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Statehouse update: Concealed-carry bill moves out of committee, colleges pressing for changes

March 12, 2012
Lori Clark

Lori Clark

In Springfield …

Friday, March 9, was the deadline to get substantive bills reported out of committees in the chamber of origin, so it was a very busy week.

On March 6, House Bill 5745, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Phelps, passed out of the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee. This bill would allow for concealed-carry in Illinois.

Without commenting about the overriding issue of concealed-carry, there is a provision in this bill that would make any college or university that has a weapons-free zone civilly liable for any injury from a criminal act upon a person holding a permit for carrying a concealed firearm who was prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm on the premises.

Community colleges, colleges and universities are the only ones singled out for civil liability.

We are working closely with community colleges, colleges and universities on a more reasonable approach to this issue.

On March 7, the House Higher Education Committee considered several bills.

HB5070, introduced by Rep. Daniel Biss, deals with the issue of using federal veterans grant funds before being able to access state veterans grants.

Biss stated that the bill, as written, would result in reduced benefits for some veterans. That is not his intent, and he plans to continue working to ensure that no one would see a reduction in their benefits. He ended up pulling the bill from the record and will bring it back when he has worked out the technical details.

HB5671, introduced by Rep. Bob Pritchard, would establish a “set-aside” second round funding in the Monetary Award Program for independent (those receiving no family financial assistance toward their higher education) students. Again, because there were still a number of technical changes that would need to be made, Pritchard pulled this from the record and will work on new language.

HB5914, introduced by Rep. Chapin Rose, would prohibit the use of funds for higher education search committees; this bill passed out of committee by a vote of 12-0-0.

Photo of hammer about to break nervous piggy bankOn Thursday, March 8, NIU President John Peters and executive vice presidents Eddie Williams and Raymond Alden appeared before the House Higher Education Committee. This was an opportunity for President Peters to discuss our funding priorities. We are scheduled to appear Tuesday, April 3, before the Senate Appropriations II Committee.

It is still very early in the appropriations process, so there is no discussion of actual numbers.

However, the Senate did concur with the House of Representatives on the FY13 projected revenue funding estimate of $33.2 billion.

The House is now looking at establishing spending levels; after that level is agreed upon, each of the five House appropriations committees will be given their allocation. It will then be up to the committees to develop FY13 budgets for each institution or agency that falls under their purview.

We continue to attend and monitor all legislation that might impact SURS and our employee benefits.

Several bills passed out of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee, including HB5350, HB5791, HB5790 and HB4996. Although these four bills were passed out of committee, they will be referred to the Gov. Pat Quinn’s working group on pensions for consideration.

There are three similar bills related to articulation agreements (SB3804, SB59 and HB5786) between community colleges and universities. The intent behind these bills is to make sure that students attending community colleges do not have to take (and pay for) similar courses at both community college and university because the credits did not transfer.

A considerable amount of work has been done on articulation agreements over the last four or five years, and it appears as though most of the concerns of the sponsors of these three bills have been addressed. The proposed legislation could have the unintended consequence of taking us back to the beginning, thus negating the tremendous progress that has been made. We will continue to work with the bill sponsors to address their concerns.

We also are trying to address the issue of the tuition waiver for the children of qualified university employees. As reported last week, HB5531 sponsored by Rep. Luis Arroyo, was passed out of the House Executive Committee. We are working very closely with the other public universities, as well as several union groups, to oppose this bill.

Both the House and the Senate will be in recess until after the primary election Tuesday, March 20, returning Wednesday, March 21.

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