January 26, 2017

Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his third State of the State Address on
Wednesday before a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly in the
House chamber where he highlighted a number of issues and bills that were approved by the legislature and that he signed into law. He also urged lawmakers to continue to work toward an agreement on a balanced State budget.
Meanwhile, the Senate worked diligently this week on its version of a budget compromise, but no votes were taken. The Senate had introduced a package of bills that contained a proposed budget compromise earlier this month. The plan was to vote on the bills this week, but with such a massive, comprehensive package (13 separate bills), there were too many questions yet to answer. Senate Leaders John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Christine Radogno (R-LaGrange) indicated Thursday that the plan was for the Senate to take up votes on the budget package upon the Senate's return to the Capitol on February 7.
The House of Representatives moved at a more deliberate pace. Committee appointments had not been made by the beginning of the week so no House committees met. The House will return to the Capitol on February 8 and committees are expected to be up and running by then.
The Governor focused the majority of his 35 minute State of the State address on what he saw as his accomplishments from two years in office. Optimism was expected after the potential breakthrough in the logjam that has defined Rauner's term in office so far. The State of the State is one of two constitutionally required speeches that an Illinois governor must give every year, and it lends itself more to vague optimism than the other required address, the Budget Address. That speech is scheduled for February 15th.
Two of the more tangible successes trumpeted by the Governor were the increased efficiency that has been brought to state government by new technology, and major criminal justice reforms that have been enacted over the past two years. The technology efficiencies have been created through a new agency, the Department of Information Technology (DoIT). Some of the advancements Rauner credited to DoIT were a reduction in paper filings and a more streamlined professional licensure process. The highlighting of a program such as DoIT shows the difficulty the Governor has had in passing his agenda through the General Assembly. While the department may be an accomplishment, he would most likely have wanted to focus on the successes of the Turnaround Agenda - if those success had been a reality.
Governor Rauner also highlighted the end of proration to K-12 education. By numbers from the current administration, local school districts have received over 700 million more dollars from state government, an amount that was said to be the most in the history of the State of Illinois. While the end of proration and an increase in funding have been a definite positive, the uncertainty that has come with late budgets and in the case of higher education - no budget - has led many to question the Governors stated commitment to making quality education his top priority.
The speech did not lack an acknowledgement of the current and continued struggles to create a fully-funded, balanced budget. The Governor did take time to give a special mention to the Senate Leaders for their recent budget work.
While critics of the speech will say the Governor focused too much on the positive and failed to give details on how he plans to lead Illinois out of the current fiscal situation, he gave the speech many expected. By toning down the criticism of House Speaker Michael Madigan, Rauner may have signaled his willingness to work together to move Illinois forward.
Senate committees did meet this week to discuss the provisions of the pending compromise, but it was for discussion purposes only and no votes were taken. The Alliance testified before the Senate Executive Committee about the detrimental effects of a property tax freeze and the need for local district flexibility and mandate relief. Numerous other organizations were present to discuss the pros and cons of the various proposed budget provisions.
Provisions of the package continue to change daily as legislators hear feedback from interest groups and further negotiations continue between the caucuses. The sugary drinks tax gave way to a proposed tax on services (based on the Wisconsin model), a higher individual income tax rate, and an "opportunity tax" that will assess a tax on corporations depending upon the size of their payrolls. Gaming expansion may include video gaming at auto racing tracks. There is continued discussion about mandate relief provisions that accompany the property tax freeze provisions of a bill.
Procedurally, committees entertained testimony and discussion on each of the budget bills, but these substantive committee members were not asked to vote to move the bills along. However, each of the bills was remanded back to the Committee on Assignments and the Committee on Assignments voted to discharge all of the bills directly to the Senate floor. By the way, the meetings of the Committee on Assignments are not open to the public and there is no recorded vote.
At this point, all of the bills are positioned in passage stage in the Senate - one vote away from sending the legislation to the House of Representatives. No more testimony will likely be taken from the public.
The Alliance Leadership Summit is scheduled for February 21-22 in Springfield. The event is a two-day institute on advocacy and legislative education designed for teams representing their local school district. Districts are urged to send a team consisting of a superintendent, principal, school board member, and school business official.
The Summit will dive into issues such as school funding reform, property tax freezes, mandate relief, and all of the components of the proposed budget compromise. Features will include a panel of political analysts, a panel of the key legislators on the funding reform commission, Alliance executive directors and legislative specialists, the Secretary of Education, the State Superintendent of Education, and more. Additional information can be found on the IASB News Blog by clicking here and on the IASA website here.
  This legislative report was written and edited by the lobbyists of the Illinois Association of School Boards to provide information to the members of the organizations that comprise the Statewide School Management Alliance.