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GOVERNMENT RELATIONS


Alliance Legislative Report 97-14

Distributed via Email: April 28, 2011

HOUSE RETURNS TO THE CAPITOL

The Illinois House of Representatives returned to Springfield this week after taking a week off. The Senate was still in recess. The House began its consideration of Senate bills that have been approved by the full Senate and assigned to House committees. The pace was rather slow this week, but House members have two more weeks to complete their committee work. Next week both the House and Senate will be in session.  

The Senate has hundreds of House bills on which to deliberate, but Senators will not be getting to that work next week. The deadline had to be extended for Senators to complete their initial work, so the upper chamber will be on the Senate floor continuing work on Senate bills.

TIME TO START DISCUSSING MAJOR ISSUES

As the legislature enters into the last scheduled month of the spring legislative session, the time has come to begin serious negotiations on the big ticket items. The Fiscal Year 2012 budget, pension reform, workers compensation reform, education reform, and redrawing the legislative district boundaries are all pending issues that will need conclusion in the next month.

FISCAL YEAR 2012 BUDGET

Instead of legislative leaders crafting an omnibus state budget and presenting it to lawmakers in one bill, this year individual appropriations committees will be determining the budget line items agency by agency. It is expected that each state agency will have its own appropriations bill, a process that should be more transparent, but will be more time consuming. Serious budget work by the committees has begun in the House and will likely continue in earnest in both chambers next week. For elementary and secondary education, the budget cuts (below FY ’11 budget levels) could be $200 million on the low end and up to $800 million on the high end.

PENSION REFORM

The idea of further pension reform, possibly affecting those employees currently in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), is still on the front-burner in the Capitol. Provisions could include placing current TRS participants into the new “tier-two” level of pension benefits, significantly increasing the contribution rate of current TRS participants, allowing (or requiring) TRS participants to enter into a “defined contribution” pension plan (like a 401K plan), pushing the pension payments onto the local school district, or a hybrid plan of all of the above.

The idea of transferring a portion (30-40%) of the pension payments to the school district from the state is still being discussed at high levels. The cost of such a proposal could be as high as $800 million statewide. That would amount to an $800 million cut to elementary and secondary school budgets across the state, money that could not be spent in the classroom or on student instruction. Even if a property tax levy would accompany such a pension assessment, it would amount to an $800 million property tax increase to the local school district property taxpayer – again, not a penny of which would be used for classroom instruction.

EDUCATION REFORM

The education reform package that passed the Senate earlier in the month is now pending in the House of Representatives. The bills (both SB 7 and SB 630 contain the reform provisions) address teacher hiring, layoffs, dismissals, tenure, strikes, and mandatory school board member training. A complete analysis of the bills can be found here.

Though the heavily negotiated bills were agreed-to in the end and passed the Senate unanimously, it remains to be seen what House members have in mind for the bills. It would be rare that an issue of this magnitude would be approved “as is” in the second chamber. With 118 Representatives coming from two political parties and vastly different geographic areas, varying opinions will be certain and further amendments to the Senate bills could be the result.

Both SB 7 and SB 630 have been assigned to House committees, but they have not been scheduled for a hearing in committee next week.

OTHER ISSUES

The General Assembly would also like to address shortcomings in the State’s Workers’ Compensation Act. An attempt to reform the workers’ comp laws in January was unsuccessful, but both political parties are vowing to pass a bill yet this spring. Several individual bills are pending, but no deal has been reached among the interested groups: workers’ unions, employer organizations, medical interests, and trial lawyers.

Likewise, there is an initiative to rewrite the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) law. The Alliance has been involved in discussions on how to best use a TIF district as an economic tool, but without being detrimental to local government units and the property tax base. No legislation has been drafted to this point.

And to many legislators, no issue will be bigger this spring than the legislation that proposes the new legislative boundaries. Every ten years, after the census, legislative district boundaries are redrawn to reflect population changes throughout the state. For a legislator, finding your residence in a “safe district”, that is with a majority of voters of the same political party as the legislator (and with no other incumbent legislator residing within the same district), is the key to re-election. Legislation with the new boundaries must be approved before the end of June, but legislative leaders will likely try to have this accomplished, too, before the end of the regular legislative session on May 31.

BILL ACTION THIS WEEK

SB 1643 (Sullivan, D-Rushville) provides that a school district may increase its driver education course fee to an amount not to exceed $250 (from $50) by school board resolution following a public hearing on the increase. The bill was approved by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and was sent to the House floor for consideration.

SB 1742 (Althoff, R-Crystal Lake) adds new information that the Chicago Public Schools must provide to the General Assembly regarding its use of block grants. The bill was approved by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and was sent to the House floor.

SB 1744 (Luechtefeld, R-Okawville) , regarding state aid formula provisions, removes provisions allowing days of attendance to be less than 5 clock hours on the opening and closing of the school term, and upon the first day of pupil attendance. The bill was approved by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and was sent to the House floor for consideration.

SB 2143 (Sullivan) provides that a reorganized school district or cooperative high school may use a school construction grant application that was submitted by one of the consolidating school districts if that application has not been entitled for a project by the ISBE and if specified conditions are met within the current or prior 4 (instead of 2) fiscal years. The bill was approved by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and was sent to the House floor for consideration.

SJR 27 (Meeks, D-Chicago) addresses the spring mandate waiver requests from school districts. The resolution would limit to $250 the requests from the following school districts to increase the driver education fee: Ottawa THSD 140; Streator THSD 40; Morton CUSD 709; Freeport SD 145; and Warren CUSD 205. All other school district requests for mandate waivers presented in the spring waiver report would be deemed approved. The bill was approved by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and was sent to the House floor for consideration.

BILLS SCHEDULED FOR COMMITTEE NEXT WEEK

HOUSE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION COMMITTEE

Wednesday, May 4, 8:30 a.m., Room 114, State Capitol

SB 2134 (Garrett, D-Lake Forest) encourages the Regional Office of Education to offer school districts the opportunity to participate in shared operational programs and for school districts to explore new ways to consolidate services and programs with other school districts. The bill also requires school districts to complete a one-page checklist along with the annual financial report to disclose which types of shared service options they may be participating in.

SB 2149 (Sullivan) creates the Financial Oversight Panel (FOP) Law of the School Code to allow a school district to petition the ISBE for the establishment of an FOP. For a comprehensive analysis of the bill, click here.

This legislative report is written and edited by the lobbyists of the Illinois Association of School Boards to provide information to the members of the organizations that comprise the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance.

Bill Text/Status: Illinois General Assembly www.ilga.gov


Alliance Legislative Reports are Cosponsored by IASB and:
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