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Senate Week in Review: April 24-28, 2017

A simulation of education funding reform legislation run by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) during the week shows good results for school districts across the state.  The evidence-based funding approach is modeled after suggestions from the Education Funding Reform Commission, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who were tasked with offering ideas on how to better Illinois’ current education funding formula.

Also during the week at the Statehouse, the Senate passed measures that would allow nurses to work across state lines, disabled veterans to still receive property tax relief if they move in the middle of a year, and coyote hunters to use crossbows.

School funding reform proposal shows good results

Legislation that would fund Illinois schools in a more equitable way showed good results for school districts under a simulation by the ISBE, which forecasts that school districts across the state would receive either the same amount of funding they are receiving now or more (because of a minimum guarantee) under the legislation.

Senate Bill 1124, a new school funding reform plan, would help reduce the inequity inherent in the current school funding formula by sending a half-billion dollars through an evidence-based model, which uses data and best practices to focus funding where it is needed most.  Every district except CPS would see their funding increase from the previous year’s General State Aid claim.

The evidence-based approach uses 27 different variables to set individual adequacy targets for each school district, based on the real costs of the districts, accepted best practices, and student demographics.  Districts would be grouped into four Tiers based on how far they are from their adequacy target, with Tier 1 including the schools needing the most help, up to Tier 4, which contains the schools that already meet or exceed their adequacy targets.  For example, schools in Tier 1 would gain $445 million and those in Tier 2 would gain $50.7 million.

While the legislation removes the Chicago Block Grant for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), it is tied to another piece of legislation where the state would pick up CPS’ pension costs, something the state currently does not pay, unlike the rest of school districts in Illinois.

A breakdown of what each school district would see under Senate Bill 1124 can be found here.

Nurses in Illinois, other states could work across state lines

Nurses in Illinois would have more flexibility to work in other states, under legislation passed by the Senate April 25.  Senate Bill 677 allows Illinois to join 25 other states that are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows for Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses in Illinois to be recognized in other compact member states.  The legislation would also allow nurses in NLC states, such as Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Kentucky, to work in Illinois.  I believe that makes good sense.

The legislation would mean nurses would not have to run the risk of disciplinary action if they call a patient in another state but the nurse is not licensed in that state.  It would also help nurses avoid obtaining costly licenses from several states or go through each state’s continuing education hours.  Proponents say with more patients choosing to obtain their healthcare in neighboring states, or if there is a natural disaster requiring immediate medical workers, this would allow nurses to practice across state lines without having to jump through all the hoops.   

The NCL requires background checks that mirror current practices already in place in Illinois.  The legislation now moves to the House for consideration.

Allowing accessibility symbol for regular/specialty license plates passes Senate

Those with disabilities would be able to have the accessibility symbol on a regular or specialty license plate, under legislation passed by the Senate April 25.  Right now, people with disabilities can only get the accessibility symbol on the Person with Disabilities Plate or the Disabled Veteran Plate. 

For example, individuals who wish to have a specialty plate for a university, sports team, or other organization could then also obtain the accessibility symbol on that plate.  Disability plates allow the authorized holder to park in spaces reserved for persons with disabilities at places such as a mall, grocery stores, or retail stores.

Senate Bill 616 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Ensuring property tax relief for disabled veterans during a move

Disabled veterans who qualified for the Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption for their previous home would qualify for a pro-rated exemption for their new home when they move, under legislation passed by the Senate April 26.

Right now, when disabled veterans move into a new residence in the middle of a year, they have to pay the outstanding property taxes until they can reapply for the Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption the next year.  Senate Bill 872 allows that exemption to follow the veterans if they move in the middle of the year. It’s modeled after the current property tax exemption process for senior citizens.

To see a breakdown of the benefits of the Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption, go here.

Senate Bill 872 now moves to the House for consideration.

Helping DCFS investigate child abuse

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) would be allowed to access certain prescription drug records of families with children in custody, under legislation passed by the Senate April 26.  The goal is a more thorough investigation into cases of child abuse and neglect, especially when opioid use and abuse could be a factor.

With the rise of opioid use in the state, Senate Bill 892 would help DCFS when investigating cases by allowing select DCFS employees to access the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) database.  The PMP collects information on controlled substance prescriptions dispensed in Illinois and would be used as another tool when child abuse and child neglect investigations are performed.

The legislation now moves to the House for consideration.

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