances
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 passed out of the House Revenue Committee by a vote of 9-2. IFT position = SUPPORT

General Assembly passes FY15 budget reductions
This week, the Illinois House and Senate approved and the Governor signed HB 317 and HB 318, measures that permit special fund raids (termed “sweeps”) and reduce current year appropriations to alleviate the estimated FY15 $1.6B deficit. The bills passed with a bipartisan vote in both chambers. The Administration and the General Assembly worked together to come up with the reductions and raids/sweeps. As you’re aware, IFT lobbyists expressed opposition to these bills and we were supported by your efforts calling Senators.
Some budget items are excluded from the cuts (pension payments, employee and retiree healthcare, and required statutory transfers) and some programs receive funding in order to make them solvent through the end of the fiscal year (funding for prison guards at the Department of Corrections and child care programs).
HB 317 cuts 2.25% from all Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) budget line items – including General State Aid (GSA) – for a total of approximately $150 million. It is not clear yet how, exactly, the GSA cut will manifest itself, but the legislation also gave the Governor the unprecedented discretion to direct a lump sum of $97 million to specific school districts deemed to be in extreme hardship. Again, it is unclear exactly how that process will work at this time.
In addition to “sweeping” $1.3 billion in funds, included in HB 318 are provisions to give the governor the latitude to transfer up to 4% of the funds from one budget line item to another line item, agency, or program.
The IFT is analyzing the impact these 11th hours cuts will have on districts and programs which have already budgeted for the remainder of the year based on promised funding, and our staff will be prepared to work with locals and councils to address issues that may result from the loss of expected revenue.

Educator licensure changes clear House committee
In a “trailer” to PA 97-607, an omnibus ISBE licensure bill HB 2657, Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley) amends multiple sections of Article 21B of the School Code to make changes concerning teacher preparation, out-of-state educator and administrator reciprocity, license fees, and educator misconduct.
IFT position = NEUTRAL

Civics education measures approved by House panel
Measures based on the recommendations of the Illinois Civics Education Task Force and sponsored by Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) were approved by the House Education Committee this week to require civics education in Illinois high schools.
HB 4024 requires that teachers have access to professional development activities aligned with the best practices in civics education and HB 4025 requires a civics course for high school graduation.
IFT position on HB 4024 = OPPOSED
IFT position on HB 4025 = NEUTRAL

Visit Under the Dome weekly for the latest updates on legislative action, and check the IFT Watch List to view additional legislative proposals the IFT is tracking.