Legislative update: Statehouse committee OKs bill that scraps General Assembly scholarships

Lori Clark
Lori Clark

In Springfield …

The Illinois Senate Executive Committee voted to approve House Bill 3810, a bill that will eliminate the General Assembly Scholarship Program on Sept. 1, 2012.

Senate President John Cullerton, who had picked up sponsorship of this bill, testified that this program was good overall and that it had helped many very deserving students over its 109-year history.

However, Cullerton said, it was time for it to be abolished.

Cullerton also offered an amendment that will look at what he indicated were bigger issues: the reported $356 million in annual tuition and fee waivers at public universities.

His amendment will create a bipartisan Tuition and Fee Waiver Task Force that will be created to conduct a thorough review and evaluation of the tuition and fee waiver programs offered by public institutions of higher education, as well as the findings and recommendations made by the Illinois Board of Higher Education in its tuition and fee waiver report.

The task force will be required to submit a report setting forth its review and evaluation of the tuition and fee waiver programs offered by public institutions of higher education on or before April 15, 2013.

Senate Bill 1313 was passed unanimously out of the House Executive Committee, with Speaker Michael Madigan and Minority Leader Tom Cross co-sponsoring the bill that would eliminate the current program of retiree health insurance and require the director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services to annually determine a premium for the retirees.

House Amendment 8 was approved; this amendment includes retirees all of the five state-funded pension systems, including SURS. House Floor Amendment 9 will be introduced, most likely this week, that will require that the same premiums are charged to retirees across all five pension systems.

Madigan, when questioned about the constitutionality of this bill, indicated that he does not believe that the retiree health care program is a protected benefit in the Illinois Constitution and that it could be terminated at will. He further indicated that this was a first, but necessary, step in the budget negotiations that will be occurring this month.

Regular updates will be provided on the NIU State Pension & Budget Update website.

Photo of a bar graph on a computer screenHouse Bill 5248, Senate Committee Amendment 2, sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford, was passed out of Senate Higher Education Committee.

It will require the Illinois Community College Board; the Illinois Board of Higher Education; an organization representing the public policy interests of Illinois’ private, non-profit colleges and universities; and the Illinois Higher Education Consortium to form a committee to inform the development of Illinois College Choice Reports.

The purpose of these reports is to inform students’ college choices by providing current information in a consistent and comparable format, including costs, student demographics, student progress and attainment, applications and admission data, areas of study, and certificate or degree completion.

The development of the reporting mechanisms must be completed by Jan. 1, 2014. By Jan. 1, 2015, IBHE and ICCB must prepare Illinois College Choice Reports for each higher education institution approved to operate and grant degrees in Illinois.

Members of the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee have been meeting in working sessions to determine how to reduce the FY13 appropriations for higher education to reflect the $111 million reduction (or approximately 6.14 percent) from the FY12 base funding level called for in House Joint Resolution 69.

As updates become available, they will be posted online.

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

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