Week in Review for June 29, 2018

Nation’s highest court issues decision in Janus case. In a blow to public employee labor unions, the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday overturned a 41-year-old precedent and ruled in favor of an Illinois state employee who said he should not be forced to pay fair share fees to the union that represents his job

In a 5-4 decision, the court sided with Mark Janus, who contended his free speech rights were violated by being forced to pay fair share dues to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Janus works as a child support specialist for the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The job is a union position represented by AFSCME.

The opinion will mean immediate changes for Illinois state workers. Gov. Bruce Rauner said the state will stop withholding fair share fees from non-union member paychecks. He also said state workers will be notified of the ruling and “be given an opportunity to modify their union status.” He said the average unionized state employee pays more than $900 a year in fees.

The case, which was pursued by conservative organizations and originally launched by Rauner, involved fair share fees. Fair share fees are charged to people in union jobs who do not wish to join the union and pay full union dues. The fees are supposed to help cover the union’s costs in negotiating contracts on behalf of workers in union jobs.

Read the rest of the story from the State Journal-Register.

Durkin bill aims to reform broken property tax system. Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin introduced new legislation this week that will sunset Illinois’ property tax code to force the General Assembly to reform the broken system.

House Bill 5924 creates a deadline of July 1, 2019 for the General Assembly to create a new property tax code that is fair and equitable throughout the entire state of Illinois. If the General Assembly fails to address this by the deadline, the current Illinois property tax code will be immediately removed from state law.

“It is plain and simple: the property tax system in Illinois is a failure, and it is time to start over,” Durkin said. “By setting a firm deadline for the General Assembly, it will force the legislature to come together in a bipartisan manner to find a compromise solution that will remedy this crisis and help bring Illinois back.”

A recent report from Attom Data Solutions shows Illinois with the second highest property taxes in the nation. Additionally, a Smart Asset report shows the statewide average effective tax rate in Illinois is 2.32 percent, almost double than the national average. A Chicago Tribune investigation earlier this year showed that the property tax system is so unfair in Cook County that taxpayers pay more if their house is worth less depending on where they live, unfairly targeting minority communities.

“We have seen both parties come together to work on accomplishing two very important issues this last year: a new education funding reform formula and a balanced budget with no new taxes,” Durkin said. “Now that bipartisanship in Illinois has a chance at working again, we must come together diligently and find a solution to this problem that is bankrupting Illinois taxpayers, crushing home values and stifling job growth throughout the state.”

Unemployment rate continues falling in all metro areas. Unemployment rates decreased over-the-year in May in all of Illinois’ metropolitan areas, according to preliminary data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). Data also show nonfarm jobs increased in eleven of the metropolitan areas.

“For the third consecutive month, the unemployment rate is below the previous year levels in all metro areas,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “And, job growth was reported in 11 of the state’s 14 metro areas with many downstate metros now showing improvement.”

Illinois businesses added jobs in eleven metro areas, with the largest increases in: Kankakee (+3.9 percent, +1,800), the Quad Cities (+1.5 percent, +2,700), and Champaign-Urbana (+1.2 percent, +1,300). Total nonfarm jobs in the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metro Division increased (+0.9 percent or +32,500). Illinois businesses lost jobs in three metro areas: Danville (-1.4 percent, -400), Carbondale-Marion (-1.2 percent, -700), and Springfield (-0.7 percent, -800).

The industry sectors recording job growth in the majority of metro areas included Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities (9 of 14), Professional and Business Services, (9 of 14), and Manufacturing (8 of 14).

Not seasonally adjusted data compares May 2018 with May 2017. The not seasonally adjusted Illinois rate was 3.5 percent in May 2018 and stood at 12.2 percent at its peak in this economic cycle in January 2010. Nationally, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in May 2018 and 10.6 percent in January 2010 at its peak. The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and looking for work, and is not tied to collecting unemployment insurance benefits.

Pritchard named to NIU Board of Trustees. Gov. Bruce Rauner has named retiring Illinois State Representative Robert W. Pritchard to the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. Pritchard is a long-time education advocate and a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose work in the General Assembly was focused on elementary, secondary and higher education.

“Bob is a very strong addition to the NIU Board,” Rauner said. “He has a working knowledge of the challenges that face higher education and he is well equipped to advocate for the university, its students and the public-at-large on issues ranging from affordability to access.”

Pritchard’s appointment takes effect on July 1, 2018, the same day he retires from the Illinois House of Representatives where he served the 70th Legislative District for more than 15 years.

A recognized leader in education policy, Pritchard was a key contributor to the passage of the state’s new K-12 school funding formula, which increased state levels of school funding and made distributions to school districts more equitable.

His work with the bicameral Higher Education Working Group focused on issues of outmigration and affordability in Illinois higher education and resulted in significant legislation this spring. Pritchard was instrumental in forming the bipartisan Legislative Education Caucus in 2005.

A self-employed farm owner, operator and manager, Pritchard is responsible for a DeKalb county farming operation that is in its sixth generation of family ownership. The corn and soybean operation has doubled in size under his leadership.

“I feel strongly that education beyond high school is an essential component in developing Illinois’ workforce and making the state attractive to employers,” Pritchard said. “NIU – in partnership with local community colleges – prepares students to achieve their dreams and be contributing members of our economy.”

“It has been a pleasure to represent NIU and advocate for the interests of students, faculty, and all higher education institutions throughout my tenure in the House of Representatives. I look forward to continued service to the region and Illinois in my new role as a NIU trustee.”

Pritchard’s wife Mary is a lifelong educator who spent most of her career at Northern Illinois University as a teacher, administrator, and Interim Dean.

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