Legislation to ensure schools open on time, progress on budget talks?

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House Republicans file legislation to ensure schools open during ongoing budget stalemate
One year ago, Illinois public schools and their pupils were spared the impact of the budget impasses when the Governor signed legislation that appropriated full funding for Illinois public schools in the 2015-16 school year. The enactment of a K-12 budget, while leaving the rest of Illinois state government to try to operate without a budget, while deeply flawed, did protect schoolchildren, their parents, and educators from the worst consequences of the current budget impasse for one year.  However, the 2015-16 school year is over and a new fiscal year will soon begin.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, with the support of many members of the House Republican caucus, has responded to the current stalemate by filing a bill to fully fund K-12 education in Illinois for FY2017. This strategy follows the one adopted last year. HB 6583 responds to discussions among many House members of both parties who have called for leaving schools out of the current budget crisis. The measure responds to changes in school attendance, school district equalized assessed values (EAVs), and school district maintenance of efforts. HB 6583 includes a $104.8 million “hold harmless” provision to ensure that all Illinois public school districts will receive at least 100% of their gross prorated 2015-16 General State Aid school aid in FY17.

The Durkin measure parallels the bill which was enacted last year. Enacting HB 6583 will mean that Illinois schoolchildren and their families can look forward with certainty to a school year starting in the fall.

House cancels this week’s scheduled session day
The House was scheduled to meet on Wednesday June 8, but on Tuesday we learned that the session day had been cancelled. The Speaker’s office; which sets the schedule for the House; told members that the bipartisan working groups which have been meeting to find a solution to the budget standoff were making progress and needed more time to continue their discussions without interruption. Accordingly, the session day was cancelled.

The House is next scheduled to meet on Wednesday June 15. I hope that this is a sign of real progress toward a budget agreement. Too much time has already gone by without one.

Bill for PBL school bonds passes both Houses

The Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board is looking at options for renovating or replacing a 90-year-old elementary school building. Like many smaller districts in rural Illinois, PBL would need to issue bonds to cover the cost of the project. Issuing bonds would require the consent of the voters of the school district.

Senator Jason Barickman and I introduced legislation which would let the school district put a question on the ballot as early as this fall asking local voters if they would approve the issuance of these bonds to pay for construction. Our bill was folded into a larger bill, Senate Bill 2469, which passed both the Senate and House this spring. If signed by the Governor, the school board would then have the option of requesting approval from the voters for the issuance of the bonds, so long as they comply with certain conditions spelled out in the bill.

Illinois State Museum set to reopen on July 2nd; admission to be charged
After months of work and discussions to make sure the State Museum opens its doors, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) announced that they plan to reopen the Illinois State Museum on July 2.

According to the IDNR announcement, a proposal to charge a small admission fee for adults at the museum near the Capitol will be considered and hopefully approved at the June 14th meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). Children under 18 will continue to be admitted free.  The approval of the adult admission fee will help fund museum operations and pave the way for the July relaunch.

The Museum has been closed since last fall.

Award for Conservative Excellence
I was honored this spring to receive the American Conservative Union’s Award of Conservative Excellence. The 2015 voting record of each member of the General Assembly was evaluated by the ACU, and those with the highest scores were recognized with this award. The ACU looked at fourteen specific votes on issues such as government spending, the Second Amendment and pro-life votes and then made their assessment of each member’s record.

Did You Know?
June 16 is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s famous “House Divided” speech in 1858. Lincoln spoke at the statehouse; now known as the Old State Capitol; in Springfield and laid out his prediction for where the nation was heading with regards to the slavery question. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln said. “I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”