Pension Committee Working
Senator Brady and the other members of the conference committee on pension reform continue to meet in small groups putting together proposals to submit to financial experts in order to determine what potential savings may exist under various plans. Details of these plans under consideration are yet to be released, but it is generally expected that a final proposal could incorporate ideas developed by a University of Illinois government think tank.
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) filed a court challenge July 30, to Governor Quinn’s decision to veto legislative salaries from the state budget. Quinn vetoed the salaries in retaliation for the legislature’s failure to adopt pension changes. The Governor cut the salaries even though he was the one who asked that a conference committee be created to develop a pension reform plan.
After lawmakers agreed to the special committee, the Governor refused to testify before the group or submit his own plan for reform. Those actions have contributed to legislators’ frustration, with many seeing Quinn as more interested in scoring political points than seeking a genuine solution.
While many lawmakers share the Governor’s frustration over the slow pace of pension reform, there are also serious concerns that the action could set a dangerous precedent. For example, the Governor is staunchly anti-gun and might use a similar tactic to attempt to push through gun control legislation that has been consistently rejected by lawmakers.
Brady Bill Signed in to Law
On Friday, August 2, a bill sponsored by Senator Bill Brady honoring the contributions made by nurses was signed in to law. SB 1383 creates specialty Illinois nurses license plates. Nurses not only provide vital care to their patients, but also help to educate them and the general public about various health conditions. Perhaps most importantly nurses give advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.
“It is an honor to be able to recognize the contributions of the many hard-working nurses in Illinois,” said Brady. “Dealing with illness can be frightening and uncomfortable, but the care and support that Illinois’ all too often underappreciated nurses provide helps make the experience much easier for the patients they work with.”
Budgeting for Results Hearing
The public is invited to attend an open Budgeting for Results Hearing on Tuesday, August 13 in Springfield. Following a brief introduction the public is welcome to provide feedback on ways to make Illinois more fiscally healthy and provide the best value to Illinois residents.
The hearing will be held from 1:00 to 4:00 PM in the lower level auditorium of the Illinois Department of Transportation Building at 2300 South Dirksen Parkway in Springfield. Attendees are asked to allow time for security and be sure to bring a government issued photo ID. More information on this hearing and on Budgeting for Results can be found at http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/budget/Pages/BFR-testimony.aspx
Other Measures Approved
During the week many pieces of legislation approved during the spring legislative session were signed in to law. Among these measures are pieces of legislation to allow for online voter registration, to create a revolving loan program for minority-owned businesses within the state’s Transportation Department, provide new protections from potential abuse of the elderly and give disabled student athletes more flexibility to meet physical education requirements.
Online Voter Registration: With approval of House Bill 2418, Illinois joins 17 other states allowing online registration. Other provisions include: changing the hours for early voting on Sundays from mornings to afternoons. Early voting will be allowed from Noon until 3 p.m.; Requiring the State Board of Elections to post precinct-by-precinct totals; codifying that votes cast for a candidate who drops out but remains on the ballot will not be counted; and make permanent the early voting locations at several state universities that were temporarily established in 2012.
Unfortunately, HB 2418 contained several other changes to state elections law that forced many lawmakers to oppose the measure. One would raise the threshold for becoming a political committee from $3,000 to $5,000 (this will mean that in many local races, there will not be disclosure of campaign contributions or expenditures because the candidate will never raise or spend $5,000).
Another controversial portion of the measure changes Lake County to a county board of election commissioners system with the chief judge of the circuit court appointing the commissioners. This was done over the objection of most elected officials of Lake County and is expected to increase costs for Lake County taxpayers.
A third change will make it more difficult to challenge Chicago aldermen by doubling the number of signatures needed by prospective candidates to get on the ballot.
Dept. of Transportation Loan Program: A new revolving loan program was contained in HB 3267, which creates the disadvantaged business revolving loan and grant program. The measure turns the state's Department of Transportation into a lender for low-interest loans to businesses to allow them to participate in construction and construction-related contracts.
While lawmakers generally applauded the intent of the program, some raised concern that it would divert up to $3 million a year from the state’s Road Fund for the next five years.
Protecting the Elderly: In order to better protect the elderly from physical or financial abuse, Senate Bill 1287 will prohibit anyone who has been convicted of felony harm or threat to a minor from being appointed to serve as a guardian of a person or an estate of an elderly person.
Previously, only a person convicted of a felony involving a threat or harm to an elderly or disabled person was not allowed to serve as an elder guardian.
Disabled Students: Senate Bill 2157 will allow physically-challenged students to be excused from physical education classes if they are participating in an organized adaptive athletics program.
Similar exemptions have long been available to students who participate in other organized physical activities, such as interscholastic sports. The legislation was prompted by a student in the Lockport area who participates in an adaptive sport outside of school, but was unable to receive a waiver from the school’s physical education requirements and therefore could not fit desired electives and advanced placement classes in his schedule. The measure passed unanimously in both the Senate and House.