Legislative update 4.24.15

by Amy Excell | Apr 25, 2015
Lawmakers passed bills to the opposite chambers this week, and a House panel questioned the Governor's office about the "Good Friday Massacre" cuts made to critical health and social programs.
Legislators spent most of their time this week in Springfield passing bills to the opposite chamber. The House also questioned the Governor’s office about the “Good Friday Massacre” and additional FY15 cuts.

Meanwhile, the Governor’s office continued its efforts to strong arm Illinois communities into passing Rauner’s “turnaround agenda," but IFT members are joining with other unionists and successfully fighting back. Click here for details about upcoming meetings and what has happened in other towns.

Highlights of action in Springfield this week

FY15 budget roundup
Last week, the Illinois Senate held a hearing to question the Governor’s office on what is now referred to the "Good Friday Massacre.” This week it was the House’s turn.
 
A House panel questioned the Governor’s office about cuts made to the critical social services our most vulnerable families depend on, including after school programs, higher education, autism, healthcare for the poor, smoking cessation, and other important social programs.

The House believes money is available to provide these services, but the Governor’s office claims that the FY15 budget fix was never intended to make all programs whole for the remainder of the fiscal year, and that they expected further cuts to certain programs. The panel requested a detailed list of the programs cut and the criteria used to make those decisions.

The House meeting came on the same day that the Illinois Senate passed legislation to restore the $26 million in grant cuts by Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) to support vulnerable Illinois residents. To pay for it, lawmakers gave the Governor’s office further authority to sweep additional special funds. It is unclear whether the House will consider the legislation.

Bill to eliminate tuition waiver is not called
HB 403, sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), would eliminate the 50% tuition waiver for children of university faculty and staff. The IFT and University Professionals of Illinois, IFT Local 4100, have consistently fought to maintain this benefit because it is critical to helping Illinois recruit and maintain high-quality professionals in our state's colleges and universities. The legislation was not called before the deadline in the House this week, and is now unlikely to move this session. IFT will continue to closely monitor the issue and be prepared to act.


House passes bill to allow student learning on snow days
HB 2781, sponsored by Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago), creates a three-school district pilot program to permit students to receive instruction electronically on district determined “snow days”. IFT is working with Rep. Fortner to identify solutions to issues such as delivery of special education and English language learning services, delivery challenges for teachers of art, music, and PE, as well as general technology questions. The bill passed in the House by a vote of 104-1-0.


Mitchell files bill to fund textbooks
HB 670, sponsored by Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago), establishes a new 3% service tax on comprehensive fund administration services and directs the proceeds to support the Textbook Loan Block Grant. The grant will provide an opportunity for schools to receive the necessary funding to purchase textbooks, instructional computer software, and related educational resources such as science kits. The bill is expected to be heard in the House Revenue Committee.


House Charter Policy Committee hearing scheduled
In response to the introduction of HR 265, sponsored by Rep. Emily McAsey (D-Romeoville), the House Charter Policy Committee will hear testimony from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) on April 29 about charter school law. The Executive Director of the Charter Schools Commission will also provide testimony. To listen, click here and select C-1.  


Restricted political activity on college campuses
SB 221, sponsored by Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill), restricts certain political activity on university and college campuses. IFT is in discussion with Rep. McGuire about the implications of this legislation and hopes to work through issues with the bill.


Tier 2 pension resolution will be heard in committee

HR 358, sponsored by Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove), is scheduled to be heard in the House Personnel and Pension Committee on April 30. This legislation questions whether the current Tier 2 pension plan is in compliance with Social Security requirements and asks TRS and SURS to seek an IRS ruling on the issue. The Tier 2 plan currently includes all public employees hired after January 1, 2011. Going forward, the Governor has proposed (via talking points) enrolling all Tier 1 members into the Tier 2 plan after a specified date.
 

HB 494 removes barriers to school employment

HB 494, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), removes non-violent offenses from being absolute or long-term bans to school employment. The bill also makes changes to the grounds for revocation of licenses and disqualification for employment and licensure.


Testing opt-out legislation ready to move to House
HB 306, sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), creates a structure for parents who wish to opt their children out of PARCC testing. HB 306 also requires schools to notify parents annually about their right to opt their children out of testing. The bill passed out of the House Education Licensure Committee and is ready for a vote on the House floor.
 

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.