Legislative update 5.1.17

by Amy Excell | May 01, 2017
Rauner and Madigan meet for the first time in months, but don't count on a budget just yet.
Last week marked the deadline in both chambers for the third reading of bills. In light of that significant date, lawmakers in the House and Senate were busy acting on legislation, passing bills over to the opposite chamber for further review.

There was no action on budgetary items this week, but there was a highly-publicized meeting between House Speaker Mike Madigan and Governor Bruce Rauner.

Is there budget progress on the horizon? Don’t count on it.

Here are the highlights of key action in Springfield last week:
Higher ed “teach out’ and rally sends Governor a message
Nearly 1,000 IFT members, leaders, and supporters, including lawmakers and Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, converged on the state Capitol on Thursday to conduct mini classes in the rotunda and hold a spirited rally. Their message to Governor Rauner? “Do your job! Fund higher education.”

Rally speakers included IFT President Dan Montgomery, UPI Local 4100 President John Miller, and a host of students, educators, and lawmakers who told their stories about how the Governor’s nearly two-year budget impasse is devastating campuses and communities. Click here to learn more and see video of the event.

The “teach out” and rally came on the heels of a well-attended women’s march in Springfield on April 25. More than a thousand activists participated to pressure Rauner and lawmakers to adopt progressive legislation, including fair funding for education and critical programs.
Senate waits on “lifeline” budget
The Illinois Senate did not act last week on what is being called a “lifeline” budget. HB 109 was approved by the House two weeks ago by a vote of 64-45. The legislation would provide partial funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017, including $150 million in critical additional funding for higher education. Social service programs that are in danger of closing would also receive $258 million. If passed, the legislation would appropriate $817 million that currently sits in the Education Assistance and Commitment to Human Services funds.

Even with this money, colleges and universities will suffer cuts of up to 34 percent this fiscal year. It is believed that the Senate Democrats are trying to work out a deal with Senate Republicans on a lifeline bill the governor would be willing to sign. Thus far, Gov. Rauner has indicated that he will not approve HB 109 if it reaches his desk, despite the harm his budget impasse continues to inflict on students, communities, and our neediest citizens.
CTU bargaining rights bill passes
The House passed HB 1253, legislation that would restore collective bargaining rights to members of the Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1. In 1995, the Republican controlled General Assembly took away CTU’s right to bargain over class size, third-party contracts, layoffs, and staffing levels. That legislation has contributed significantly to the loss of experienced teachers and the decreasing number of minority teachers in Chicago Public Schools. Despite the failures of the 1995 legislation, some lawmakers want to apply that law to every district in the state.

HB 1253 was sent to the Senate last week, and has been referred to the Assignments Committee for further review and consideration.
Bill prohibiting “right-to-work” zones advances
The Senate passed SB 1905, legislation that will require any law affecting collective bargaining to be enacted only by the General Assembly, not school boards or local governments. In 2015, Governor Rauner tried to harm local unions by creating “empowerment zones” in which local government officials could take away union rights.

SB 1905 will make it “the policy of the State that employers, employees, and their labor organizations are free to bargain collectively.” The bill moved to the House, where it was sent to the Rules Committee for further consideration.
Equal Rights Amendment passes Senate committee
The Senate Executive Committee passed SJRCA 4, a constitutional amendment that would add Illinois to the list of states that support the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Congress passed ERA in 1972, but the amendment cannot become part of our nation’s guiding document until it is approved by 38 states; currently, 36 states have approved it. SJRCA 4 now goes to the full Illinois Senate for consideration.
Bill passes to prohibit employers from requiring genetic data
The Senate Labor Committee passed SB 318, legislation that would prohibit Illinois employers from penalizing employees who do not disclose their genetic information. The bill is in response to legislation being considered in Congress that would allow employers to force employees to undergo genetic testing. The IFT and the AFL-CIO strongly support SB 318. The bill now moves to the full Senate.
House approves workers’ compensation insurance fund
Responding to concerns from the Governor and business groups, the House passed HB 2622. The legislation would create a not-for-profit insurance fund to help lower workers’ compensation insurance premium costs for employers by increasing competition in the insurance industry.
Elected Cook County college board measure passes House
HB 1776 provides for a 20-member elected City Colleges of Chicago board of trustees. The city colleges board is the only Illinois community college board not currently elected by its constituents. The measure passed the House with overwhelming bi-partisan support and now moves to the Senate. HB 1776 is an initiative of the Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600, and is supported by the IFT.
Local districts could retain say over unwanted charter schools
HB 768 would remove the ability of any state entity – including the Illinois Charter School Commission – to overturn the decision of a local school board to deny a charter school application. Applicants denied a charter by a local school district would have the right to appeal the decision via a successful referendum of 5 percent of that district’s voters, or by appeal to the Circuit Court. This IFT-supported bill passed out of the House and now moves to the Senate.
Unaccounted-for TIF funds to address special education and wrap-around services
HB 3720 creates a TIF-eligible expense for special education and school wrap-around services, as well as requires Chicago to spend its entire TIF surplus on those needs. The measure requires that the city include “anticipated redevelopment costs” in calculating its TIF surpluses.

Currently, TIF monies are not committed to specific projects. The bill will not affect current or future redevelopment projects, but the costs and fund reporting for those projects must be transparent. HB 3720 is a Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1, initiative. The measure passed the House with bipartisan support and heads to the Senate.
Cursive writing law passes House
HB 2977 requires the teaching of cursive writing in Illinois elementary and high schools. In committee, some lawmakers expressed concern that producing writing practice sheets will place a financial burden on districts. The sponsor claims the bill is supported by some district superintendents, who say that many students cannot read cursive or sign with a true signature. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support and now moves to the Senate.
A look ahead
The Senate returns to Springfield on Tuesday this week, while the House is recessed until the following week. Stay tuned for updates on budget negotiations and other action as we approach the scheduled adjournment of May 31.