Rep. Greg Harris • 13th District
Springfield Update • December 2, 2016
2016 Veto Session Update
The fall 2016 Veto Session of the General Assembly had a few highlights, but far more lowlights. Among the highlights were the passage of legislation that takes major steps toward stabilizing 2 of the City of Chicago’s largest pension funds.
The bill requires larger investments from both the City and employees. The new format would place the pension funds on a path to achieve 90% funding levels by the year 2058. Benefit changes in the bill are expected to save the funds $2 billion over 40 years. There are many other provisions. You can see the legislation here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/99/SB/PDF/09900SB2437ham006.pdf
Another highlight was the passage of Rep. Lou Lang and Sen. Kim Lightford’s legislation that protects people with disabilities and their personal assistants from service restrictions and limitations that the Governor is attempting to impose by administrative rule. This legislation strongly expresses the will of the General Assembly and myself, that protecting the quality of life and wellbeing of people with disabilities is of paramount importance. You can see the legislation here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/99/SB/PDF/09900SB0261enr.pdf
Another highlight was the passage of landmark legislation increasing Illinois’ investment in renewable energy by $180–$200 million per year (including wind, large scale solar, community solar and rooftop solar). The bipartisan legislation provides ½ billion dollars in funding for low income solar development and job training in “green energy”, $50 million in energy assistance to veterans, persons with disabilities and non-profits, and substantial assistance for low-income persons to pay their energy bills. In addition, the bill places caps on rate increases for both Com Ed and Ameren customers (residential, business and industrial). Finally, the bill helps the Clinton and Cordova nuclear plants remain open; preserving thousands of Illinois jobs and continuing the production of critical energy for our state. You can see the legislation here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=88&GA=99&DocTypeId=SB&DocNum=2814&GAID=13&LegID=96125&SpecSess=&Session=
The bad news was that the General Assembly failed to override the Governor’s Vetoes of many pieces of legislation I feel were very important. With the Republican caucus sticking solidly with the Governor and with absences on the Democratic side (one serious illness), the 71 votes to override the Governor’s vetoes didn’t happen on:
- Veto of HB4351 to prevent cuts to community and home based services for 40,000 senior citizens
- Veto of HB5931 to increase minimum wages of service providers to people with disabilities
- Veto of SB250 to expand access to voter registration and expand voting rights
- Veto of SB730 to increase child support for low-income families on TANF
- Veto of SB2536 to increase minimum wages for child care providers and require training standards
There were many others, but this list is indicative. You can see the full list of the Governor’s 31 Vetoes here: http://www.ilga.gov/reports/Preview.asp?t=cr&k=11&ga=13&y=2&h=Governor%20Action%20-%20Total%20Veto%20(2nd%20Yr)
The most widely publicized veto of course was the Governor’s veto yesterday of SB2822, which would have provided relief for the Chicago Public School system. This veto blows an immediate $215 million hole into the CPS budget and puts at risk the 381,000 students and 36,000 staff members of the state’s largest school district. The Senate voted yesterday to override the veto of the Governor. I look forward to taking action in the House on this legislation to provide our school the support they deserve and so desperately need. You can see the legislation here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09900SB2822enr&GA=99&SessionId=88&DocTypeId=SB&LegID=96133&DocNum=2822&GAID=13&Session=
On top of these legislative actions, the most pressing issue is the state budget. With the Governor’s vetoes of budget bills, the state has been operating under a patchwork of individual appropriation bills, court orders, consent decrees, continuing appropriations and most recently two “stopgap” appropriations for human services and higher education which expire on Dec. 31 of this year.
As has been reported in the media, I have been appointed as the Chief Budget Negotiator for the House Democrats, and have been attending the Leaders Meetings between the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate and the House and Senate Minority Leaders.
These meetings, convened and led by the Governor, have so far largely focused on the Governor’s demands on legislative items and focused little on the issues of the budget. It is my position, and the position of many House Democrats, that finding a solution to budgetary issues of the State and restoring stability and predictability for the benefit of our schools, colleges, businesses, human service providers, public safety agencies, municipalities and all Illinois families is the top priority.
I, along with the Speaker and other rank and file House Democrats have invited all 4 caucuses and the Governor’s Office to delegate a diverse working group of members from across the state to develop a bi-partisan budget solution. This approach (some call it a framework) worked successfully earlier this year to come to bi-partisan agreements on budget issues and I feel would help us move forward again. Democrat and Republican, Chicago, suburban, central and southern Illinois legislators need to come together with the Governor’s staff in budget working groups as we did before to make hard choices and find common ground to resolve this budget crisis.
Leaders Meetings continue this weekend. I look forward to discussing budget issues there and with working groups of legislators as well.