My office will be closed next Monday for Memorial Day. Spring session is scheduled to conclude at next Tuesday, but it remains to be seen whether that will be the case, or if like last year, we will remain in session throughout the summer.
New State IDs
In an effort to comply with new federal standards resulting from the REAL ID Act of 2005, Secretary of State Jesse White announced changes to Illinois State ID’s and driver’s licenses. These new changes include security features that will help protect citizens from fraud and identity theft. With these changes we do not fully comply with the federal law, but we are a significant step closer. Click here for more information on the changes being implemented and what you need to know.
Unions Rally in Springfield
On Wednesday, several state labor groups organized a few thousand people to descend upon the capital to rally for a recently vetoed labor bill and other labor wage bills, which were voted on later that day.
Governor Rauner vetoed House Bill 580, which is identical to Senate Bill 1229 (vetoed last fall) and impacts the negotiations between the Governor and AFSCME, the State’s largest public union. The legislation would remove the ability of the parties to continue to negotiate an agreeable contract by placing the terms in the hands of an unelected arbitrator. This could potentially impose billions of dollars in new costs on to taxpayers without any involvement from the very elected representatives who are purposely meant to be a part of the collective bargaining process. Over the past year the majority party in the House and Senate have made a point of legislating to permanently change state practices and processes’ simply because they are not happy with the current democratically elected leader of the State.
Meanwhile, Governor Rauner reached another labor agreement last week. The union in question is very small, representing teachers at the IL school for the deaf, but they agreed to many of the same cost saving contract elements that the Governor has been seeking in negotiations with AFSCME including a 4 year wage freeze and a new incentive program for employees who implement cost saving measures or exceed standards.This latest agreement makes 18 unions that have agreed to new contract terms with Governor Rauner and the State.
House Votes to Spend More Money
The House has yet to adopt a revenue estimate or budget, but that has not stopped it from blindly approving spending authorization. Without available revenue the House is simply adding to our list of unpaid bills that costs the state hundreds of millions in interest charges.
House Democrats advanced four pieces of legislation last week that would raise wages for certain state workers to $15 per hour. The bills in total are estimated to cost taxpayers around $1.5 billion. The bills would mandate wages for home health care workers, childcare providers, and those that work with the disabled. It would codify in to law provisions of current collective bargaining agreements between workers and the State.
While those that care for the state’s most vulnerable deserve fair and decent compensation, this legislation is the wrong way to go about it. Illinois does not legislate hourly rates for any other state employees. While I want to see raises for these workers, I voted against these attempts to circumvent the collective bargaining process that could potentially set a precedent and open the floodgates for other state worker’s seeking raises.
Budget Process Looks Grim
State Leaders met for the first time in months last week. The leaders agreed to deputize rank and file lawmaker working groups to discuss specific issues relevant to an agreement. After the meeting, all parties appeared optimistic that common ground could be found. Later that day, Speaker Madigan quelled such hopes when he abruptly introduced a $227 million dollar MAP grant appropriation bill not tied to any available revenue source. Speaker Madigan’s bill is tied to an already overextended fund, GRF, which has a bill backlog of $7.15 billion. This is just more of the same political games we have seen from him over the past year.
The Speaker controls the budget process and as in years past, this year he has not let the House Appropriations committees do their jobs and craft a balanced budget that sets revenues and spending priorities. That doesn’t mean that we won’t see a budget this week, it just means that what we will most likely only be seeing a budget that comes directly from his office.