Friday, April 22, 2016

Alliance Legislative Report (99-43)

LEGISLATURE HITS MIDWAY POINT IN SESSION
The Illinois General Assembly reached the half-way point in the spring legislative session Friday as it was the deadline to pass House Bills out of the House of Representatives and Senate bills out of the Senate. These bills will now move to the opposite chamber and begin the process there. Both the House and Senate will take next week off in observation of Passover. Lawmakers will return to the Capitol on May 3.

The bigger news may be that there was movement on budget issues this week. After a budget stalemate that has lasted the majority of the past fiscal year, a bipartisan group of rank and file members came together to pass SB 2059 (Cullerton, J., D-Chicago) that will provide $600 million earmarked for higher education. While much of the “debate” on the bill was congratulatory, there was also a great deal of concern that this was still not enough for those institutions that rely on this funding. However, this stopgap measure is expected to keep all colleges and universities open through the summer.

In addition to the four-year universities, community colleges are expected to receive about $74 million under SB 2059. Another institution that will be positively impacted by is the Illinois Math and Science Academy.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill.

BILL APPROVED TO FREEZE PROPERTY TAXES

The House of Representatives Thursday approved a bill that will place all units of local government, school districts, and community college districts under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) and permanently set the property tax increase limit at 0%. HB 696 (Franks, D-Woodstock) passed on a vote of 71-31-5 and was sent to the Senate for consideration.

Multiple votes have been taken on tax freeze bills over the past year, but until now they were voted down as Republican members have not supported the measures. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has promoted a property tax freeze as part of his legislative agenda, but combined it with other reforms for units of local government to have increased flexibility. When those additional provisions were not a part of the previous property tax freeze bills, all Republicans had voted no. This time, however, Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the bill even without any other reforms included.

Unlike most of the previous bills considered, this does not have an expiration on how long the freeze will be in effect, so, without legislative revision, it will be 0% permanently. Also, the bill removes the current provision that would allow a county to hold a referendum to be removed from the scope of PTELL. The PTELL law does allow units of local government to go above the cap with referendum approval.

HB 696 exempts from the freeze those units of local government that are home rule (including the City of Chicago). HB 695 (Franks) would have placed all units of local government, including home rule units, under the property tax freeze. That bill was defeated on the House floor on a vote of 56-49-4.

Click here to read the complete Alliance Legislative Report (99-43), including significant proposals to amend the Illinois Constitution, a suggestion about contacting lawmakers, and bill action this week.