Friday, November 11, 2011

Veto session roundup

By Jamey Dunn

While Illinois lawmakers pushed some issues to additional session days scheduled later this month, they did pass a few substantial pieces of legislation.

Regional superintendent pay
The wait for paychecks will end for regional superintendents after Gov. Pat Quinn signs Senate Bill 2147. Quinn vetoed the funds for the administrators’ salaries, and while many have remained on the job, they have not been paid since summer. The measure draws from local revenues to compensate superintendents for one year. The bill also calls for a task force to study a potential consolidation of some of the Regional Offices of Education, which are run by the superintendents. Lawmakers expressed frustration with Quinn for cutting the funding for the superintendents' pay without a plan for who would take over their legally required duties, including school inspection and teacher certification. “We should be ashamed of the position that the governor’s veto has put us in,” said Spring Valley Democratic Rep. Frank Mautino, a sponsor of SB2147.

Quinn has maintained that local governments should pay for their salaries. A spokesperson for Quinn said that he plans to sign the bill.

Speed cameras
The city of Chicago could install cameras to catch speeders around parks and schools if Quinn signs SB965. The cameras would take a picture of the license plates of speeders who then would be mailed a ticket. They would not be charged with a moving violation. The offense would be on par with a parking ticket. And, like a parking ticket, the owner of the car, who may or may not have been driving at the time of the violation, would be responsible for the ticket.

Unemployment insurance
Legislators also approved a plan to address the state’s growing obligation to the federal government for unemployment benefits. The state has been borrowing money for the feds to keep pace with unemployment benefits paid out during the recession. The interest bill would have reached an estimated $240 million, which would have come out of general revenue funds. Under SB72, business will have to pay up to make the trust fund that pays benefits solvent. However, the interest payment and even larger penalties for businesses that would have happened if no action were taken, would be avoided. Companies that have not had any layoffs, nearly half of businesses in Illinois, would pay less. The plan passed with bipartisan support and the backing of the business and labor communities. “Many of us have campaigned that we want to help business out. … Well, here is your bill,” said Sen. Kyle McCarter during floor debate. Quinn also supports the measure. "We are in difficult economic times, and we need to bolster our unemployment insurance program to protect both workers and businesses," Quinn said in a prepared statement. “As we did with our workers’ compensation overhaul this spring, we brought everyone to the table to find a solution.”

For a comprehensive look at the unemployment insurance trust fund, see Illinois Issues November 2010.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said the House plans to return for session on November 29. Senate President Cullerton said his chamber would return before the end of the year to take up issues that were not resolved during the veto session.

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