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Legislative Highlights for the Week of 11/28/22

After more than seven months away from Springfield, the House and Senate returned for the fall veto session. Though the fall session has traditionally been a time to debate legislation which the Governor vetoed, the legislature can use it to consider other legislation as well. Several issues were addressed during this fall veto session (Nov 15, 16, 29, 30, and December 1).

On Thursday, November 17, IFT testified along with the Illinois Education Association, Chicago Public Schools, Illinois Association of School Social Workers and Illinois Safe Schools Alliance at a hearing of the Public Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force. Our testimony focused on the fact that schools aren’t always equipped to address all the needs students have and that no one can ignore the effects of the pandemic on students and staff.

The IFT Department of Political Activities spent some of the veto session time speaking with legislators about the Invest in Kids tax scholarship program. The program was authorized as part of PA 100-465, the Evidence Based Funding for School Success law that reworked school funding in Illinois in 2017. The Invest in Kids Act is a tax credit scholarship pilot program that allows the award of scholarships to eligible students who attend qualified non-public schools in Illinois. IFT and at least 19 other organizations have advocated for the elimination of the program. Private school supporters have been in Springfield advocating for making the program permanent and lifting the sunset (January 1, 2024). The Invest in Kids program diverts approximately $75M in state revenues. Illinois is not fully funding the Evidence Based School Funding formula and the IFT believes that until public schools are fully funded, Illinois should not provide tax credits for private educational institutions. Watch for future updates on this issue.

Bills that saw action this week include:

SB 4244 (Lightford) amends the School Code to allow Class II county school unit school trustees to appoint treasurers who are not residents of the township. County school units of 2,000,000 or more inhabitants shall be known as Class II county school units. The bill passed the Senate and may see action in the House in the January lame duck session.

HB 1095 (Gordon-Booth/Peters): Ahead of the January 1 effective date of the SAFE-T Act, Senator Peters who first introduced the Pretrial Fairness Act, this week filed a 308-page amendment to the bill that ends cash bail in Illinois. The proposed legislation would add a series of additional offenses to those eligible for pretrial detention next year and give broader discretion to judges to consider a person's danger to the community when considering whether to order them held while awaiting trial. HB 1095 passed both the Senate and the House and will be transmitted to the Governor for action.

SB 1698 (Bennett/Hoffman) encompasses the language of a bipartisan and labor/business supported Unemployment Insurance agreement to pay down the $1.4 billion shortfall in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund as the result of the COVID 19 pandemic. The bill would increase an employee’s “taxable wage base” (the amount of an employee’s wages for which an employer must pay unemployment taxes) by 2.4 percent for each of the next five years. It would also increase the target balance of the fund’s reserves from $1 billion to $1.75 billion. It does not decrease the number of weeks or maximum amounts of benefits an unemployed person can receive nor change who can receive unemployment insurance. SB 1698 and a corresponding appropriations bill, SB 2801 (Holmes) passed both houses.

HB 4933 (Pacione-Zayas) makes changes concerning the Chicago Board of Education's requirements and criteria for the position of principal of an attendance center. The bill was discussed in depth in the Senate Executive Committee and is currently sitting on its third reading in the Senate.

SJR 61 (Fine) urges the Congress of the United States to enact legislation to repeal the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision from the Social Security Act and for President Joe Biden to sign that legislation into law. This resolution was introduced on November 14, 2022; no action was taken to move the bill forward, but the IFT was appreciative to see Senator Fine (an IFT member) introduce this resolution.

A Look Ahead

The legislature has tentatively scheduled a “lame duck” session for January 4-10 (the inauguration of the 103rd General Assembly is January 11).

Between now and the start of the 103rd General Assembly, the Department of Political Activities is reviewing the 2022 IFT Convention Resolutions and preparing legislative initiatives for introduction in the Spring session.

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