Legislative update: Illinois Republicans file suit to invalidate redistricting maps drawn in spring

Lori Clark
Lori Clark

In Springfield …

Illinois House and Senate Republicans filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday, July 20, seeking to invalidate the redistricting maps approved this Spring by the Illinois General Assembly on the grounds that the maps:

  • Violate the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 because African-Americans and Latinos have not been provided a “fair opportunity” to participate in the political process;
  • Violate the Illinois Constitution because the map was not made available to the public or the legislature for a sufficient amount of time for review;
  • Violate the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it dilutes the voting power of Republican voters throughout the state; and,
  • Violate the compactness requirement of the Illinois Constitution and is less compact than the previous map and the Fair Map put forward as an alternative.

We will follow and report on any actions taken by the federal court in this matter.

On Tuesday, July 19, an independent arbitrator ruled against Gov. Quinn’s decision to nullify contractual union wage increases for state employees because he said that the General Assembly had not appropriated sufficient funding to pay for the increases of union employees in 14 state agencies (NIU is not included in this).

However, the governor filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court and, on Friday, July 22, a Circuit Court Judge granted the Quinn’s request to hold off on paying the 2 percent increase provided for in the union contact. Another hearing is scheduled for this today. AFSCME has filed a separate suit with a federal court in Springfield seeking to force the governor to pay the raises.

In the spring legislative session, the General Assembly approved HB 1503, and it was sent Friday, June 15, to the governor.

This bill requires the Illinois Board of Higher Education to create a broad-based steering committee comprised of representatives of the governor, the General Assembly, public institutions of higher education, state agencies, business and industry, statewide organizations representing faculty and staff, and others deemed appropriate. The group will devise a system for allocating state resources to public institutions of higher education based upon performance in achieving state goals related to student success and certificate and degree completion.

Beginning in Fiscal Year 2013, the IBHE budget recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly must include allocations to public institutions of higher education based upon performance metrics designed to promote and measure student success in degree and certificate completion.

The inaugural meeting of the IBHE Performance Funding Steering Committee was held Thursday, July 21. The initial meeting focused on setting working rules, providing an overview of the legislation and background on the Public Agenda, and developing a schedule of meetings and activities.

Members of the steering committee will meet monthly through this December, by which time they expect to have the sector and individual institutional indicators developed so they can be used during the FY2013 budget discussions.

In Washington, D.C. …

With less than a week left before the Tuesday, Aug. 2, deadline for an agreement on the deficit reduction/debt ceiling to be approved by Congress and President Obama, there have been breakdowns in negotiations with the expected result that two separate plans will be rolled out early this week – one by House Speaker John Boehner and one by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The various parties took to the airwaves over the weekend, trying to cast blame in their high-stakes game of chicken to the other parties and curry public opinion in their favor. The global financial markets are getting more nervous about Washington’s ability to resolve this issue.

Administration officials had wanted a deal in place by Sunday afternoon before markets opened for trading in Asia; this did not happen.

The president’s chief of staff, Bill Daley, is warning that there might be considerable stock market turbulence until this issue is resolved. Some are fearful that we could face a situation similar to the 2008 778-point drop in the Dow Jones, the largest one-day decline ever, when Congress was negotiating over a federal bailout package to ensure that the collapse of Lehman Brothers would not destroy the global economy.

According to Politico, “there is widespread agreement that a true default, in which the U.S. misses debt payments to investors, could send stock markets sharply lower in the short term and Treasury bond yields higher over the long term. That could, in turn, choke off the anemic economic recovery and send the United States into another bruising recession or even a second Great Depression.”

While the leaders are working on this issue, the House is expected to begin debating the FY 2012 Interior-Environment spending bill. There is some thought that the National Endowment for the Humanities might be a target for amendments that would further reduce or even eliminate the agency.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of federal relations for NIU.

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