Week in Review for Week Ending August 4, 2017

Gov. Rauner issues amendatory veto to ensure school funding bill is fair, equitable for all students. Tuesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an amendatory veto to Senate Bill 1, the school funding bill. The matter now heads to the Illinois General Assembly, where the governor has respectfully requested that lawmakers uphold his changes. If these changes are upheld, Illinois will achieve historic education funding reform.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from or who your family is. With a great education, you can go anywhere in life and be whomever you want to be. You can grow up, get a good job and provide for your family. That’s why the changes I have made to the education funding bill are so important,” Gov. Rauner said. “With my changes, our state ensures that enough resources flow to children in the poorest and most disadvantaged school districts across the entire state. And my changes ensure that the education funding system in our state is fair and equitable to all students in Illinois.”

More than a year ago, Gov. Rauner established the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission. This group came together on a bipartisan basis to study the way Illinois funds its public schools, and to chart a path to a fairer and more equitable system.

“These changes included in my amendatory veto reflect years of hard work by our education reform commission and our ability to overcome our political differences for the good of our young people’s futures,” Gov. Rauner said. “I urge the General Assembly to act quickly to accept these changes and let our students start school on time.”

The governor’s amendatory veto makes the following changes to ensure an adequate and equitable school funding formula:
  • Maintains a per-district hold harmless until the 2020-2021 school year, and then moves to a per-pupil hold harmless based on a three-year rolling average of enrollment.
  • Removes the minimum funding requirement. While the governor is committed to ensuring that the legislature satisfies its duty to fund schools, the proposed trigger of one percent of the overall adequacy target plus $93 million artificially inflates the minimum funding number and jeopardizes Tier II funding. 
  • Removes the Chicago block grant from the funding formula. 
  • Removes both Chicago Public Schools pension considerations from the formula: the normal cost pick-up and the unfunded liability deduction. 
  • Reintegrates the normal cost pick-up for Chicago Public Schools into the Pension Code where it belongs, and finally begins to treat Chicago like all other districts with regards to the State’s relationship with its teachers’ pensions. 
  • Eliminates the PTELL and TIF equalized assessed value subsidies that allow districts to continue under-reporting property wealth. 
  • Removes the escalators throughout the bill that automatically increase costs. 
  • Retains the floor for the regionalization factor, for the purposes of equity, and adds a cap, for the purposes of adequacy.
The amendatory veto also removes the accounting for future pension cost shifts to districts in the Adequacy Target. This prevents districts from ever fully taking responsibility for the normal costs of their teachers’ pensions.

Leaders Brady and Durkin support Governor’s school plan. Senate Republican Leader-Designee Bill Brady and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin on Governor Rauner’s Amendatory Veto of Senate Bill 1.

“There is no question, this General Assembly must now double its efforts to ensure our schools open on time with a fair and equitable funding formula. After finally receiving the school funding legislation, the Governor took swift action and laid out a path to achieve that goal. Our caucuses stand with the Governor's recommendations and will oppose efforts to override his veto.

With the support of Democrat legislators whose schools fare better under the Governor’s plan, we believe the amended SB 1 should become law.

However, we remain open to compromise developed through real, productive negotiations designed to reach consensus.”

Leader Jim Durkin on what’s next for school funding. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin joined The Steve Cochran Show on WGN Radio Thursday morning to explain the current state of the education funding plan and what needs to happen next to ensure schools open on time. Listen here.

Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) reports on July 2017 revenues. Working with the Illinois Department of Revenue, the bipartisan fiscal arm of the Illinois General Assembly saw an additional $137 million in gross personal income tax receipts flow into State coffers as a consequence of the major tax increase enacted in early July. Increases in corporate income tax receipts and in sales tax receipts led to an overall increase of $233 million in total general funds revenues from state and federal sources in July 2017 as opposed to July 2016.

The additional revenues reported by COGFA fell pitifully short of the more than $14 billion in unpaid bills reported by the Office of the Comptroller this week.

These July 2017 COGFA revenue numbers, which cover the first 31 days of the 2017-18 fiscal year (FY18), are especially important because House Republicans are asking legal questions about whether the tax-hike FY18 budget is really “balanced.” A true “balanced” budget must match COGFA revenue numbers with actual State spending.

GOP lawmakers want AG Lisa Madigan to rule on legality of Illinois budget. The Constitution of Illinois not only requires that the State enact a balanced budget, but contains a little-known provision intended to enforce the “balanced” part of this mandate. Under the provisions of subsection 2(a) of Article VIII of the State’s Constitution, the budget must comply with a nonpartisan estimate of the funds expected to be available in the budget’s fiscal year. The General Assembly has given authority to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability to generate the estimates that are required by law.

The General Assembly is supposed to adopt, by joint resolution of both houses, a COGFA revenue estimate for an approaching fiscal year. The legislature can then use this estimate as a guiding document to control their appropriation bills and spending for the new fiscal year. House Republican lawmakers such as Rep. Keith Wheeler and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin are pointing out that the House and Senate did not adopt a joint-resolution revenue estimate for FY18, and did not take legal steps to match FY18 budgeted spending with the monies that are expected by COGFA to be brought in during FY18 through existing and new taxes. In other words, even though the General Assembly has just enacted a major Illinois income tax increase, there is no reason to be sure that this tax increase will bring in enough money to actually balance the State’s budget as required by constitutional law. The required documentation and paper trail are not there.

Leader Durkin has now sent a letter to Attorney General Lisa Madigan asking her to give an opinion as whether lawmakers need to officially adopt a revenue estimate before they can pass a budget that will have been enacted in compliance with the requirements of the State Constitution. The Attorney General has not yet responded to this request.

Rep. Bellock to retire at end of term in 2019. State Representative Patti Bellock announced Tuesday that she will not seek re-election to the Illinois General Assembly in 2018. She will continue to focus on serving her constituents and continuing her work on improving access to quality health care for every Illinois family and strengthening the safety net for the state’s most vulnerable residents until the completion of her current term in January 2019.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve my community in the Illinois General Assembly,” Rep. Bellock said. “I would like to thank my family, friends, and the residents of my district for their support over the years and to all those who suggested ideas for legislation that we were able to enact into public policy together. Making a positive difference in the lives of others has been the greatest reward in this job. Next year will be time to give someone else the opportunity to serve our community in the Illinois House of Representatives. Until then, I look forward to continuing to work with my constituents and my colleagues to make progress on many important issues until the end of my term in January 2019.”

Representative Bellock became the first woman in Illinois history to serve as Deputy Leader of a legislative caucus when she was appointed Deputy House Minority Leader in 2013, a position she continues to hold.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin released the following statement on the retirement announcement of Deputy Leader Bellock:

“I have been privileged to serve alongside Patti Bellock since she first came to the Illinois General Assembly in 1999. Patti has brought the common-sense approach of a mother and grandmother to her public role, combining a keen understanding of how the law impacts people’s lives with a depth of knowledge and expertise in key policy areas unequaled among her peers. Patti’s unparalleled work ethic has been a tremendous asset to our caucus, particularly over the past four years in her role as our Deputy Leader, the first woman in Illinois history to serve in that post. Patti will long be remembered as an extraordinary leader and a tireless advocate for Illinois families; particularly on health care, disability and budget issues. Patti and I have been personal friends for many years, so I wish her and her family all the best as she looks forward to the next chapter in her life at the completion of her term.”

Leader Durkin appointed Representative Bellock to the position of Deputy House Republican Leader in October 2013. Leader Bellock also currently serves as a budget negotiator for the House Republican Caucus, Minority Spokeswoman for the House Human Services and Human Services Appropriations Committees, respectively, as well as being the co-chair of the Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force. She has been a member of the Illinois House of Representatives since 1999.

Rep. Mitchell to retire at end of term. State Representative Bill Mitchell announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2018. He will continue to focus on serving his constituents and representing their interests in Springfield until the completion of his current term in January 2019.

“I am here today to announce that I will not be running for re-election to the Illinois House,” Rep. Mitchell said. “It has been an honor to serve the people of Central Illinois in the General Assembly. I want to thank my constituents for allowing me the privilege of serving them for nearly two decades now. I also want to thank my family, friends and neighbors for their support over the years and all those who worked with me to make a positive difference for our community.”

“The people of Central Illinois have given me more than I could ever repay: the honor to serve them,” Mitchell said. “During my remaining time in office, I will continue to fight for good-paying jobs for our working families, a high-quality education for every child, and the protection of vital services for our seniors.”

During his time in office, Bill Mitchell made job creation his top priority. He helped lead the effort to pass the Future Energy Jobs bill, legislation that will allow the Clinton Power Station to remain open for another 10 years, protecting thousands of good-paying jobs. Rep. Mitchell served as the Republican Spokesman for the House Bipartisan Job Creation Task Force and previously served as Chairman of the House Republican Task Force on Rural Economic Development.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin released the following statement on the retirement announcement of Assistant Republican Leader Mitchell:

“I have been privileged to serve alongside Bill Mitchell since he first came to the Illinois General Assembly in 1999. He has always been a passionate advocate for downstate Illinois, standing up for the priorities and values of his constituents. Bill’s advocacy was instrumental in helping keep the Clinton nuclear power plant open. As a member of my leadership team, Bill continues to provide me with a perspective that is much needed in the Capitol. More importantly, Bill Mitchell is my friend and someone whose opinion I’ve always respected. I wish him all the best as he looks forward to a well-deserved retirement at the completion of his term.”

Leader Durkin appointed Representative Mitchell to the position of Assistant Republican Leader in 2015 and again in 2017. Mitchell also serves as Minority Spokesperson for the House Insurance: Property and Casualty Committee. He has been a member of the Illinois House of Representatives since 1999.

Rep. Pritchard does not seek re-election. As the 2018 election cycle approaches, State Representative Bob Pritchard announced this week that he will not seek re-election. “I have appreciated the opportunity to represent the residents of the 70th district over the past 14 years but feel the time has come for another to voice the interests of this district,” he said.

“Like our founding fathers, I do not believe serving in the legislature should be a career but rather long enough to learn the process, make contributions and then return to other activities,” Pritchard stated. He will serve out his term which ends in January of 2019 and continue to be activity engaged in the issues and events of the district. He looks forward to spending more time in the family farming operations, with his grandchildren and in various organizations.

Pritchard said some of the challenges facing our state are a result of representatives serving too long, being unwilling to compromise on difficult issues, and losing the perspective of the impact government has upon private citizens and businesses. “I think we have a better system of government when more citizens take time from their careers to run for public office, and experience the challenges of making public policy for their communities or for a state as diverse as Illinois,” the legislator added.

Pritchard has served on numerous House committees and sponsored legislation on many important issues during his time in the legislature involving agriculture, education, veterans affairs, human services, healthcare, the environment and government operations. He is currently Republican spokesperson on several committees including education and state government administration, plus Co-Chair of the General Assembly Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin released the following statement on the recent retirement announcement of State Representative Bob Pritchard:

“I have served with Bob in the House of Representatives since 2003, his dedication and values of hard work have made it a privilege serving with him. Even though Bob is not seeking re-election, his work in the legislature is not finished yet. Bob has and continues to work diligently on issues which are important to our state and the next generation. His expertise and passion to find a solution that is beneficial to both schools and tax payers is invaluable, which is why I recently appointed him to serve as a lead negotiator on education funding reform. Bob is a friend whose work ethic and values will be missed in the General Assembly.”

Participants in Affordable Care Act will see another year of steep price increases. Health insurers are filing their annual rate increase requests with the Illinois Department of Insurance. Insurance firms that offer plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) will be asking for rate increases of as much as 43%. Firms that include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, active in the Chicago area, and HealthAlliance, active in Downstate Illinois, state that increased medical and prescription drug costs make the rate increases essential if they are to offer ACA-compliant health care plans in Illinois in calendar year 2018.

Gov. Rauner acts to increase fairness and speed in administrative hearing process. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Executive Order 2017-04 this week to improve and streamline Illinois state government. This action reaffirms the administration’s commitment to transforming administrative law in Illinois. The goal of enhancing justice was the driving force behind the Administrative Hearings Executive Order.

Administrative hearings govern hundreds of important interactions between the state, its citizens and businesses. They are quasi-judicial proceedings, and some look identical to trials. More than 150,000 administrative hearing matters are opened each year across state agencies. These hearings cover wage disputes, child support claims, professional licensing decisions, permits, and the range of State services and benefits available to Illinoisans.

In April 2016, Gov. Rauner signed an Executive Order creating a pilot program at the Department of Central Management Services charged with streamlining regulations, testing the efficiencies of case sharing, and implementing best practices for administrative hearings. The new Bureau of Administrative Hearings represented the first comprehensive effort to analyze the efficiency and quality of the state’s administrative hearings process. The Bureau's initial findings included inefficient caseloads, poor resource allocation across agencies, and confusing and conflicting rules that made it very challenging for agencies to do their work well and for citizens to understand their rights.

In response, the Bureau instituted many important reforms. First, it developed a set of Model Rules for Administrative Hearings. These rules, when implemented, will dramatically reduce the regulatory burden by increasing speed and clarity in the administrative hearing process. Rather than looking to hundreds of rules spread across agencies, the Model Rules simplify and standardize hearings.

“Citizens should not struggle to understand—and learn and relearn and relearn again—the rules and their rights in administrative hearings,” Gov. Rauner said. “This parochial approach is not a policy prerogative; it is merely the result of a haphazard system of promulgating new rules without taking a comprehensive look at all the rules already on the books. It’s poor regulatory planning the same way that failing to account for the layout of existing streets would be poor city planning, and in just the same way it results in extra and unnecessary work for agencies. Rather than looking to history and the accumulated knowledge of sister agencies, each agency drafts from scratch and issues its rules in a vacuum.”

New tax adds to burdens facing Chicago-area consumers of sweetened beverages. The new tax of 1 cent per ounce applies to Cook County only. It was enacted by Cook County under its home rule powers, and applies to both incorporated areas (such as Chicago) and unincorporated areas within the county. The tax will be imposed upon a wide variety of sweetened beverages: canned drinks, bottled drinks, and drinks that are poured from a spout.

Criticism of the new tax includes the argument that the definitions of beverages that are subject, or not subject, to the new tax are unconstitutionally arbitrary. Soda pop, diet soda, ready-to-drink sweetened coffees, ready-to-drink sweetened teas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened fruit juice mixtures will be subjected to the one-cent-per-ounce tax. However, 100% fruit juices, even though naturally sweetened with fructose, will not be taxed. Sweetened beverages in which the primary ingredient is milk will not be taxed. In contrast to fruit juice and chocolate milk, diet soda (which has no sugar in it) will be taxed.

Based on this and other factors, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), whose members are responsible for collecting the new tax, has initiated legal action in an attempt to pre-empt its enforcement in Cook County. Retailers say they are unconstitutionally prevented from knowing when to charge or not charge the tax. A judicial decision placed the sweetened-beverage tax in effect starting on Wednesday, August 2. The decision is currently being appealed.

Illinois State Fair will run for 11 days starting August 10. The Illinois State Fair will be the home of musical entertainment, variety shows, rides and attractions, competitions, and festival food. Admission will be charged for all fairgoers above age 12. Separate tickets will be required for parking spots and for entertainment acts at the Grandstand. Central Illinois’ largest fair will be celebrated from Thursday, August 10, through Sunday, August 20. A separate fair celebrated in Southern Illinois, the DuQuoin State Fair, will be celebrated from August 25 through September 4 in Perry County, southeast of St. Louis.

Path of total solar eclipse will cross far southern Illinois. In the rare phenomenon, the new moon will completely cover the daylight Sun on August 21. Parts of fourteen states will see the sun disappear briefly, but Southern Illinois University astronomers predict that the sun will be hidden longer (2 minutes and 41.6 seconds) over southern Illinois than in any other state. The best spot to see the eclipse (weather permitting) will be a location just south of Carbondale, Illinois. Other Illinois towns and county seats where the sun will be dark include Chester, Illinois, and Marion, Illinois. The Illinois eclipse will take place between 1:18 p.m. and 1:24 p.m., depending on the viewer’s location. This will be the first solar eclipse visible in the 48 contiguous United States since 1979.

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