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Statehouse update: House approves bill to end legislative scholarships, moves now to Senate

March 26, 2012
Lori Clark

Lori Clark

In Springfield …

The Illinois General Assembly was in session Wednesday through Friday of last week.

Members of the House of Representatives approved HB 3810 (vote: 95 yes, 25 no, 2 present), introduced by Rep. Fred Crespo, which would eliminate the General Assembly scholarship program. The bill has moved on to the Senate, with Sen. Michael Frerichs picking up the sponsorship there, with 16 senators to date listed as co-sponsors. No one is certain as to whether President Cullerton will call this bill for a vote.

There has been a lot of discussion in committees and during floor debate surrounding the issue of tuition waivers in general: HB 5531, introduced by Rep. Luis Arroyo, would repeal university employee tuition waivers.

This bill is on third reading in the House; it must be passed out of the House by Friday, March 30, to remain viable. NIU has joined with UI, WIU, EIU, GSU, NEIU, SIU, AFL-CIO, IFT, University Professionals of Illinois, IEA, SEIU, AFSCME and the Illinois Nurses Association in actively opposing this bill.

State senators held a Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday for the purpose of hearing from a Medicaid expert with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Gov. Pat Quinn, in his FY13 budget proposal, has indicated that he will need to find $2.7 billion in Medicaid savings in FY13, and this will still not address the $2 billion that the state owes in overdue Medicaid bills.

Over the past decade, the number of people in Illinois receiving Medicaid has nearly doubled. State reform efforts have been limited by the national health care act which prohibits states from making any changes to Medicaid eligibility until 2012, except in limited cases approved by the federal government.

The expert indicated that Illinois will have a very difficult time realizing this level of savings, especially in one year. There will be major budget implications to the Medicaid reform and savings actions over the next several months.

Elaine P. Maimon and John G. Peters

Elaine P. Maimon and John G. Peters

Governors State University President Elaine P. Maimon, as the convenor of the public university Presidents and Chancellors in Illinois, invited NIU President John G. Peters to join her in meeting last Wednesday with the Pension Working Group appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.

This group is to issue a report, with recommendations on pension stablilization, to the governor around Tuesday, April 17.

Presidents Maimon and Peters discussed the principles recommended in the IGPA report, the potential impacts of changes to the SURS pension system and answered questions from the group and staff.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) issued notice March 16 that limited funding and a high volume of eligible applicants has forced the suspension of 2012-13 Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants to all students whose initial 2012-13 FAFSA was, or will be, received by the federal processor on or after March 14.

FAFSAs received at the federal processor since March 14 will be placed in a hold status and will not be released for MAP award processing unless additional funding becomes available. Students otherwise eligible for MAP, but whose award announcements are in suspension status, will not receive MAP grant money. This is the earliest cut-off date in MAP’s history.

For more information, please monitor the ISAC website.

This will be a very busy week with the General Assembly as Friday is the last day that substantive bills have to get out of their chamber of origin. After this week, there will be a two-week spring break.

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