NEWS

Legislative update - week of 3/12/15

The Illinois House and Senate were in session this week, with more than 1,000 bills scheduled to be heard in House and Senate committees before Friday, March 27, the first committee deadline.

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Supreme Court hears oral arguments on pensions


On Wednesday, March 11th the Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in our We Are One Illinois coalition's lawsuit against pension-slashing Senate Bill 1 (SB1). The IFT (as a leading partner of We Are One Illinois) and other plaintiffs previously won a Circuit Court decision that declared that the legislation sharply reducing the modest pensions earned by public-service workers is unconstitutional and "void in its entirety.


The state appealed that decision to Illinois' highest court. Coalition attorneys repeated our strong, clear argument: the pension protection clause means what its plain language says — that membership in the state pension systems constitutes "...an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”


The IFT is proud of the strategic role we have played to date in the pension fight. We have blocked serious threats to our members' retirement security, and we will continue that effort to ensure that a pension is a promise.


The Illinois Supreme Court is expected to rule on this case before May 31, 2015.

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Budget battle looming


Last week, the Senate Democrats advanced SB 274 (Kotowski), a supplemental appropriations bill that would sweep almost $600 million in special funds to support General Revenue Fund shortfalls for FY15. That bill did not advance this week. The newest budgetary plan seems focused on securing possibly more than $1 billion in special fund sweeps, coupled with across the board cuts. Details are still emerging, and the full impact of a cut to the remaining FY15 funds to schools, universities, and state agencies is unknown. It is expected that a budgetary measure will advance sometime next week.

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House Education Funding Task Force meets


House Speaker Michael Madigan and Republican Leader Jim Durkin have named members to a newly created bipartisan House task force to study “the way in which the state distributes funding to Illinois public schools.” This effort builds upon those of the Education Funding Advisory Committee (EFAC).


The task force met for the first time Wednesday, March 11th to hear testimony on the mechanics of SB 1.


The following legislators have been named to task force: Barbara Flynn Currie, Chairwoman (D-Chicago) John Bradley (D-Marion) Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) Fred Crespo (D-Hoffman Estates) Will Davis (D-Homewood) Marcus Evans (D-) Laura Fine (D-Glenview) Esther Golar (D-Chicago) Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez (D-Cicero) Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) Emily McAsey (D-Lockport) Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg) Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) Bob Pritchard, Republican Spokesperson (R-Sycamore) Steve Andersson (R-Geneva) Peter Breen (R-Lombard) Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville)

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Bill puts future of school nursing at risk


For many kids, school nurses are important lifelines to well-being and academic success. Whether helping diabetic children with blood sugar issues, fixing bumps and bruises from the school playground, or managing major medical needs for a special education students, school nurses play an important role in keeping the school building running and healthy. Unfortunately, HB 3192 (Mayfield) legislation that would lift the requirement that certified school nurses provide services to special education and medically involved students, was introduced this week. IFT position = OPPOSE.

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School immunization hearing scheduled


Next week, the Senate Executive Committee will hear testimony on school immunization policy and the potential need to change current processes and procedures. The hearing will be held Wednesday, March 18 at 1:00 PM in Capitol Room 212.

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Illinois House committee silent on tuition waivers…this week


The IFT, fellow unions, and state universities are working hard to stop HB 403 (Franks), legislation that would eliminate the 50% tuition waiver for children of university faculty and staff. Last week, Rep. Franks held a subject matter hearing on the bill to discuss potential amendments.


Rep. Franks introduced amendment language this week. His proposed change would eliminate the waiver by phasing it out at all universities over the next four years. As a result, all high school juniors who are currently eligible for the waiver would be in jeopardy of no longer being able to afford to attend an Illinois university.

The amendment may be heard as early as next week in the House State Government Committee. ACT NOW! IFT position = OPPOSE.

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Illinois House Education Committee holds subject matter hearing on PE mandate


The House Education Elementary and Secondary Committee on School Curriculum held a subject matter hearing on HB 1330 (Sandack) and HB 1148 (Harris).


HB 1330 would make Physical Education optional in Illinois. HB 1448 would allow a school board to authorize students to be excused from PE in grades 9 through 12 (instead of 11 and 12) if those students request to be excused for specific reason.


Illinois has been a leader in requiring physical education in schools. The IFT will continue to oppose efforts to repeal Physical Education in our public schools. IFT position = OPPOSE.

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A Look Ahead


The House and Senate are scheduled to return on Tuesday, March 17.


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.

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