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The Majority Report 06/08/18 - State budget winners: Schools, universities, local government

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Schools, local government, higher ed winners in new budget

Senate ChamberPublic education and local governments are prioritized in the balanced state budget Senate Democrats helped pass last week.

The budget, which has overwhelming bipartisan support, goes into effect July 1 and ensures continued financial stability for Illinois. It is balanced through a combination of revenue and almost $600 million in cuts.

“This budget is very much a reflection of both Republicans and Democrats, and I think that’s something we can all be proud of. This is truly how budget-making ought to work,” said State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), one of the chief budget negotiators.

The plan includes $350 million in new money for public schools as required by the evidence-based school funding formula enacted last year. There is also an additional $50 million for early childhood education. Colleges and universities receive a boost, and MAP grants are fully funded. The budget creates a new grant program, AIM HIGH, which will provide additional tuition assistance.

Funding is restored for vital human services programs, such as child care assistance, addiction treatment and prevention, community mental health, autism programs and more.

“Above all, the budget is an investment in our communities,” said State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), another chief budget negotiator.

Read more about the budget plan.

In another example of fiscal priorities shared by Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers sent to the governor’s desk Manar’s measure to devote $63.25 million to back wages that have been owed to some 24,000 state employees since 2011. This is the state’s oldest debt, and the plan to make good on it passed with veto-proof majorities in both houses.

“This problem has lingered on the state’s books far too long. We owe it, it’s not going away, and we have to address it,” Manar said.

Read more about the back wages measure.

 


Bush’s legislative ethics reform plan becomes law

Sen. Melinda BushA measure from State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) to overhaul the process of investigating ethics complaints at the Capitol has been signed into law.

“Time’s up in Springfield,” said Bush, co-chair of the Senate’s Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention Task Force. “No one should have to experience sexual harassment and discrimination, but if it occurs under the dome, their claims needed to be taken seriously and perpetrators need to be held accountable.”

The proposal makes several changes to the Legislative Ethics Commission and the legislative inspector general. For example, it would allow the legislative inspector general to investigate claims independently, without first getting approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission. It also would require the commission to appoint an acting inspector general within 45 days in the event of a vacancy and adds rules to the process for filling the position.

Read more about the legislation.

Senate President John Cullerton voted for the changes championed by Bush.

“I applaud Senator Bush for her dedication to this issue. Harassment and intimidation have no place in any workplace. It is my hope that these changes are an important step forward in our ongoing efforts to restore trust in the ethics process at the Capitol and throughout state government,” he said after the vote. “I was honored to join my colleagues in supporting it.”

 


Illinois becomes 37th state to ratify ERA

Sen. Heather SteansIn a historic moment decades in the making, Illinois last week became the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“This is a historic day for women across the country,” said State Senator Heather Steans, who sponsored the measure. “I am thrilled that members of the House joined the Senate in standing up for women’s rights.”

The Equal Rights Amendment declares that equality of rights will not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex. Currently, women are not guaranteed equal rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Several advancements for women’s rights, such as the Equal Pay Act and Title IX, could be repealed by a majority vote in Congress. The Executive Branch also could reduce enforcement of these acts.

“By ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment we can provide a strong legal protection for women’s rights and prevent rollbacks from Congress or presidential administrations,” Steans said. “This amendment is still relevant and necessary.”

Read more about the ERA.

 


Senate Democrats advance gun safety measures

Sen. Don Harmon

Several measures designed to address gun violence in Illinois won approval in the Legislature last week. They include efforts to regulate gun dealers, close loopholes in FOID applications and more.

State Senator Don Harmon’s plan to regulate gun dealers passed in both houses of the Legislature.

“This bill took into consideration the governor’s concerns about red tape,” Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, said. “Seeing the bipartisan support it received in both the House and the Senate, I look forward to the governor honoring his commitment to public safety and signing it into law.”

State Senator Julie Morrison of Deerfield passed an updated “red flag” proposal to empower concerned family members or law enforcement officers to take action when a loved one with access to a firearm exhibits dangerous or threatening behavior.

“In far too many mass shooting events, family members identified disturbing behavior in their loved ones and didn’t know where to turn,” Morrison said. “In some cases, when this behavior was reported, there was no legal mechanism to step in and prevent potential tragedy.”

Also approved was State Senator Tony Munoz’s legislation to give the Illinois State Police tools to better evaluate Firearm Owners Identification Card applications and State Senator Elgie R. Sims Jr.’s proposal to extend to 72 hours the waiting period to purchase any gun in Illinois. Both Munoz and Sims are Chicago Democrats.

 


Lawmakers close out spring with a flurry of activity

Sen. Patricia Van PeltSenate Democrats closed out the spring legislative session by passing numerous pieces of legislation, many of which also won approval in the House, which means they will be sent to the governor’s desk for approval sometime this summer.

A few of those measures are:

  • A plan from State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) to bar employers from asking job applicants about their salary history in an effort to reduce the effects of pay discrimination in Illinois.
  • State Senator Kwame Raoul’s Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which provides additional protections and rights for survivors of sexual assault and abuse by filling in gaps in current state laws and bringing Illinois in line with federal guidelines. Raoul is a Chicago Democrat.
  • State Senator Don Harmon’s Alternative to Opioids Act, which creates a pilot program allowing certain patients over the age of 21 who might be prescribed opioids to instead apply for temporary access to the state’s medical cannabis program. Harmon is an Oak Park Democrat.
  • A plan from Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) to ease the transition into college for low-income, racial minority and first-generation college students by allowing Illinois’ public universities to establish bridge programs.
  • State Senator Patricia Van Pelt’s Safe and Full Employment (SAFE) Zone Act to identify high-violence communities and prioritize state money for those areas to address the underlying causes of crime and violence. Van Pelt is a Chicago Democrat.
  • State Senator Toi Hutchinson’s effort to increase stability for thousands of Illinois families that rely on the state’s Child Care Assistant Program so they can afford to have their children cared for while they go to work or school. Hutchinson is a Democrat from Chicago Heights.
  • Local school boards would have the final authority to approve or refuse new charter schools under State Senator Bill Cunningham’s (D-Chicago) plan that eliminates charter schools’ ability to appeal a local school board’s decision.

 


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State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Shorewood: Bertino-Tarrant kicks off summer speaker series | Chicago Tribune

State Senator Melinda Bush, Grayslake: #MeToo bills headed to governor’s desk | Peoria Public Radio

State Senator Cristina Castro, Elgin: Bill heading to Rauner’s desk could toughen penalties for texting while driving | Chicago Tribune

State Senator Jacqueline Collins, Chicago: CPS sex abuse findings result in proposals to change Illinois law | Chicago Tribune

State Senator Tom Cullerton, Villa Park: Budget, ERA, Quincy fix advance in Illinois legislature | Chicago Public Radio

State Senator Bill Cunningham, Chicago: Town hall will discuss bill to legalize recreational marijuana | Oak Lawn Patch

State Senator Bill Haine, Alton: Bill impacts makeup of Metro East Sanitary District | Alton Daily News

State Senator Michael Hastings, Tinley Park: Legionnaires’ crisis spurs stack of bills headed to Rauner’s desk | Chicago Public Radio

State Senator Toi Hutchinson, Chicago Heights: Senate passes Hutchinson’s Industrial Hemp Act, legislation heads to governor | Homewood-Flossmoor Journal

State Senator Julie Morrison, Deerfield: State’s new budget good for schools, local municipalities | Journal & Topics Newspapers, Des Plaines

State Senator John Mulroe, Chicago: Legislation’s goal: simplify court fee structure | Rockford Register Star

State Senator Laura Murphy, Des Plaines: Murphy hosting town halls in Des Plaines, Schaumburg | Daily Herald, Arlington Heights

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