With the signing of the school funding reform bill last week, Illinois lawmakers will get a bit of a breather from Springfield.
Their work for the year isn’t done however, with a list of bills vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner awaiting possible override votes, not to mention another 80 bills still pending some action by the governor and another high-profile bill still waiting on a decision about when to send it to the governor.
None of that includes any additional issues that could pop up that will need to be addressed when lawmakers to return to Springfield.
“I’m sure we’re all trying to get our footing after the last several months,” said Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park. “It’s a weird place to be without the perpetual threat of being called back to Springfield.”
No dates have been set yet for lawmakers to return to deal with vetoed bills. It’s expected the veto session could begin in late October.
Here’s a rundown of some of the issues that could be facing them at the time, as well as some things still unresolved.
Proponents of House Bill 40, which is intended to protect abortion rights in Illinois should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, have been calling on Rauner to sign the bill.
For now, though, he can’t because the bill hasn’t been sent to him. It is still in the Senate, where Harmon filed a motion that is keeping the bill in the chamber.
“Advocates for the bill have been trying to communicate with the governor to encourage him to stand by his first position on the bill and sign it,” Harmon said. “Everyone’s attention has been focused on the budget and school funding, so now we’ll have a chance to regroup and see how well that effort is progressing.”
Harmon said that at this point, he isn’t sure if the bill will be sent to Rauner before a veto session might begin. He said he hasn’t had a chance to check with advocates for the bill to determine how much more time they might want to try to convince the governor.
In addition to protecting abortion rights, the bill expands abortion coverage to Medicaid recipients and women on state health insurance.
Rauner has said he will veto the bill because of the expanded coverage, even though during his campaign for governor he said he supported access for low-income women.
Rauner vetoed Senate Bill 81, which gradually raised the state’s minimum wage from its current $8.25 an hour to $15 an hour. The $15 rate would begin Jan. 1, 2022.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 29 states that have a higher minimum wage than the federal rate. Of those, 24 are the same or higher than Illinois’ current rate.
Business groups opposed the increase, contending it would result in fewer jobs as businesses cut costs to pay the higher wages. That was the argument cited by Rauner when he vetoed the bill. He said it would actually cost low-wage workers about $1,500 a year.
Organized labor argued that giving a raise to minimum wage workers would boost the economy as those workers spent their additional income.
The bill passed the House with just one vote to spare and got the minimum needed to pass in the Senate. That would indicate an attempt to override the veto will be an uphill battle.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza made House Bill 3649 a key component of her legislative agenda this year.
Under the bill, state agencies would have to disclose monthly the amount of bills that are still sitting in the agencies waiting to be paid. Currently, they are only required to report it yearly.
Mendoza, whose office is responsible for paying the state’s bills, said it would provide a truer picture of the state’s financial condition. Mendoza knows how many bills are sitting in her office waiting to be paid, but she can only estimate how many bills have been submitted to state agencies, but not yet forwarded to her for payment.
Rauner vetoed the bill, saying it was more an attempt by Mendoza to micromanage state agencies than it was to provide more transparency.
The signature piece of legislation by Treasurer Michael Frerichs, House Bill 302 required life insurance companies to go to greater lengths to ensure policies are being paid to beneficiaries. It would allow outside auditors to review insurance company records to ensure that death benefits are properly paid.
Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to rewrite the bill to prohibit fees being paid to auditors based on how much in improperly withheld benefits they discover. He also said a provision in the bill to require companies search records back through several years is unfair.
Frerichs said he will push for an override.
Rauner also vetoed a bill backed by the third Democratic office holder, Senate Bill 351, called the Student Loan Servicing Rights Act.
Pushed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the bill is intended to provide additional consumer protections to people who obtain student loans. It requires student loan companies to give borrowers information about all repayment options, including those that can save borrowers money on the loan repayment.
Rauner said the bill “encroaches on the federal government’s responsibilities and would add confusion to the already complex student loan process.”
One bill still awaiting action by Rauner is House Bill 2977, which requires elementary schools to teach a unit in cursive writing.
Proponents argued that with children at a younger and younger age learning text from computer keyboards, it is important that they can still master cursive writing to sign documents and read historical documents that were written in cursive.
Interestingly, the school funding reform compromise just signed into law gives school districts some limited relief from state mandates.
Story originally posted on The State Journal-Register