Deadline Week in the House Sees Compromise on Higher Ed Funding, Furious Floor Action
The tone for the week in Illinois politics was set early last Sunday morning as Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that lawmakers and Constitutional officers’ pay would now be subject to delay due to the budget impasse.
When asked for comment on the issue by WSIL-TV, I was quoted as saying, “This is probably something that should have happened in January.” Had it happened earlier, who knows where Illinois would be, but for now, I want to reiterate my support for Comptroller Munger’s decision to prioritize payments to social service providers over politicians’ paychecks.
This week is known in Springfield as 3rd Reading Deadline Week. That means that all substantive bills were on a deadline to pass the House by Friday. With so many bills filed this year, and with so much work left to do on higher education funding, school construction funding, and much more, the action in the House was furious. Below are some quick descriptions on critical items that saw action this week:
Voting YES on Higher Education Funding – The State of Illinois has been delinquent in providing funding for SIU, community colleges, and MAP grant recipients since July. But, with the passage of SB 2059 this week, SIU will receive $57 million. The bill also contains nearly $170 million to ensure MAP grant recipients to be able to attend school next fall, and also includes funding to help support community colleges.
An important part of the bill’s passage was the fact that it contained a specifically identified funding mechanism. This has been a demand of mine from the beginning. I have said that any bill that passes without a source to pay for higher-ed spending equates to a broken promise.
After SB 2059 passed the House and Senate on Friday, Comptroller Munger released a statement saying she is prioritizing payments to our higher education community so that money is sent immediately. This week’s action on higher education funding shows that when legislators from both parties work together to find solutions, we can get the job done.
School construction funding bill HB 4232 passed – Last June, I sponsored legislation to free up construction funding to complete Mt. Vernon’s new high school. The freeze on construction funding has been a result of the budget impasse, and has caused some very difficult financial circumstances for affected school districts. HB 4232 makes appropriations from the School Construction Fund and the Capital Development Fund for ongoing school construction and improvements for Fiscal Year 2016. Under the bill, an amount of nearly $6 million would be released to Mt. Vernon Township High School to assist in completing the new high school’s construction.
HJRCA 36 Passes House: Dedicates funds for road improvement – I voted yes this week on a proposed Constitutional Amendment meant to stop the misuse of taxpayer dollars intended for road repair and other transportation infrastructure projects. A bipartisan effort to require those funds only be used for transportation-related purposes was successful this week. When we pay fuel tax, vehicle registration fees, and when our businesses pay taxes and fees for special licenses, stickers, and license plates, we expect that those dollars will be returned to our communities to help maintain and repair our roads and highways.
In the past, the road fund has been used for other projects not related to infrastructure improvements. This measure would amend the Illinois Constitution to say that tax dollars collected via the motor fuel tax, vehicle registration fees, and license taxes will be used exclusively for transportation-related purposes.
|Part Two of Molly’s Law passed the House this week with
Molly’s Law – On Friday, HB 4715 passed with unanimous support in the House.The vote was 107-0.
This bill is the second piece of a package of bills I sponsored that you may now know as Molly’s Law. Earlier this month, I was joined by Larry Young, father of Molly Young, in Springfield to testify on behalf of HB 6083. That first piece of Molly’s Law changes the statute of limitations for filing wrongful death lawsuits from 2 to 5 years in cases of violently caused deaths.
HB 4715, which passed on Friday, changes the Freedom of Information Act statute to increase the fine from a maximum fine of $5,000 to a maximum fine of $10,000 when a public entity refuses to comply with a court order to release documents under FOIA. It also adds a $1,000 fine per day for every violation that occurs after 30 days when a public entity is in non-compliance with a court order.
The House will return to Springfield on May 3rd. We have much work to do.
My office in Mt. Vernon is staffed Monday through Friday and my office in Murphysboro is staffed Monday through Thursday, each from 8:30 to 4:00 PM. You can find me on Facebook to keep up with my travels throughout the district. You can email me directly at email@example.com or send me a message through the contact form on my website at www.repbryant.com
Your opinions on important topics facing the State of Illinois are invaluable to me. Keep them coming!