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Senate Week in Review: August 28 – September 1, 2017

An historic bipartisan agreement to replace Illinois’ outdated school-funding formula with a more equitable evidence-based model has been approved by lawmakers and signed into law by the Governor.

In other legislative action, the Governor signed legislation aimed at increasing voter participation, and easing tensions between immigrants and law enforcement officials.

Also during the week, Senator Bill Brady (44th District) was elected Minority Leader of the Senate, and the countdown has begun for Illinois’ Bicentennial Celebration.

Republicans lead on education reform

Passed during the week by the House of Representatives and the Senate, Senate Bill 1947 utilizes data and widely-accepted best practices to determine how to send funding where it is needed most and where it will help the most students.  The evidence-based model relies on 27 sets of data to determine the actual costs for each school district to provide an adequate education for the students, which is referred to as an adequacy target.  Funding is then prioritized to the schools that are the furthest from their adequacy target.

The legislation also contains meaningful mandate relief for school districts, helping them to reduce costs and put more dollars into classroom learning.  It also creates a mechanism to provide property tax relief to struggling families as well as a new program to offer parents more choices in determining where to send their children for the best possible education.

The new evidence-based model to distribute funding to schools is a requirement of the recently passed budget.  Senate Bill 1947 was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on August 31.

Senator Jason Barickman (53rd District) was the first legislator to introduce evidence-based school-funding legislation in the spring of 2015.  Unfortunately, Senator Barickman’s legislation provided a politically palatable alternative to competing bills that could have reduced funding to some schools and redistributed it to others.  It also provided a massive bailout for the mismanaged CPS.  But, in reality, it was probably the best compromise we could get.

Increasing voter participation

Increasing voter participation is the aim a new law signed by Governor Rauner on August 28.

Senate Bill 1933 requires the Secretary of State and Board of Elections to establish an automatic voter registration program.  The legislation provides that an application for a driver’s license, other than a temporary visitor’s driver’s license, or state identification card also serves as an application to register to vote in Illinois.

When applicants meet the standards of the REAL ID Act of 2005, and unless an applicant declines, the Secretary of State will transmit records to the State Board of Elections to complete the person’s registration.  The system has safeguards, including address verification distinctions between IDs that meet the requirements of the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 and those that do not.

I am opposed to this bill because I believe it will lead to greater vote fraud with more illegal aliens able to vote.  I would be more willing to accept this if we also required a photo ID to vote.

Pros and cons about Trust Act

Also on August 28, the Governor signed legislation – known as the Trust Act – that will prevent law enforcement officials across the state from detaining individuals based solely on their immigration status.

Proponents say Senate Bill 31 helps clarify the roles between state and local police in everyday law enforcement, and the role of immigration enforcement by federal agents.  The new law has the support of some law enforcement, some of the business community and the immigration-support community.  The law does not interfere with law enforcement conducting valid criminal investigations or serving criminal warrants.

Senate Bill 31 might be well-intended, but the legislation goes too far because it prohibits state and local law enforcement, or government officials from cooperating with other government agencies.  By prohibiting law enforcements agencies from cooperating with federal immigration law, this legislation could present potential long-term public-safety consequences.  I believe this is a bad bill and opposed it on the Senate floor.

Senate elects Bill Brady as Republican Leader

On August 29, Senator Brady was unanimously selected as Senate Minority Leader by his peers in the Senate.  Bill has been serving as the designated Republican Leader since July, after the mid-term retirement of Senator Christine Radogno (41st District).

During his legislative tenure, Senator Brady has worked to increase education accountability and funding, and sponsored reforms of workers’ compensation and medical malpractice laws.  He has championed pension reform, and reforms in the state’s insurance and financial industries that became a national model.  He sponsored laws that promote highway safety through more training for young drivers, and led efforts to restore integrity to state government, ensuring the best use of the taxpayers’ dollars.

Senator Brady has served in the State Senate since 2002. He previously served as State Representative from 1993 to 2001.

Countdown to Illinois’ Bicentennial Celebration

State and local officials kicked off the 100 Day Countdown to the Illinois Bicentennial Celebration on August 26 in Kaskaskia Island, the first State Capitol of Illinois.  Illinois was recognized as a state on December 3, 1818, and the official Illinois Bicentennial will be celebrated in 2018 with events planned across the state on Constitution Day, August 26, 2018, and the grand birthday celebration on December 3, 2018.

More information about the Illinois Bicentennial Celebration is available at https://illinois200.com/.

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