Kudos to all the central Illinois individuals and groups that come to the State Capitol and talk with me and other state officials about the issues important to you!
On May 2, I met with several members of the Board of Trustees for the Heartland Community College in Bloomington.
Also on May 2, students from Riverton Middle School and from Bloomington Junior High School displayed their projects during TECH 2012, a demonstration of school technology.
SENATE VOTES TO END LEGISLATIVE SCHOLARSHIPS
Lawmakers are one step closer to eliminating the scandal-plagued General Assembly legislative scholarship program.
On May 3, the Senate approved House Bill 3810, which would end the controversial program. The measure now returns to the House of Representatives for approval of a change made to the original bill, which creates a Tuition and Fee Waiver Task Force to review the use of tuition and fee waivers at Illinois’ public universities.
My Senate Republican colleagues and I voluntarily walked away from the controversial program in early 2012. I was one of the first legislators to call for eliminating the scholarship program, and in recent years have sponsored several bills like House Bill 3810. Those bills were never allowed a hearing by Democrat leaders. I am pleased that they finally agree that the program must be ended.
The media have uncovered a number of abuses relating to the General Assembly Scholarship Program, including allegations that lawmakers awarded the scholarships to benefit friends, lobbyists and campaign donors; or awarded the waivers to students outside their district.
The legislative scholarships are also a financial drain on Illinois’ higher education system. The state does not reimburse colleges for the cost of the program, which totals more than $13 million per year. Instead, the costs are passed on to other students in higher tuition and fees.
LETTING THE VOTERS DECIDE
The Senate also advanced a Constitutional amendment that would make it more difficult for lawmakers to increase employee pension benefits in the future. The measure would also make it harder for local governmental bodies to increase pension benefits.
Having been approved by the Senate, the Constitutional amendment now goes on the ballot and Illinois voters will be given the opportunity in November to weigh in on the measure.
If approved by voters, the measure would require a three-fifths vote of the General Assembly to pass increased pension benefits for employees in the future.
COGFA VOTES AGAINST CLOSING FACILITIES
On May 1, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) voted against Governor Pat Quinn’s proposed closure of four correctional facilities, an Illinois Youth Center and the Murray Developmental Center.
The bipartisan legislative panel supports Governor Quinn’s proposals to save the state money, but expressed deep concerns about the economic impact on the communities of Centralia, Tamms, Dwight, Peoria and additional job losses in the suburban areas.
COGFA’s recommendation is only advisory. The final decision rests with the Governor.