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Senator Tom Johnson 5/13 Newsletter

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  • Senate Democrats Push Through Budget
  • Legislation Advanced by Senate Committees

Senate Democrats push through budget - 5/13/2011


     On Friday, Senate Democrats brought their fiscal year 2012 budget to the Senate floor to be voted on. Also this week, Caterpillar's CEO spoke out about the importance of workers’ compensation reform to Illinois’ jobs creators, while in fiscal news State Sen. Tom Johnson (R- West Chicago) said budget measures are being considered by House and Senate lawmakers and the Civic Federation cautioned Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget plan would make the state’s financial condition worse.


     On Friday, May 13th Senate Democrats presented their budget plan for the 2012 fiscal year. Senate Republicans felt disappointment and frustration over the plan, having hoped for a more transparent, open process with this year’s budget.


     The Democrats proposal came in the form of a collection of amendments instead of a full and comprehensive budget plan, and gave no consideration for the long-range financial health of the state. The plan substantially increases spending over last year, creates new spending programs, and borrows to pay the bills. More importantly, the budget does nothing to ensure that the 67 percent income tax increase will be allowed to expire as had been promised it would.


     The Senate Republican Caucus had introduced a plan that included specific ideas for cutting the budget and would have allowed the 67 percent income tax increase to expire. Senate Democrats have clearly shown that they do not support Republican efforts to pass meaningful worker’s compensation reforms, and to cap spending to help improve the State’s financial outlook.


     In the Illinois House, lawmakers have begun sending their budget recommendations to the floor for debate, aiming for a budget document that is approximately $1 billion less than proposals being floated by Quinn and Senate Democrats. On May 12, House legislators approved reductions to education spending, while a number of other cuts were made to smaller state agencies.


     Notably, House legislators confirmed that no budget dollars have been allocated for union raises negotiated by Quinn and union leaders. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) labor union is being urged to either forego wage increases or cut jobs, sacrifices that many others in state government have been forced to make.


     Meanwhile, workers’ compensation continues to draw attention in Illinois. The momentum to pass reform has prompted the CEO of Caterpillar to call on his fellow business leaders to put pressure on their local legislators.


     Quoted in a story in Crain's Chicago Business, Doug Oberhelman, head of Peoria-based Caterpillar, pointed out that "workman's compensation is being discussed right now, today and tomorrow night." According to the article, Oberhelman indicated workers' compensation rates in Illinois are seven times as high as rates in neighboring Indiana.


     In order to be meaningful, key components of workers' compensation reforms should include requirements that injuries are actually the result of the job and the state should adopt clear medical standards for injuries, Oberhelman told the Tooling and Manufacturing Association in a meeting May 9 in Hoffman Estates. Those and other reforms were included in major legislation that came before the Senate last month. That measure (SB 1349) failed when most Senate Democrats voted "present" rather than take a stand on the issue.


     Viewing reforms as critical to improving the state's jobs climate, Senate Republicans have made workers’ compensation a top priority this session. Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno has been personally involved in negotiations with the Governor and other legislative leaders. Senate GOP lawmakers urge employers to keep up the pressure for reform, asking job creators to continue communicating with state lawmakers and Gov. Quinn to take advantage of the opportunity for reform.


     In other news, overestimated revenues and a $1.45 billion budget gap add up to a state budget plan that the Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability says is unbalanced by $2.4 billion.


     The Federation report released May 9 asserts that Quinn’s budget proposal erroneously includes $976 million that is already dedicated to refund state income taxes. The Governor’s overestimation, coupled with his $1.45 billion in recommended spending increases, result in what the Civic Federation says would be a $2.4 billion shortfall.


     Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, was quoted in a statement saying, “Alarmingly, even though the State raised income taxes significantly this year, the new revenues would not be enough to support the Governor’s budget.”


     The Civic Federation also criticized Quinn’s proposal to borrow almost $9 billion, noting that the Governor’s borrowing plan would cost taxpayers up to $4 billion in interest over 15 years. Rejecting increased spending and borrowing to pay the state’s bills, the report emphasized that “the state must stop pushing its current financial problems into the future” and “rely on budgetary restraint to honor its commitments to vendors, local governments and taxpayers.”


     Finally, as the deadline approaches for lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional and legislative districts, advocacy groups, think-tanks and editorial writers are speaking out and making recommendations.


     Several organizations representing minority voters have offered proposals, and recently the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois unveiled redistricting maps generated entirely by computer. The Institute indicated it produced the maps to demonstrate the sophistication of existing computer technology and to explore alternatives that could provide a more transparent and equitable map.


     According to the Institute, "The resulting computer-generated map shows that district boundaries can be more compact while increasing representation of minority populations in the state" and "fulfills the rules of redistricting without political gerrymandering."


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Some of the legislation advanced by Senate committees this week includes:



Bus Driver Drug Test (HB 147):
Requires that when a test for drugs or alcohol is performed on a school bus driver and the test finds that the driver has alcohol or illegal drugs in their system, the results must be reported to the Secretary of State within 48 hours.


Cancer Treatment (HB 1825):
Requires insurance plans that provide coverage for oral cancer medications and intravenous cancer medications to cover oral medications at the same benefit cost as intravenous medications.


Charter Schools (HB 190):
Designates at least five of Chicago’s charter schools must be devoted exclusively to students from low-performing or overcrowded schools in the City, and gives them permissions to restrict admission for this purpose.


Child Pornography (HB 3283):
Enhances the penalty for making or possessing child pornography films and video.


Education Changes (HB 3022):
Makes a number of substantive and technical changes in the school code, including establishing that state interventions for failing schools be subject to appropriation; requires student teachers to be fingerprinted and checked on the statewide sex offender database before teaching in a nonpublic school; requires criminal background checks on school employees also include checking the statewide Child Murder and Violent Offender Against Youth database; mandates student teachers in public schools must submit to a state and FBI fingerprint-based criminal background check; and deletes several of the Illinois State Board of Education’s reports to the General Assembly.


EPA Permit Streamline (HB 1297):
Requires the Environmental Protection Agency to make all permit applications available online within two years, to streamline the application process and reduce the permit backlog.


Expelled Students (HB 2086):
States that an expelled or suspended pupil may be immediately transferred to an alternative program, unless there is a threat to the safety of students or staff in the alternative program, and stipulates that a pupil must not be denied transfer because of the expulsion.


Legislative Scholarship (HB 1353):
Prohibits relatives of a legislator from eligibility to receive that lawmaker’s General Assembly Tuition Waiver.


Nurse Licensure Compact (SB 1305):
Adopts the Nurse Licensure Compact in Illinois to allow Illinois to participate in a comprehensive, national database that is intended to facilitate the sharing of nursing licensure, investigative and disciplinary action information.


Military Fee Exemption (HB 3172):
Eliminates the fees registration fee, for U.S. Marine Corps, Paratrooper, Korean Service, Iraq Campaign, Afghanistan Campaign, U.S. Navy, Distinguished Flying Cross, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Women Veteran special license plates.


Murder Database (HB 263):
Creates a Statewide First Degree Murderer Database for persons convicted of first degree murder who have been released from a penal institution or other facility after the completion of their sentence. Offenders must register for a period of 10 years following release.


Open Meetings (HB 3131):
Requires a public body that is holding a meeting to make a public notice available for the entire 48 hours preceding the meeting and also provide a sufficiently descriptive meeting agenda.


Public Private Partnership for Transportation (HB 1091):
Authorizes a transportation agency to enter into a public private partnership with one or more private entities to develop, finance, and operate any part of one or more transportation projects.


Student Athlete (HB 1197):
Requires that a student athlete with a suspected concussion must receive clearance from a physician, advanced nurse, or physician's assistant before he or she may return to play.


University Reporting (HB 1079):
Requires each state university to report annually to IBHE the following: programs of instruction that have been terminated, dissolved, reduced, or consolidated; all programs of instruction, research, or public service that exhibit a trend of low performance in enrollments and degree completions, and high expense per degree; tuition increases for the upcoming academic year; and any cost-saving measures undertaken during the previous fiscal year.


Vaccinations (HB 1707):
Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to publish on its Web site information about the benefits of immunization against vaccine preventable diseases, including influenza and pertussis, and the information must include incidence and severity of diseases, availability of vaccines, and the importance of immunizing children and those in frequent close contacts with children.

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