Delivered via email: May 21, 2020
LEGISLATION BEGINS TO MOVERegardless of the extraordinary circumstances Illinois finds itself in right now that has brought us to the abbreviated special session to wrap up the legislative calendar, the atmosphere is not dissimilar to the last few days of any previous legislative session. Most times legislative work has been put off until the last minute and lawmakers frantically huddle behind closed doors to cobble together an agreement on the most controversial issues in the waning hours. The difference is, for this year, there was no session for two months due to circumstances beyond the control of the legislature and these few days in May are truly the only time lawmakers have to address pending matters.
And as it usually works, action is routinely stopped for long periods as caucuses meet, committees convene, amendments are drafted and redrafted, and rank and file members, lobbyists, media, and concerned citizens wait. That has been the events of this day.
Both chambers are still working at this time. Some of the new progress so far today includes:
K-12 EDUCATION REVISIONS
The amendment to SB 1569 (Rezin, R-Morris) was approved by the House Executive Committee and now is awaiting a vote on the full House floor. The bill, as amended, codifies many of the provisions previously contained in Executive Orders by the governor, and guidance documents and emergency rules promulgated by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Details of this amendment were listed in the last IASB Legislative Report 101-17.
RETIRED TEACHERS AS SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS
An amendment to SB 1857 (Martinez, D-Chicago) contains a provision to extend the expiration date for the ability of retired teachers who receive Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) benefits to substitute teach in a school for up to 120 days per school year without jeopardizing their pension benefits. Without the enactment of such legislation, the number of days such a retiree could work would be 100 days beginning July 1, 2020. The additional 20 days assists school districts in finding qualified substitute teachers during this teacher shortage. The amendment extends the expiration date until June 30, 2021. The amended bill was approved by the House and will be sent to the Senate for consideration.
Identical amendments have been filed for SB 471 (Lightford, D-Westchester) and HB 2455 (Martwick, D-Chicago) that contain language for the omnibus labor/management bill. Provisions would allow Education Support Personnel to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits during the summer break. The provision expires on December 31, 2020. School districts, as long as they are reimbursable employers, will not incur any additional costs from this eligibility expansion as the third federal stimulus package, the CARES Act, covers 50% of the cost and the remaining 50% will be spread out over non-reimbursable employers.
HB 2455 has been approved by the Senate and will be sent to the House for further consideration.
The language also contains a compromise on the Worker's Compensation issue. Last month, the Worker's Compensation Commission took employer groups by surprise when it passed an emergency rule putting the burden of proof entirely on employers for COVID-19 cases. Employer groups filed a Temporary Restraining Order of the rule, which a judge granted, and that resulted in the Commission repealing the emergency rule. The language in these amendments is said to contain a compromise on this issue with the business community. It allows an employer to rebut with certain evidence the presumption that any COVID-19 cases are automatically due to the work environment, which is a positive addition that was not included in the emergency rule.
The idea behind filing identical amendments in both chambers and having each chamber hear them at the same time is to avoid the lengthened process of having one bill go through the first chamber and then the second chamber after.
BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS
As highlighted in the last legislative report, two potential budget bills were postured to be the vehicle for Fiscal Year 2021 state appropriations. Both of those bills were approved by their chamber of origin and moved to the opposite chamber for action. This will allow final votes in both the House and Senate within hours once the agreed language has been amended onto one (or both) bills.