After another week of deliberations concerning the state budget and intensifying discussion about the elements of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda,” the Illinois Senate and House adjourned last Thursday. Both chambers cancelled session scheduled for Friday. Both chambers are scheduled to reconvene May 12th.
Following a House change, the deadline in both chambers for committee consideration of bills originating in the opposite chamber is now May 15. Three weeks remain until May 31, the scheduled end of the spring session.
The University of Illinois continues to work on bills that it opposes and supports. Links to all of the bills being tracked this session and a State Legislative Report Highlights are below. These are bills that the Office of Governmental Relations (OGR) is working on and/or keeping a close eye on for movement. OGR is also working on a number of amendments, and have already stopped a number of bills that are not helpful to the University from moving forward.
Again, the support and assistance from the subject matter experts on our campuses is appreciated. If you have any questions on a specific piece of legislation, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Office of Governmental Relations for more information.
State Legislative Report Highlights
State Relations Weekly Legislation Report
U of I Alumni and Board of Trustees Day in the Capitol
Nearly 150 alumni from the three campuses joined forces with the U of I Board of Trustees to participate in University of Illinois Day in Springfield on May 7th. This annual event brings alumni together to deliver a unified message to lawmakers on behalf of the U of I. As the University faces a proposed 31.5% ($209 million) budget cut, our message to legislators is more important now than ever. University of Illinois President Robert Easter and Alumni Association President & CEO Loren Taylor welcomed and thanked the students, alumni, and trustees for their participation.
Illinois Connection, the grassroots advocacy network at U of I that coordinated advocacy day, scheduled meetings for alumni with state senators and representatives from their hometown districts. Alumni met with their legislators as well as those from other districts. They voiced concerns about how reduced funding for the University of Illinois would threaten the quality of education, decrease campus excellence, drive away current faculty and provide less incentive for future hires, deplete the state’s talent pipeline, and negatively impact the overall student experience. The bottom line is that the University of Illinois wants to partner with the state during this fiscal crisis, but the institution cannot bear the burden of these cuts.
Thanks to everyone who participated in U of I Day 2015! The alumni voice played a significant role in the Capitol and our efforts did not go unnoticed. It is vital that alumni and other friends of the U of I continue to spread the message about how the University impacts the entire state and why these cuts will be detrimental to the university’s success and its long-term stability. Please engage in our social media campaign (#UIllinoisLobbyDay and #ImpactUIllinois) to help tell the story.
The Illinois House of Representatives Honors President Easter
On Thursday, the Illinois House of Representatives passed HR363 honoring and congratulating President Robert Easter on his retirement and thanking him for his service to the University of Illinois. Rep. Sandack and Rep. Zalewski introduced the resolution and several lawmakers spoke in support of President Easter and all he has done for the University of Illinois.
The President's Executive Leadership Program Visits Springfield
On Tuesday, May 5, 2015, the President's Executive Leadership Program (PELP) visited the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield. The group met with senior staff from all four caucuses to discuss state government and the role of the University of Illinois.
Pictured above (First row) Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre, Terri Weaver (UIC), Michael DeLorenzo (UIUC), Hanfu Mi (UIS), Menah Pratt-Clarke (UIUC), Barbara Wilson (UIUC), Andreas Cangellairs (UIUC), Kouros Mohammadian (UIC). (Second row) President Robert Easter, Michael Redding (UIC), Bo Fernhall (UIC), Abbas Bennamoun (UIUC), Gay Miller (UIUC), Gerard Joseph (UIS), James Oliver (UA), and Peter Nelson (UIC).
State's Highest Court Strikes Down Pension Overhaul
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Friday in a unanimous decision that a 2013 law intended to reduce the state’s unfunded pension liability was unconstitutional. The state’s five public pension systems collectively have unfunded liability estimated at more than $100 billion, and the law at issue was geared to help close that hole by cutting certain benefits promised to workers and retirees.
The high court’s opinion that lawmakers cannot cut those benefits as a means to reduce the unfunded liability has significant consequences for future state budgeting. Had the 2013 law survived the court’s scrutiny, smaller payments to the retirement systems – resulting from the reduced liability – would have made available funds for other programs and services.
In defending the law, attorneys for the state argued that Illinois’ ongoing budget and economic crisis justified the use of emergency “police powers” permitting the state to curtail the promised pension benefits. Supreme Court justices, in an opinion written by Justice Lloyd Karmeier, rejected that argument
In Illinois, public pension benefits are protected under the state’s Constitution. The pension protection clause provides: “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”
Gov. Rauner’s budget plan for FY 2016, which begins July 1, proposed that the state could realize more than $2 billion in savings by moving existing state workers into a diminished retirement plan, a so-called Tier III level that would preserve benefits already earned and establish a 401(k)-style plan for workers’ future benefits. Since 2011, new state employees have been placed in a Tier II system that provides reduced benefits and requires workers to contribute more of their salaries. It appears that despite the high court’s guidance the governor plans to press forward with a Tier III plan for current employees and a proposed constitutional amendment.
On Wednesday, May 13, the House Personnel and Pensions Committee has scheduled a subject-matter hearing concerning “Governor’s Pension Reform.” The hearing is planned for 3 p.m. in Room 114 of the Capitol.
Joint Senate Hearing Concerning Analysis of Governor's Budget Plans
The Senate’s two appropriations committees will hold a joint hearing concerning Gov. Rauner’s FY 2016 budget plans on Thursday, May 14. Specifically, the subject-matter hearing will focus on an analysis of the governor’s proposed operating and capital budgets by the Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois' Fiscal Sustainability. The Civic Federation, based in Chicago, is a research organization focused on Illinois government finance.
"Turnaround Agenda" Working Groups
The governor’s working groups continued to meet behind closed doors with Democratic and Republican members of the legislature to discuss components of his “Turnaround Agenda.” On Friday, following the Supreme Court’s decision, the Senate Democrats reportedly appointed Sen. Daniel Biss (D-9/Evanston) to the “pension reform” working group. So long as the pension case had been pending before the high court, the Senate Democrats had refused to send a delegate to that group.
Though legislators and others at the Capitol are preparing for the possibility of session continuing beyond the May 31 deadline, Gov. Rauner told the media last week he remains “cautiously optimistic we can get things done by May 31.”
2015 State Relations' Events, Save the Date
- May 13th U of I Caucus Breakfast
- May 19th & 20th 4-H in the Capitol
- May 31st Adjourn
99th General Assembly 2015 Legislative Calendar
UI State Relations on Facebook and Twitter
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