Legislative Update: July 7, 2016

In the final hours of Fiscal Year 2016, Republican and Democrat lawmakers came together and approved a package of bills that funds K-12 education at record-high levels for all of FY17, provides for six months of funding for all other key budget areas, and freezes lawmaker pay.

SB 2047, approved in a 105-4 vote, includes:
  • Six-month bridge funding
    • $1 billion for higher education, including Monetary Assistance Program grants (on top of the $600 million already approved for higher education through a stopgap measure in the spring)
    • $729 million for critical State government operations (IL Department of Transportation, mental health centers, prisons, veterans homes)
    • $701 million for critical human services not currently paid through consent decrees or court orders
    • $8.4 billion to allow Illinois to take full advantage of matching federal funds
    • $53.7 billion for the continuation of road/bridge projects, school construction grants and local water/sewer improvements, debt service payments and lottery payouts
  • The largest 12-month allocation toward K-12 education in Illinois history, including per-pupil funding increases for all of the school districts headquartered in the 48th District.
This is not a perfect plan. In fact, there are parts of this comprehensive agreement that I do not like. However, this was a negotiation, and we met in the middle to allow every school in Illinois to open on time in the fall, to provide bridge funding to the charitable agencies that serve Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens, and to freeze pay for lawmakers.

In particular, K-12 education will be funded in FY17 at the highest level in our state’s history. For the first time in seven years, the “funding formula” will not be prorated. This means that each of our schoolchildren will receive 100% of the funds promised to them under state law. Most importantly, this measure removes children from the crossfire of the budget and reform negotiations, which Democrat legislative leaders have put on hold until after the November elections.

Lawmakers will now return to their home districts until after the election. Per the House calendar, we will return to Springfield on November 15 for the Fall Veto Session. While I don’t agree with going home without a full-year budget and necessary reform, we’ve been promised that the budget and reform working groups will continue to meet and work toward a full-year balanced budget that provides for all Illinois services through June 30, 2017.

District 48 Schools to Receive Record-High Funding in FY17
In addition to ensuring that every Illinois School District to open on time in the fall, with record-high levels of funding, every District 48 School District will see an increase in funding for the 2016-2017 school year. The chart below shows an estimate of how each of the school districts headquartered in our District will benefit:
Governor Signs Enhancement to Open Meetings Act to Help Reform Efforts
I served as Chief House Co-Sponsor for a new State law that will require that any and all available minutes and verbatim recordings of meetings closed to the public be made available to a elected officials on a public body. The new law grants a level playing field to access to confidential board-of-directors information to all members of the body’s board of directors. This is significant when a newly chosen member or members have been chosen as part of a reform effort aimed at questionable or improper actions affiliated with the previous board. There are some places in our state where elected officials are being denied access to these records!

HB 4630 was approved unanimously by both houses of the General Assembly this spring. It was inspired by bad actions by several local government units to withhold records from reform members of local government boards—both in the Chicagoland area and in other parts of the state. Governor Rauner signed the bill into law on Thursday, June 30 as P.A. 99-515.