Delivered via email: January 5, 2021
LEGISLATURE TO RETURN THIS WEEKThe Illinois General Assembly will return to work Friday, January 8 to wrap up the work of the 101st General Assembly. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the scheduled veto session last November was cancelled. The “lame duck” session will likely run through the weekend and wrap up shortly before the new 102nd General Assembly is sworn in at noon on Wednesday, January 13. The House of Representatives will meet in the Bank of Springfield Convention Center (just down the street from the Capitol); the Senate will meet in its regular chambers.
The new legislature was elected in November, so over a dozen legislators who either lost their election or did not run for re-election are still voting members until the new group is inaugurated on January 13. These “lame ducks” have more flexibility to put their votes on controversial issues, as they will not be directly accountable to voters once they leave office.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, only legislators and select staff will be allowed at the sessions. This presents challenges for citizens, voters, interest groups, and other interested persons from meeting with legislators to discuss pending legislation and advocate for their positions. The IASB legislative team will be actively engaged in advocacy efforts as much as possible, but it will be even more imperative for school board members and administrators to reach out to their legislators and let them know the impact legislation will have on local school districts.
With the abbreviated legislative session last spring and the cancellation of the fall session, there are plenty of issues that legislators would like addressed in the next week. Due to time constraints, it is impossible for all of these matters to be considered. However, likely topics are the state budget, social justice matters, and ethics reform.
Illinois was already on fragile fiscal ground before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state economy. That economic blow resulted in billions of dollars in state income and sales tax receipts evaporating. Coupled with the loss of the constitutional amendment proposal to move to graduated income tax rates, Governor JB Pritzker and the legislature must find a way to patch the current Fiscal Year 2021 budget, as well as craft a slimmer FY ’22 budget. Talk of an increase in the current 4.95% flat income tax rate is also on the table.
The governor has floated some possible budget cuts – namely in state agencies. This preliminary budget cut scenario seems to spare K-12 education. But for meaningful budget cuts, the legislature will have to look further than just cuts to the state bureaucracy.
Additionally, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has been pushing for months for a legislative package to address social justice issues. Bills are expected to address criminal-justice reform, police accountability, workforce development, education, and health care. For K-12 education specifically, initiatives may include lowering the mandatory school age to five years old, adding to high school graduation requirements, adjusting the evidence-based funding formula, and revising the history curriculum. Legislation is expected to be filed this week.
The gatekeepers of legislation have always been the legislative leaders in both the Senate and House of Representatives. After the November election, Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) stepped down from his leadership role. Last week, Brady announced that he is resigning from the legislature altogether. The Senate Republicans voted to elect Senator Dan McConchie (Hawthorn Woods) to be the new minority leader.
Party leaders in the counties that make up the senatorial district will appoint Brady’s replacement. Usually the two state representatives that serve the senatorial district are considered for the appointment. State Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield) has announced that he is not putting his name in for consideration; State Representative Dan Brady (R-Bloomington), no relation to Bill Brady, has been non-committal at this point.
The latest development in the Senate came Monday when Senate Democrat Leader Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) announced his resignation from the upper chamber. Manar is reportedly going to take a top advisory role in the Pritzker administration. Again, party leaders in the counties that make up Manar’s district will be making an appointment to replace him.
In the House, Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) is fighting to retain his leadership spot. In the past six months, nearly 20 House Democrats have publicly stated that they will not support Madigan to be speaker in the 102nd General Assembly. Currently, however, no other Democrat House member seems to have the votes to replace him. All eyes are on this situation as it develops over the next couple of weeks. Electing a speaker is the first order of business for the House to accomplish upon the reorganization of the new legislature.
Given the difficult fiscal and programmatic issues the state faces in the spring legislative session, taking over as a caucus leader will be exceptionally challenging. The political dynamics could shift significantly with McConchie taking over as Senate Republican Leader and the possibility of a new Speaker of the House. Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) remains President of the Senate and Representative Jim Durkin (R-Westmont) continues to preside as leader of the House Republican Caucus. Of course, Governor Pritzker remains at the top of the political power hierarchy.
BILLS SCHEDULED FOR HEARING THIS WEEK
HOUSE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
Friday, January 8, 2021, 2:00 p.m.
SB 1829 (Bush, D-Grayslake) requires all settlement agreements regarding sexual harassment cases be disclosed.
HOUSE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE
Saturday, January 9, 10:00 a.m.
SB 2075 (Lightford), D-Maywood) lowers the mandatory school attendance requirement from age 7 to age 5 and moves the birthday deadline up from September 1 to May 1.
HOUSE HEALTH CARE AND AVAILABILITY COMMITTEE
Saturday, January 9, 2021, 11:00 a.m.
SB 1485 (Lightford) requires that local units of government (including school districts) adopt a policy on racial discrimination. It also requires school board members and school district employees to receive training on racial discrimination.
VISION 2020 FINAL REPORT
The final report on Illinois Vision 2020, the breakthrough legislative initiative of the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), the Illinois Principals Association (IPA), the Illinois Association of School Business Officials (IASBO), the Superintendents’ Commission for the Study of Demographics and Diversity (SCSDD), and the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS), is available on the IASB website. Please review this report to see the resulting education legislation that was enacted.