Legislative Update: May 19, 2016

As we approach our spring session adjournment date of May 31, legislators are giving a final push to bills they would like to pass this year. Just in the past few weeks, I’ve passed three more bills, which now head to the Governor’s desk for his consideration, including the following: 
SB 2286: Expands current human trafficking laws by requiring hotline information to be posted at hotels and motels in areas where employees will readily see it
SB 2512: Assists the courts with temporary guardianship or custody placement of youth by requiring that a list of all relatives that could be willing to care for a child be provided during placement hearings
SB 2524: Amends the Illinois Identification Card Act to remove the current $10 fee for a first state identification card for wards of the state who are between the ages of 16-21

I’ve still got a few more bills pending in the House (and three awaiting action in the Senate). Next Friday, May 27 is the deadline for passage of all pending bills, with May 31 being the final deadline for any concurrences (to reconcile differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of bills).

Newest Education Funding Reform an Attack on DuPage Schools
For the third year in a row, a bill that seeks to strip money away from suburban school districts and channel that money toward Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is making its way through the legislative process in Springfield. Senate Bill 231 was approved by a narrow margin in the Illinois Senate and has been assigned to the House Executive Committee for a hearing. If approved by the full House and signed into law, every District 48 school district would lose state funding.
While some portions of SB 231 are similar to last year’s SB 01 and SB 16 from 2014, this new bill also includes a massive bailout for CPS to the tune of $175 million in additional funding and $205 million to rescue a failing pension system for CPS teachers. Keep in mind, the new $380 million is on top of the $367 million in special CPS-specific grants that Chicago takes in.

This latest bill also offers an illusory $241 million “Adequacy Grant” that would be distributed to school districts that are highly taxed but are still funded at a level the bill sponsor deems as “inadequate.” The problem is, there is no identified revenue source for this adequacy grant money. Because the bill relies on phantom money to fund grants, the first two columns on the above chart are a more realistic impact of his bill if approved. Columns three and four chart funding changes IF the adequacy grant materializes.

SB 231 would further drive up our local property taxes, and I will fight this blatant attack on suburban taxpayers, who have heavily invested in their local schools.

More Cracks in the Walls of “Madiganistan”
Last Thursday, members of the House and Senate reached a bipartisan agreement on a bill that would send $700 million in emergency, stopgap funding to human service charities that deliver critical services to our most disadvantaged citizens. These social service charities serve the most vulnerable people in our communities, and do so better and cheaper than the state could itself. They have suffered gravely due to the budget stalemate in Springfield.

While this emergency bill is not perfect, it is fully funded, through an existing fund dedicated for human services. Just like we were able to do a few weeks ago when we sent $600 million in available funds to our institutions of higher learning, rank and file Democrats pressed their leadership to allow a bill to the floor that doesn’t spend money the state doesn’t have and can’t afford. If this trend continues, we have a solid chance of getting a balanced budget in the near future.

Students Celebrate Technology Day in Springfield
I always enjoy visiting with students from the 48th District when they travel to Springfield. While lawmakers are accustomed to seeing busloads of students touring the capitol, the Lincoln Museum, and other historic sites, last week, the tables were turned, and students provided lawmakers and other Capitol visitors with a lesson in the importance of technology, and the vital role it plays in students’ educational experiences.

300 students from more than 100 schools had projects on display on the first floor of the Capitol in honor of Technology Day. Students from schools located in IL House 
District 48 were part of the event. Groups from Sacred Heart Catholic School in Lombard and Lowell Elementary School in Wheaton did a wonderful job highlighting the importance of technology in learning through their innovative and creative displays. I enjoyed talking with these bright students and was impressed by their projects.

Madigan Allies Quick to File Lawsuit Against Citizen-Led Fair Maps Proposal
A citizen-initiated measure continued to move forward last week to change the way the State draws legislative maps to elect future members of the Illinois House and Senate. Circulators of petitions for the Independent Map Amendment turned in 65,000 pages of voter petition signatures to the Illinois State Board of Elections to get a “Fair Map” amendment on the Illinois ballot in November. If the signatures and amendment are accepted by the State Board of Elections and the courts, Illinois voters will face a ballot question on whether to amend the state Constitution. The amendment, if adopted, will create an independent commission to draw future district maps for Illinois legislators. The next mapmaking cycle will follow release of the numbers generated by the 2020 census.

Litigation against the Independent Map Amendment was filed by allies of Democratic Party Chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan immediately after these petitions were turned in. Challenges to the amendment can question either the wording of the amendment, the signatures turned in to qualify the amendment for the November 2016 ballot, or both. Independent Map Amendment, an Illinois citizens’ organization, believes it has gathered enough signatures and that it has written a legally valid amendment that will withstand court scrutiny. Constitutional amendments, to be adopted by the voters, must get either a simple majority of the entire voting electorate or a special three-fifths majority of those voting on the question. The Independent Map Amendment would supersede the current Illinois law that allows these key maps to be drawn by politicians and well-paid political consultants.

Illinois One Step Closer to Full Compliance with Federal REAL ID Mandate
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that his office is upgrading security features to the Driver’s License/ID card design and expanding the central issuance process for driver’s licenses and ID cards to all applicants. With implementation of these changes, Illinois has moved closer to achieving full REAL ID compliance, which is a federal mandate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

By the end of July, applicants visiting Driver Services facilities will no longer be issued a new permanent DL/ID card at the end of the application process. Instead, they will leave the facility with a temporary secure paper driver’s license, which is valid for 45 days and will serve as their DL/ID for driving purposes and proof of identification. The temporary, secure paper driver’s license or ID card will contain a photo and the basic information that appears on the permanent driver’s license or ID card. In addition, the facility employee will return the old DL/ID card back to the applicant after punching a hole in it.

After fraud checks have been conducted to ensure the applicant’s identity, a higher quality, more secure DL/ID will be printed and sent via U.S. mail within 15 business days to the applicant’s address.

For purposes of air travel, DHS states that it will accept the temporary document in conjunction with the old DL/ID to board an aircraft until the permanent card arrives in the mail.

The transition to central issuance will take place in phases. First, beginning this week, Safe Driver Renewal applicants will receive by mail their new driver’s license with the upgraded security features. These motorists opted for and expect to receive their driver’s license via mail. Second, through a gradual rollout, Driver Services facilities throughout the state will implement central issuance using the newly designed card. By the end of July, all Driver Services facilities will have transitioned to central issuance.

While the driver’s license and ID card upgrades are being implemented, there will be more than one valid driver’s license/ID card until the old design format is phased out. Fees will remained unchanged.