Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to email@example.com
June 2, 2015
In This Issue:
- Taking a Break
- Bipatisan Legislative Achievements
- Higher Education Executive Report Released
Taking a Break
The tug-of-war between Governor Rauner and Speaker Madigan--or put another way, between turning Illinois around or business as usual—reached the end of regulation “play” on Sunday so the legislature is going into overtime. After a short break, play will resume this Thursday, but legislators will not be paid their per diem compensation or travel expenses as a penalty for failing to get their work done by May 31.
The Governor was elected by a majority of our citizens to change the direction our state is headed but he has been blocked all session by those who helped create our current fiscal problems. They are unwilling to seriously consider his Turnaround Agenda or negotiate improvements to it.
Of course one of the big unresolved issues is the budget. Partisan majorities in the House and Senate have passed 18 bills dealing with spending but the total exceeds expected revenue by nearly $4 billion. This follows the FY2015 budget that over spent revenue by $1.5 billion and resulted in many programs being cut this spring so that prison guards, court reporters and day care centers could be funded.
Governor Rauner has stated he’s unwilling to continue ignoring the Constitutional requirement that the legislature pass a balanced budget. The budget bills are being held in each chamber which delays any action the Governor might take. Many legislators just want to increase taxes to balance the budget but the Governor understands that reforms must be negotiated first or there will be no changes that will make Illinois a more attractive place to do business and generate more revenue through job growth.
Bipartisan Legislative Achievements
With all the negative news and tales of gridlock coming out of Springfield, some of the bipartisan efforts can get lost in the shuffle. A number of significant measures were passed by both chambers last week:
HB 1 contains a number of provisions to address heroin and opioid abuse and addiction in Illinois. The bill requires availability and training in use of opioid antagonists, information on unused drug disposal, and reporting of drug overdose.
SB 1304 is a compromise police reform bill which includes guidelines for police body cameras, the requirement of two independent investigators in officer involved shootings, and bans police chokeholds. It condenses and consolidates some of the 200 police reform bills that were submitted this session in response to national incidents of police shootings.
SB96 implements the transition to a statewide 9-1-1 emergency system and upgrade to the Next Generation 9-1-1 system by 2020. It also phases out the required wireline local calling packages among other provisions.
HB3887 is an effort to reduce the bureaucratic red tape that is hampering small businesses. The bill states that every five years each state agency must scrutinize its rules and regulations that pertain to small businesses to identify those that are unreasonable, unduly burdensome, or duplicative.
SB1630 allows Kane County to add a small facility fee to civil and criminal cases to help finance badly needed repairs and an expansion of the current courthouse facilities.
HB3428 is an effort to recognize that the cost of college is a significant barrier to those seeking to achieve higher education. This bill provides that a student who takes an AP exam in high school and receives a score of 3 or higher on the exam is entitled to receive postsecondary level course credit at a public institution of higher education.
SB836 combined a number of Senate and House bills which clarify the intent of the original gun conceal carry law passed in 2013. It also allows individuals with “mild” developmental disabilities to file an appeal with the Illinois State Police upon having their FOID card revoked.
SB455 represents an agreement after nearly two years of negotiations to allow pharmacists to substitute interchangeable biologic products licensed by the Food & Drug Administration. Physicians still need to agree to the substitution for the cheaper product.
SB1441 amends the vehicle towing law with provisions about who can tow a vehicle. It also allows for the towing and impoundment of an uninsured vehicle if the driver has a prior conviction for driving without insurance in the past 12 months. I requested the towing of uninsured vehicles after numerous complaints from citizens involved in accidents with drivers who had no insurance.
HB165 provides that students during noninstructional times of the school day may engage in prayer, religious-based meetings and study.
HB3122- creates the Illinois Veteran’s Preference in Private Employment Act, which allows a private employer to adopt a voluntary veterans' preference employment policy. Current Illinois law already allows public sector employers to show a preference for veteran’s and I proposed this bill so the private sector could benefit from the skills and dedication of veterans too.
Over the past several years I’ve worked with the U.S. Department of Defense to sponsor a number of successful initiatives to help our active military, their families, and veterans.
SB1246 clarifies that a law passed in the last General Assembly regarding manning levels of fire departments does not affect an arbitrators ruling on manning language in a bargaining agreement.
Higher Education Executive Report Released
Following public controversy over the retirement package for the College of DuPage president, the Senate Democratic Caucus has released a report of executive compensation at all 9 public universities and 46 community colleges. I find the report, which is available on my website, instructive but also puzzling.
One has to question why the Democratic Caucus conducted the study rather than passing a resolution of the entire Senate to study the issue. Republicans often conduct such studies when the Democrats, who control the chamber, refuse to participate. This issue should not be political.
The study reveals a great diversity in the way elected and appointed boards manage executive compensation for their institutions. Regardless of whether compensation packages should be more uniform across institutions, the report suggests some best practices that trustees for the institutions should take to heart.
First, boards that oversee operations should demonstrate more accountability for the spending of student and taxpayer dollars. Boards should spell out clear compensation, bonus and severance agreements for their administration. Second, the board should be more open with the public in their compensation deliberations, agreements, and records.
Finally, all Boards of Trustees should conduct administrator performance reviews, set measurable goals for performance and vote on bonuses, contract extensions and pay raises. Administration may comprise a small portion of the college or university expenditures but when the cost of higher education has reached unaffordable levels for many families, we need to pinch every penny a little harder.
I hope to see you as I travel around the district in the next few weeks. I will be volunteering at the Palmer Cup on June 12-14 at the Rich Harvest Farms near Big Rock. Admission is free. The Palmer Cup, named after Arnold Palmer, is an annual team golf competition between American and European college golfers. The teams are selected on the basis of nationality, not according to the location of the players’ universities. This is the first time in its 18 year history, that the competition has been held in Illinois.