Legislative Update: September 11, 2015

State Observes Anniversary of 9-11, Honors Victims and First Responders
In Illinois by order of Governor Rauner, flags flew at half-mast throughout Patriot Day on September 11 in honor of the victims and heroes of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and rural Pennsylvania.

Leading the way towards observance of the somber day of remembrance were Republican members of the University of Illinois student and teaching community, who successfully advocated for permission to set up a memorial installation on the U of I Quad. After a facet of the university administration temporarily attempted to block organization of the installation, the Illini Republicans led the way in a successful push to reverse the prohibition and allow the placement of 2,977 flags on the Quad. Each U.S. flag represented one victim of the atrocity. Other remembrance ceremonies were held throughout the state.

Rauner, AFSCME Agree to Continue Negotiations
An agreement signed this week by AFSCME leadership and representatives from the Governor’s office extends a tolling agreement that was set to expire at the end of this month. Specifically, the agreement calls for good faith negotiations and prevents either side from unilaterally declaring an impasse. That means that in order for an impasse to be declared, both sides of the negation must agree that an impasse exists. The agreement also prohibits a strike, work stoppage, work slowdown, or lockout as long as good faith negotiations continue.

A successful contract was recently negotiated with the Teamsters Union, which represents 4,600 State workers, and a ratification vote for this contract is being held. The Illinois/Teamsters contract will cover four years of work, pay and benefits for affected State workers. Regarding the AFSCME contract, I am extremely pleased to see everyone back at the negotiation table, and have hopes that an agreement that is fair to all can be inked very soon.

Comptroller Munger Says Illinois’ Bill Backlog Could Top $8.5 Billion Without a State Budget
Munger’s concerns follow moves throughout the summer of 2015 by advocates of various spending and policy programs to place various Illinois big-budget spending programs, such as Medicaid payments to residential care facilities, on “automatic spending” status pending the enactment of a budget. These statuses have, in many cases, been backed up by the judicial branch in the form of court orders and references to various consent decrees previously signed by the State.

With money being spent at FY15 rates and State revenues coming in at FY16 rates, cash outflow is exceeding cash inflow. The Office of the Comptroller, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, and other State agencies are responding to this asymmetry by prioritizing the speed with which bills are paid; many bills are going unpaid at this time. The $8.5 billion figure is a cumulative figure representing the Office of the Comptroller’s estimate of where the unpaid-bill total will be on December 31, at the end of the 2015 calendar year.

2015 Fall Semester Sees the Second-Largest Freshman Class in University of Illinois (UIUC) History
The 7,565 incoming students that have signed up to begin their class work this fall have created a headcount that is second only to the 7,583 students of 2005. The overall 2015-16 enrollment of 44,087 – a number that includes both undergraduate and graduate students – is up more than 1 percent from the 43,602 students who signed up in fall 2014. The University of Illinois reported that the percentage of students who are Illinois residents is up from last year.

Fall enrollment at the University of Illinois’ Springfield campus is also close to a record this year, with an enrollment count of 5,402 students – down slightly from the 2014 record total of 5,431. The former Springfield-based Sangamon State University was added to the University of Illinois system in 1995 to create the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS), now in its 20th year of operation.