Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Alliance Legislative Report (100-36)

TIME IS TICKING ON VETO OF SB 1

If SB 1 is to have any life at all, the Illinois Senate must take action on Governor Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto by Wednesday, Aug. 16. Though there has been no official call for senators to reconvene, the Senate Democrat website indicates that the Senate will return to the Capitol on Sunday afternoon.

The Senate
The governor issued his amendatory veto of SB 1 on Aug. 1 and the clock starting running at that time. The Senate has 15 days to entertain a motion on the matter – either to accept the changes in the amendatory veto or to override the veto. No motion has yet been filed. It would take a 3/5 vote of the Senate to approve either of the motions. If either motion fails, or if no action is taken on the veto, SB 1 would die. If a motion did receive the prerequisite vote total, the bill would be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. Details on the amendatory veto are contained in Alliance Legislative Report 100-35.

The House
The House has not set a date for return either as there is no action for that chamber to undertake until the Senate dispenses with SB 1. Some House members have said they expect to return the week of August 21st. However, a committee met earlier today (Wednesday) to discuss the amendatory changes the governor made to SB 1. House Democrat Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie filed an amendment to SB 1947 that mirrors the language in the governor’s veto message. No vote was taken, in fact a quorum of the appropriations committee was not present, but it did allow those opposed to the governor’s changes to go on record with their concerns.

The Status
SB 1 contains an evidence-based funding formula that would replace the current General State Aid formula that has been used since 1998. The bill was approved by the General Assembly on May 31. In July when the legislature approved a budget bill that made appropriations for Fiscal Year 2018, a provision in SB 6 stated that general school funding must be distributed through an evidence-based formula. Since no evidence-based formula has yet been enacted, no funding is flowing to public school districts through a general formula.

The Possibilities
The Senate could vote to accept the amendatory changes of the governor. With the strong opposition to the proposed changes by Democrats, there is no chance of this happening. The legislature could vote to override the governor’s veto thereby enacting SB 1 into law as it originally passed. This is possible, maybe even likely, in the Senate as the Democrat majority holds a 3/5 majority. However, that outcome is doubtful in the House as it would require a number of Republican votes. Thus far, Republicans have been united in vowing to oppose an override of the SB 1 veto.

There could be an agreement between the warring parties on the general concepts of evidence-based funding and the compromise language could be amended onto a different piece of legislation. If such a bill could acquire the 3/5 votes necessary, it would be sent to the governor. If the governor agreed with the compromise, the bill could be signed into law relatively quickly. If he did not agree, he could sit on the bill for up to 60 days, thus further stringing out this nightmarish situation for local school districts.

Another idea that is being bandied about in some circles, is to file suit and ask the courts to intervene and allow funding to flow to school districts through the current funding distribution formula until the current stalemate is resolved. This would not make any improvements to the formula, but would allow school districts to receive funding for the current fiscal year, ensuring that all schools in the state could remain open to educate students.

The Additions
As if all of the above scenarios do not make for enough conflict, chaos, and confusion, a couple more issues have been put on the table for discussion. The governor’s repeated call for property tax relief through a freeze on property tax extensions is again at the forefront. And a new one thrown out on the table by the governor: a statewide private school voucher/tax credit program. No official language has been filed in the legislature yet, but a version of a voucher program has been share with interested parties. Once this proposal has a little more clarity, the Alliance will provide an analysis.