Thursday, March 22, 2007

Busy day

Maneuvering inside the Statehouse was interesting today. About 1,000 people stood shoulder to shoulder on the three tiers of the Capitol rotunda and waved American flags. They were showing support measures that would grant drivers’ certificates to immigrants and earmark $25 million for expanded English classes. Roughly seven more busloads of people wearing green, pro-business T-shirts spread throughout the Capitol to show opposition for a statewide smoking ban. Meanwhile, lawmakers sat inside committee rooms and in their chambers to debate policy dealing with AT&T, electric utility bills and college loans, among many others. But the following measures could keep unfolding in the next couple of weeks:

Immigrant drivers’ certificates — Two measures, one in the House and one in the Senate, are being revised and are expected to come up soon.

Statewide smoking ban — One of the smoking ban measures is in its passage stage in the Senate.

AT&T — the telecommunications measure would allow companies to enter the video market through a statewide video franchise rather than through individual municipalities. Hours of testimony have been heard for three weeks, but no amendments have been filed, yet. It might take more time to get out of the House committee.

Electric utility bills — A Senate committee approved 11 to 1 a measure that was revised to freeze electricity rates for one year for Ameren Illinois and Commonwealth Edison customers. Watch for it on the Senate floor in the next couple of weeks.

College loans — The Illinois Student Assistance Commission is looking to sell up to 80 percent of its student loan portfolio, in line with one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s revenue ideas last year. Here’s legislation that would expand the existing grant program for college students from low-income families.

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