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Legislative update: Illinois legislators wrap up, IBHE performance funding group still at work

December 1, 2011
Lori Clark

Lori Clark

In Springfield …

The Illinois General Assembly reconvened Tuesday to try to finalize some issues left pending during the regularly scheduled fall veto session.

Senators passed, with a veto-proof majority, a Chicago Mercantile Exchange/Sears tax relief package (HB 1883); however, this bill was defeated in the House by a vote of 99-8. This bill was a scaled-down version from the “Christmas tree” considered earlier in the veto session.

Reps. John Bradley and David Harris say they will continue to work with House leadership on this bill, and the General Assembly might be reconvened before the end of the year or in early January.

On a positive note, SB2412 Amendment 2 passed.

As a BIMP budget supplemental bill, it provides sufficient funding so that the six state facilities (correctional/youth) will not be closed this fiscal year, and thousands of state employees will not be laid off.

The agreement is to keep these facilities open only through the fiscal year. There is no long-term guarantee that there will not be other facility closings proposed for next fiscal year.

This bill also includes an additional $33.5 million to address the FY12 MAP shortfall. The bill also appropriates a little shy of $1 billion to SURS. There is $550,000 to the Illinois Board of Higher Education to administer and enforce the Private Business and Vocational Schools Act; this responsibility was transferred to IBHE earlier in veto session.

There is an additional $3 million appropriated to the Illinois State Board of Education for a longitudinal data system, and there is $50 million in authorization for federal Race to the Top and $70 million authorization in federal Early Learning Challenge funding.

SB 1609 Amendment 2 changes the date of the governor’s budget message from the third Wednesday in February to the fourth Wednesday in February. This was not done at the governor’s request; the General Assembly is not in session on the third Wednesday in February.

HB 3813 passed out of the House on concurrence with Senate amendments (108-4 vote), and it has been sent to the governor. This is one of the pension reform bills and it was sponsored by Rep. Tom Cross and Speaker Mike Madigan. Rep. Cross carried the bill.

It aims to close some of the “loopholes” in the state pension systems that have been publicized this fall by the Chicago Tribune: policies related to leaves of absence from public jobs to work for labor organizations, double-dipping, etc.

The Senate amendments were more aggressive than the bill the House originally sent over. While there were some concerns expressed about unintended consequences, Rep. Cross agreed to look at some of the issues raised, and it is likely that there will be a trailer bill introduced in the spring session.

Members of the IBHE’s Performance Funding Steering Committee met Wednesday, Nov. 30, in Decatur. The agenda and accompanying documents are available online.

It was agreed that while the committee has made significant progress in establishing performance metrics, there is still work to do before these can be finalized. A progress report on the steering committee’s work will be presented to the IBHE at its Tuesday, Dec. 6, meeting.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of State and Federal Relations for NIU.