Rep. Tom Demmer files government reform package. House Republican Conference Chairman Tom Demmer has filed a package of bills and constitutional amendments designed to fix a broken state government system. The Dixon Republican collectively calls the proposed reforms the Get Government Back on Track package.
“It’s time for us to modernize the House and Senate. The current system is a relic of the backroom deals and power grabs of years gone by. If we want a different result, we have to build a different system,” said Rep. Demmer.
Demmer’s government reform package would do six things:
Combine the office of Illinois State Comptroller and Illinois State Treasurer into one office with consolidated responsibilities (HJRCA 25).
House committees meet, begin to advance bills. House members filed 3,921 bills in January and February 2017. Under the “First Reading” deadline, bills filed by mid-February may be considered in a House committee in the 2017 spring session. House bills filed after Friday, February 10 cannot be considered this spring as independent, free-standing pieces of legislation.
Following the bill introduction deadline, the House schedule has set aside six weeks of session time in February and March for committee action. During this six-week period, House committees will hold hearings, listen to testimony from witnesses, and hold votes on bills to be advanced to the House floor for further discussion and debate. In spring 2017, the House has organized 57 permanent and special committees to hear bills and conduct legislative action. Many of these committees began to meet this week.
Governor Rauner delivers budget address to General Assembly. Speaking to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate on Wednesday, Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his annual Budget Address, outlining his priorities and introducing his third balanced budget in as many years to be considered by lawmakers.
Saying “We must think anew and act anew,” the Governor presented a balanced budget that focuses on the future. It invests in Illinois’ future with record funding for education, transforms our pension system, and makes structural changes to improve our jobs climate.
At the request of senators from both parties, Governor Rauner outlined his parameters to the General Assembly on the Senate’s “grand bargain” compromise. He made it clear that the final product must be a good deal for taxpayers and job creators. Rauner laid the foundation for balanced budgets for years to come, controlling spending so government lives within its means, and enacting real spending reductions with meaningful pension reform.
Governor Rauner once again said he would consider new revenue if it accompanies changes to grow the economy. He asked legislators if they make an income tax increase permanent, the property tax freeze must also be permanent. Rauner also reminded the legislature that term limits are important to restoring confidence in state government and workers’ compensation reform is critical to attracting job creators to Illinois.
Deadline this week to file new House bills for 2017 spring session. As of Friday, February 10, 3,826 House bills had been filed by members of both parties. After the bill filing deadline, House committees will have six weeks to look at these measures and make determinations on which of them to send to the House floor for full consideration and debate. In some cases, the bills will be amended in committee; a bill is often changed and improved between when it is filed and when it is approved by both houses and signed into law. The deadline for House committee action will be March 31.
House Republicans respond to Chicago Tribune investigative report with package of House bills. The legislative package, numbered HB 737 through HB 742, would require the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to sharply increase its oversight and monitoring of Illinois’ troubled system of group homes for persons with developmental disabilities. While many homes in this class provide good-quality care and residential services to their clients, investigative reporters for Chicago’s largest newspaper found that some do not. Serious cases of patient neglect were uncovered. The bills are meant to create a client-centered process when a DD group home gets its care license revoked.
The Chicago Tribune revelations were underlined when the state attempted to move 45 patients from one particular network of group homes (Disability Services of Illinois) to new locations that would provide a different quality of care. The process of legally moving these clients from one location to another is legally time-consuming and cumbersome, and while the moving process was taking place the first network of homes dispersed the patients. The Department of Human Services came under criticism when they were unable to share information to help law enforcement search for the missing Illinois residents, who were all eventually found and successfully relocated. HB 740, sponsored by Deputy Republican Leader Patti Bellock, will require the safe and secure storage of contact information and location information so that Illinois never again loses track of those of our residents who need help the most. Other bills in the reform package were sponsored by Rep. Terri Bryant and Rep. Charles Meier.
Blue-ribbon commission announces consensus on what a new school funding formula should look like. State aid to schools is one of the largest appropriations of Illinois’ state budget. The complex formula, which is set forth in Illinois statute and administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), includes a wide variety of tweaks and variables. Money that is not provided by federal or State aid must be brought in from property tax levies and concerns about the Illinois school funding formula are increasingly intertwined with concerns about Illinois property taxes and tax rates.
In July 2016, Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders created the bipartisan, bicameral Illinois School Funding Reform Commission. The 25 members of the Commission were asked to revamp Illinois’ education funding formula to provide a more equitable and adequately funded system for all students. The Commission met for a final time on Wednesday, February 1 to finalize a report to submit to the Governor and General Assembly. The final report provides a framework on how to move forward in establishing an equitable school funding formula. It is the hope of the Commission that the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office can work together to put this framework into legislation to create a new, more equitable and adequate funding system for FY18.
The State of Illinois currently funds 26% of the total cost of Illinois primary and secondary education. It is the Commission’s hope that in the future, the State can be the primary funding source of education. In order to get to that level of funding, the Commission’s framework points to individual “adequacy targets” for each district based on the district’s individual needs, including student enrollment, teacher salaries, low-income students, and English language learners among other factors. This target will help districts and local residents understand how much a school must spend to provide an adequate and equitable education to each student. In addition, the Commission also agreed that any new school funding formula must provide transparency when it comes to local dollars being spent on education in hopes of lessening the State’s reliance on property taxes to fund education.
In its report, the Reform Commission announced that they have reached a consensus on what a new school funding formula framework would look like. The new framework is built upon the idea of “adequacy targets” to be met by schools and school districts; a school district’s eligibility for aid will be partly tied to evidence that one or more of their schools have fallen short of adequacy targets and that, at the same time, the school is making progress toward meeting these targets. The goal of this new paradigm is to concentrate aid on vulnerable students while not, at the same time, rewarding schools and school districts that sit on their hands and maintain a perpetual state of poor performance and outcomes.