SPRINGFIELD, IL – Education funding progresses, job creation increases but remains a problem for Illinois, and a rush of bill signings and new laws top the news during the week.
Ed Funding Talks
Education funding talks progressed during the week to the point where “an agreement in principle on historic school funding reform” was reached between the four legislative leaders and Gov. Bruce Rauner. The announcement was made Thursday by Republican leaders Senator Bill Brady and Representative Jim Durkin.
“Language will be drafted and details of the agreement released once the drafts have been reviewed. The leaders will reconvene in Springfield on Sunday in anticipation of House action on Monday,” the joint statement read.
The talks advanced during the week, proving to be so productive that a previously-scheduled session day for the House was cancelled. The House had been expected to take up a veto override vote on Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the “evidence-based” school funding legislation at the center of the talks.
Senate Republicans have long-advocated for bipartisan solution that treats all schools fairly and equally. A true evidence-based funding model should, by definition, treat all schools and their students fairly – no matter where they attend school. There are 852 Illinois school districts educating more than two million students.
Job Creation Still a Concern
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) reported Aug. 24 that Illinois businesses added jobs in nine metro areas, but lost jobs in four other metro areas during the month of July. IDES reports the top job growth areas were Mining and Construction, Professional and Business Services and Leisure and Hospitality. Statewide, the unemployment rate stood at 4.9 percent, which is one percent lower than July 2016’s 5.9 percent. The Department noted the drop in unemployment is “mostly due to the decline in the labor force.”
A week earlier, IDES reported June job growth was revised down to show an increase of +6,400 jobs compared to the preliminary estimate of +8,600 jobs.
While any job creation is positive, IDES Director Jeff Mays said, “The strong employment growth exhibited in the U.S. is not being felt in Illinois.” Illinois Department of Commerce Director Sean McCarthy added, “We need reforms to provide business owners relief and incentives to make our state not only competitive, but attractive to bring good jobs back to Illinois.”
Job weakness in a struggling economy is why the Senate Republican Caucus has long-supported reform legislation to revitalize the state’s business climate, such as workers’ compensation changes that lower hiring costs, and reducing government and business regulations that divert financial resources away from business expansion. It’s not a coincidence that Illinois’ overall poor fiscal health has tracked side-by-side with its struggling economy. Growing the economy and providing opportunity and prosperity for working families is the best and long-term way back to fiscal good health.
Legislation Recently Signed Into Law
As summer comes to a close there is a normal rush of bill signings and new laws, the result of legislative activity during the spring session. Gov. Rauner has signed more than 300 bills into law, including the following measures recently signed:
· SB 1085 – Makes Illinois a full partner in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact between 18 states. The Compact cuts government red tape by allowing physicians to receive expedited licensing approval in any of the participating states.
· SB 1748 – Improves safety and protections for residents of Community Integrated Living Arrangements, commonly known as group homes.
· SB 1811 - Creates the Telehealth Act, authorizing licensed health care professionals in Illinois to practice telehealth (remote monitoring and reporting) services. The services must be limited to the professional’s scope of practice under their license and requires the same standard of care as in-person services.
· SB 2066 – Improves government accountability and transparency by requiring the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to provide a “cost of compliance” estimate in their catalog of state mandates.
· HB 418 – Protects taxpayers from so-called public pension “double-dipping.” Prevents retired police officers from opting into the police pension system a second time, if they return to the force as a police chief or join another municipality’s department.
· HB 524 – Allows local police to collect and dispose of used, expired and unwanted prescription drugs. Currently, they must hold the medications for Drug Enforcement Agency officials pick up. This leads to local communities having to store large amounts of prescription drugs at their expense.
· HB 1952 – Allows fire trucks, with the proper equipment, and trained firefighters to provide advanced life support services when needed.
· HB 2404 – Requires each public university and community college in Illinois to award education credits for prior learning experiences.
· HB 3108 – Increases the amount of money, from $100,000 to $200,000, that communities may borrow from the state’s revolving loan program to help purchase fire trucks and ambulances.