House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 56 and
Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 104 take an
initiative sponsored by the League of Women Voters and other
government reform groups and put it into legislation for General
The current redistricting process allows legislative leaders to
draw district boundaries behind closed doors. The constitutional
amendment would require public hearings, ensure public display of
proposed maps and allow public submission of proposed maps. Since
2001, incumbents have had a 98 percent re-election rate; passage of
the amendment will encourage competition and promote diversity.
According to state law, in order for the constitutional amendment
to appear on the ballot in November, the General Assembly must pass
it with a three-fifths majority by May 2, six months before the
Also this week, the Senate Executive Committee approved
legislation on Wednesday that would authorize two types of
short-term borrowing, despite Republican concerns that the state
continues to defer making tough decisions on how to fix its fiscal
Senate Bill 416 would allow most public universities, except the
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Northeastern, to use
short-term borrowing for up to 75 percent of the money owed to them
by the state. The universities would then repay the borrowing when
they receive the money they are owed by the state.
Republicans primarily objected to a second borrowing component
contained in the bill that would allow Gov. Quinn use short-term
borrowing for $250 million for Medicaid expenses without approval
from the comptroller and treasurer. Currently the governor must
receive authorization from the comptroller and treasurer to commence
Proponents of the legislation argued that the state should allow
universities to borrow money since the state's delayed payments have
created their money woes. Currently the state owes all public
universities approximately $735 million. Proponents also say that
the Medicaid borrowing will free up the revenue to pay Illinois'
health care providers, who have suffered for years, waiting months
to receive the reimbursements they are owed from the state.
However, opponents question why Democrat lawmakers tied the money
for higher education to the Medicaid funding and expressed concern
that the measure simply "kicks the can down the road" with another
short-term budget fix. Since 2003, Illinois Democrats have used
short-term borrowing for $11 billion, with interest topping $100
million. Bomke said that instead of pushing off the state's problems
and paying so much interest, Illinois should confront its budget
Additionally, critics noted that there are no provisions
outlining how the governor would pay back the money, and questioned
why -- if the governor has such a good financing plan -- there is a
need to bypass the comptroller and the treasurer and borrow more
money without their approval.
It's speculated that the legislation is necessary because it's
unlikely that Comptroller Dan Hynes will approve additional
borrowing. In late 2009, Hynes refused to authorize a short-term
borrowing measure being pushed by Quinn, saying that Illinois
already has to repay more than $2 billion in short-term borrowing
that was undertaken earlier that year and that it would be difficult
for the state to repay any additional borrowing.
Having been approved by the Senate Executive Committee, Senate
Bill 416 now progresses to the full Senate for consideration.
Because the measure authorizes a general obligation bond, the bill
requires three-fifths approval of the Senate before it can move to
the House for further debate.
This week Illinois' woefully underfunded pension systems were
highlighted in a report released by the respected research group the
Pew Center on the States, which found that Illinois ranks dead last
when it comes to funding the state's pension systems.
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According to the report, Illinois' unfunded liability surpasses
$54 billion -- or only slightly more than half of what the state
needs to pay benefits to its five state retirement funds. The Pew
Center noted that only 54 percent of the state's pension liability
is funded, which is far below the 80 percent funding level
recommended by experts.
It was also noted that Illinois has consistently deferred making
its required payments into the systems, "paying less than 60 percent
of the required amount in each year since 2005" and issuing "$3.5
billion in bonds to pay for its 2010 actuarially required
The Pew Center's study only researched pension funds through
fiscal 2008 and does not even account for the recent stock market
crash -- and the serious impact that had on the value of state
Bills approved by Senate committees this week:
Aggravated assault (SB 2488): Raises the penalty on aggravated
assault against a police officer when the offender uses a deadly
Forfeiture (SBS 2551): Creates a public corruption profit
forfeiture provision requiring forfeiture of profits and proceeds
derived from a criminal public corruption offense that resulted in a
criminal conviction, including automatic forfeiture of all political
contributions held by a political committee or organization
controlled by the convicted person.
Meth precursor (SB 2952): Raises all penalties by one penalty
level on the illegal purchase, receipt or acquisition of more than
7,500 milligrams of methamphetamine precursors ephedrine or
pseudoephedrine, within a 30-day period.
Veterans' taxes (SB 2350): Allows returning veterans to claim a
$5,000 exemption in the tax year following the year in which they
return if their primary residence is first acquired when they
Business district development (SB 2523): Amends the Business
District Development and Redevelopment Act to allow a municipality
to create an advisory board of directors.
Municipal local improvement (SB 2614): Provides that when the
corporate authorities of a municipality propose a local improvement
that is estimated to cost more than $1 million (currently $200,000),
the municipality may post notice of the proposed ordinance on the
municipal Web site instead of publishing the notice.
[Text from file sent on behalf of
Larry Bomke by Illinois
Senate Republican staff]