The Illinois House and Senate continued budget-related discussions this week, while some important bills passed - and others failed - in committees.
Here is an overview of the week's legislative action:
Budget & Revenue FY16 and FY17 Budget Update
Advocates and legislators continue to seek solutions to the FY16 budget impasse and the FY17 budget year. Without additional revenue resources, little progress is anticipated. Some question the will of the General Assembly to pass an appropriation bill for FY17 without a complete FY16 budget in place. In mid-March, both chambers pursued short term FY16 solutions, including:
The Senate approved SB 2059 (Cullerton, D-Chicago), which would appropriate $3.8 billion in all funds ($3.1 billion General Revenue funds) for FY16 funding of social service programs, higher education, MAP grants, school construction, transportation, metropolitan planning, and many other programs currently not funded by court order.
The House passed HB 2990 (Madigan, D-Chicago), a similar proposal, the week before.
SB 2059 moved a step closer to passing in the House this week, and is now assigned to the House Executive Committee. It is unknown how quickly the bill will advance because the Governor has threatened to veto it.
Senate and House Appropriations committees will continue discussions next week, but little progress is expected.
Millionaire’s Tax to be considered by the Illinois House?
House Speaker Michael Madigan released the Millionaire’s Tax resolution, HJRCA 26, for a vote in the full House.
The IFT has been a strong proponent of HJRCA 26, which would provide $1 billion in dedicated education funding by asking the wealthiest Illinoisans (who earn more than $1 million per year) to pay their fair share to help fund our schools. Despite the fact that 63 percent of voters supported the concept in the 2014 general election (see a breakdown by Senate and House districts here), and the measure failed in Springfield last year by only three votes, Governor Rauner remains opposed to asking the wealthiest to pay more.
Our union will continue to monitor HJRCA 26 this session and advocate for adequate education funding.
P.E. & Driver Education
IFT opposes bills that harm P.E. and driver education
HB 6164, sponsored by Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), would allow school districts to contract out driver education without having to request a waiver. The bill also eliminates the requirement that private companies provide their employees with a benefits package comparable to that of school district employees, and provides additional reasons to allow students to be exempt from P.E.
The IFT opposed HB 6164, and it failed to pass out of House committee.
Another bill awaiting committee consideration would also impact physical education. HB 825, sponsored by Rep. Sam Yingling, (D-Grayslake), would allow Round Lake Community Unit School District 116 to permanently reduce P.E. to just two days per week. The IFT opposes this bill because it could set a dangerous precedent.
Threat to collective bargaining defeated
The IFT took a lead role in stopping a bill in the House Labor and Commerce Committee that threatened the collective bargaining process.HB 4583, sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), would have prohibited a public or educational employer from ratifying any contract until the proposed agreement has been published on the employer’s website. The bill would also have required the employer to hold a public meeting on the ratification of that agreement not less than 14 days after publishing it.
New bill filed for public employee back pay
HB 6425, a new bill sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), has been filed in an effort to 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 about $60 million is still owed to the employees, including IFT members in the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408. The IFT will continue to advocate for payment of these back wages to our affected members.
House Committee approves survivor benefits for same-sex married couples
Legislation allowing SURS, TRS, and IMRF members in same-sex marriages to establish survivor benefits was approved by the House Pension Committee. HB 6021 provides that individuals in those systems who previously received a refund of their survivor benefit contribution and were in a same-sex marriage may reestablish that benefit upon full repayment to the system within a one-year period, beginning five months after the bill is signed into law.
Republicans push pension reform plan
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) announced this week that they will introduce a pension reform plan. Money from the savings would be used to fund social services. Details have not been released, but some form of cost shift to school districts and higher education institutions is believed to be part of the proposal.
PSRP recall rights bill passes House committee
HB 6299, sponsored by Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago), would give paraprofessionals and school related personnel (PSRP’s) recall rights. It was approved by a House Elementary & Secondary Education committee this week.
The measure is an IFT initiative that resulted from an unfair RIF situation that harmed 21 PSRPs in a downstate school district, causing them to lose seniority, pay, and health care benefits.
HB 6299 provides that if a PSRP is called back to work within one year from the time they were RIF’ed, they will maintain any rights and benefits accrued. The measure now moves to the full House for consideration.
House committee approves measure to seek clarification on testing gains
Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) passed HB 5901 through the House Elementary & Secondary Education committee this week. This IFT-supported bill would provide transparency in statewide testing by requiring every school to report reliable information for every assessment. HB 5901 now moves to the full House for consideration.
Dangerous charter bill advances
Rep. Andre Thapedi (D- Chicago) moved HB 5918 out of the Charter School Committee the week. This bill allows charter schools to be renewed for a 10-year period. Currently they are renewed for only five years.
The IFT, CTU, and IEA testified against the bill because it would hinder charter transparency and accountability. Despite our strong opposition, the bill passed and may be considered by the full House. Our union will continue to voice opposition to lawmakers about this dangerous bill.
Curbing student hunger
SB 2393, sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would require every public elementary, middle, and high school with a low-income student rate of at least 70 percent to offer breakfast to students after the instructional day has begun. The legislation is an initiative of the Greater Chicago Food Depository and had unanimous support in the Senate Education Committee. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
Closing the professional development blackout window
Teachers are not currently allowed to earn Professional Development (PD) hours towards license renewal from April 1 - June 30 each year, nor can they enter earned hours into ISBE’s Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS) during this period. HB 6181, an IFT initiative sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Northlake), would eliminate this PD blackout window. The measure passed the House Education Licensure Committee this week, and an amendment clarifying language is likely to pass next week. The bill will then move to the House floor.
EdTPA changes may be coming
The EdTPA is a required licensure assessment for new teacher candidates in Illinois. Currently, the assessment occurs during student teaching, but there is disagreement about the appropriateness of the assessment, its use as a high-stakes licensure gateway to teaching, and the loss of local university and college authority over developing educators. HB 6128, sponsored by Rep. Linda Chapa-Lavia (D-Aurora), would allow educators to begin teaching with a Provisional Educator License with Stipulations and complete the EdTPA by their second year of teaching. The measure is a work in progress, as stakeholder groups continue to explore a resolution to their differing perspectives on EdTPA.
Required hours changed for public health hygienists
HB 5948, sponsored by Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Chicago), clarifies the role and responsibilities of Public Health Dental Hygienists (PHDHs) and reduces the number of continuing education hours required for a hygienist to become a PHDH. The bill passed the House Healthcare Licensure committee and is expected to be amended on the House floor.
Keep watching Under the Dome for important updates on legislative action.