Waiting on school funding reform; agency merger completed

School funding reform bill hanging in limbo
The legislature has been in summer recess for the past couple of weeks. During that time I have taken the opportunity to visit several of our local school boards, and I plan to visit several more in the coming days and weeks. I recently met with the school boards in Rossville, Bismarck, Watseka and Iroquois West to discuss state government and the ongoing issues we face. Obviously, the biggest matter of concern was the question of school funding reform and whether schools will be able to open on time this fall.

Right now, there is a school funding reform bill, Senate Bill 1, which has passed both houses, but still needs some work. On Monday, Governor Rauner announced his attention to issue an amendatory veto of SB 1. This action would make changes to the bill which the House and Senate would need to agree to in order to make the bill law. The legislature could also override the Governor’s amendatory veto and make the bill law without his changes. It would take a majority vote to accept the Governor’s changes, and a three-fifths vote to override the veto.

The main issue of contention is that Senate Bill 1 awards hundreds of millions of dollars to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to bail out its mismanaged pension system before it provides a dime to the other 851 school districts in Illinois. Two other bills; better bills in my opinion; are House Bill 4069 and Senate Bill 1124, which include reforms to the funding system very similar to those in SB 1, but do not include the CPS bailout. While SB 1 has its good points, it would be better if it left out the CPS bailout because that would make more dollars available to be distributed to our local schools through the improved formula.

The Governor proposed removing the CPS bailout from SB 1, and then enacting the new school funding formula. The amended bill, if enacted, would make sure that each and every school district in the state has equitable and adequate funding. A comparison of the funding each school district would receive under the original SB 1 versus the funding it would receive if the amended SB 1 becomes law is available on the state’s website.

The Senate placed a procedural hold on SB 1, so it has not yet been sent to the Governor’s desk for action. If we are to resolve this matter and get a fair, equitable school funding formula in place in time for school to start this fall, the Senate needs to put the politics aside and get this bill moving.

Merger of Historic Preservation, Natural Resources agencies is complete
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced this month the creation of the new Division of Historic Sites within the Department. This new division of DNR encompasses nearly all of the historic sites of the former Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The only exception is Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which will now be its own independent agency.

Illinois historic sites bring in close to 1 million visitors to our state every year. The state’s tax credit program for historic rehabilitation projects generates over a billion dollars in private sector spending. The new division will be responsible for operating Illinois’ state historic sites as well as running the State Historic Preservation Office. Some of these state historic sites in our area include the Metamora Courthouse, David Davis Mansion and the Governor Small Memorial.

Legislature passed 580 bills this year
Since the members of the 100th General Assembly took office on January 11, the House and Senate have passed a total of 580 bills. This represents only a fraction of the many hundreds of bills which are filed each year. Of those, 365 originated in the House and 215 started out in the Senate. Many of these bills passed through the first house and then the second, while others were amended in the second chamber and had to go back to the first for “concurrence” or acceptance of the changes. A bill must pass each house in identical form in order to proceed to the Governor.

Once a bill is sent to the Governor, he then has 60 days to sign the bill, veto it or issue an amendatory veto and send it back to its chamber of origin for approval or rejection of his proposed changes. These 580 bills include large, important pieces of legislation like the budget, but also include small technical changes to state law. The Governor has already acted on some of these bills, but many others are awaiting his action. I will keep you posted throughout the summer as more bills are signed or vetoed.

Time running out for paper applications for professional license renewal
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) has recently been moving toward an online portal which allows those with Illinois professional licenses to apply and renew them electronically. This saves both time and trouble for those who are licensed here in Illinois. IDFPR announced this week that 75% of all professions which require licenses from the state are now able to do so through the online services portal. Accordingly, the Department has announced that it will no longer accept paper applications for license renewal after September 1 for those licenses that are now available through the portal.

The list of professions affected by this deadline includes the following: Advance Practice Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Nurse, Barber, Cosmetologist, Esthetician, Nail Technician, Certified Public Accountant, Massage Therapist, Limited Liability Company, Medical Corporation, Permanent Employee Registration Card, Pharmacy Technician, Professional Service Corporation and Public Accounting Firm.

Using the online portal instead of a paper system is expected to get the state close to $3 million in savings from printing and postage over the next five years. The online portal also reduces processing delays common with a paper system. In total, IDFPR licenses over 1.1 million individuals in more than 200 categories.

Did You Know?
According to the Secretary of State, Illinois has 536 banks, 222 hospitals and 638 public libraries. There are 48,843 physicians licensed in Illinois, 10,710 dentists and 172,939 nurses. Illinois also has 4699 veterinarians. There are 24 coal mines in the state which produce 48.7 million tons of coal in a year.