Legislative Update_September 1, 2017
Many hard fought battles and tough compromises have led to historic legislation in Illinois during one of the longest legislative sessions in Illinois history. After a full year budget finally passed, many other important bills were signed into law just in the last week. 

This special E-News is to thank you as members, but we hope you will take this information to share within your community and on social media to show what our organization can accomplish, in cooperation with a diverse group of coalition partners. Here's our list of wins for this legislative session.

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Automatic Voter Registration Expands the Reach of Voter Registration Exponentially 
On Monday Illinois become the 10th state in the nation and the first state in the Midwest to enact automatic voter registration. Governor Rauner signed our signature Automatic Voter Registration legislation on Monday, August 28th. This historic milestone is a direct result of our determined leadership and advocacy with our coalition partners at Just Democracy Illinois. In an August 31st editorial, the New York Times heralds the great news for Illinois in contrast to what is happening in Texas and other states fighting voter suppression. https://goo.gl/YVKBLL.
The Trust Act Protects Immigrants and Is Supported By Law Enforcement
This week Governor Rauner signed the Illinois TRUST Act into law. The Trust Act, which was supported by the LWVIL and received bipartisan support in Springfield, prevents local police from holding people for immigration purposes without court-issued warrants and forbids local police from stopping, searching, or arresting people based on their immigration or citizenship status. This encourages trust between immigrants and law enforcement, which provides a welcoming climate and addresses public safety in our state. We especially thank League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford members Beth Hoffman and Josephine Minor who participated in a special press conference promoting the work of LWV while recruiting new members and making new community connections. 

Equitable Education Funding Comes At A Price
Finally Illinois has the potential for equity in funding for education. This follows years of intense advocacy by LWVIL. Unfortunately, it came at a huge price - tax credits for people who donate to private school scholarships and other concessions that are still being analyzed. We thank the members of the General Assembly and the governor for passing and signing SB 1947. 
The good news is that this law:
  • Allows the budget item for General State Aid to Education to be funded for school year 2017-18. Public schools can operate during the current school year with the expectation that state money may arrive in a timely manner.
  • Reforms the school aid formula to enable public schools to meet their students needs by using strategies backed by evidence that the strategies work. This evidence-based model removes the one-size-fits all model of  the old state aid formula.  It asks the question: "What do schools need to provide their children with the education that they need?"  The old formula asked:  "What money does the state have available this year and how should it be allocated?
  • The new formula establishes a framework for improving public education in Illinois.  
The bad news is:
  • Schools need more money to do their job than the state is providing.  More than half of the school districts in the state have been operating at a deficit.  The percentage of the state's contribution to education continues to dwindle.  The strategies in the evidence-based model will require money to implement.  So the new formula will require more money to operate.
  • The state budget that passed in July provided the minimum amount of new funding to avoid junk bond status. The state's borrowing and interest costs continue to be very high.  The accumulated debt has increased to $15 billion.  There may not be enough revenue to fund the spending in the current budget. 
  • Some school spending, such as special education and transportation, is not covered by General State Aid.  The bills for these categories are treated the same way as other state bills.  They get paid when the state has enough money in its checkbook.
  • As of the end of the 2017-2017 school year, the state still owes schools $1 billion.  It has paid some, but not all, of that over the summer.
  • Chicago pension costs have been moved into the state system.  The state has yet to deal with the pension ramp and the underfunded pension system. So a big mess just got bigger.
  • The tax credit program for private school scholarship donors will remove as much as $75 million per year from state funds.
Criminal Justice Reform Expands Opportunity
The League supported these many and varied Criminal Justice reform bills passed during the 100th  General Assembly and signed by the Governor:

HB0375 (PA100-0247) -  requires probation officer to undergo Crisis Intervention Team training
HB0514 (PA100-0282) -  requires Immediate sealing of a record of arrest or charge if result is acquittal or dismissal
HB0698 (PA100-0283) - creates the Prisoner Entrepreneur Education Program to teach business skills and enable successful reentry into society
HB2373 (PA100-0284) -  expands record sealing eligibility
HB2738 (PA100-0030) (allows video visitation in prisons to enable those in prison to maintain relationships with loved ones)
HB3712 (PA100-0198) -  helps men and women in prison to get access to tablets that will be used expressly to educate, hone skills, and video visit loved ones
SB1688 (PA100-0286) -  improves occupational licensing opportunities by creating a transparent and fair licensing process that looks at license applicants' rehabilitation along with   criminal history.
SB1781 (PA100-0287) -  expungement or sealing fee waiver pilot extended
And these are the bills re: Juvenile Justice League supported:
HB2987 (PA100-0141) -  ensures that Illinois youth who are or were homeless, in foster care, or court- involved to have a chance to get the jobs and internships they are qualified for and need
HB3165 (PA100-0157) -  requires that training of juvenile personnel include restorative justice courses
HB3817 (PA100-0285) -  expands automatic expungement and strengthens confidentiality of juvenile records
HB3903 (PA100-0204) -  does not allow a place of detention or criminal processing on school grounds

Other important bills  which became public acts following League advocacy this year:
SB3: Expands the authority of counties with 500,000 or more people to consolidate local governmental units within their boundaries.
SB6 & 9: Budget bills that finally led to full year budget after two years without a full budget.

But, we have work yet to do:  protecting the woman's right to choose, making sure a salary history is not required on job applications and assuring the Charter School Commission cannot override decision of local school districts. In addition, we are working very hard to organize the final push to pass the ERA Amendment. Please keep working on all of these issues and contact the Issues Committee at any time for information, event speakers or assistance. Our collective work has great impact!

League of Women Voters of Illinois
332 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 634, Chicago, IL  60604
Phone: (312) 939-5935  | Email:  issues@lwvil.org  | website:  www.lwvil.org
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