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Update From the Capitol August 18th

Friday, August 18, 2017 - Posted 4:55:00 PM by Rep. Tom Bennett
As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka).

House engages in theater on school funding bill

With schools starting classes this week and next week, the legislature has still been unable to come together on a plan to fund our schools. As a quick recap: in May, House and Senate Democrats passed Senate Bill 1, a bill which reformed the school funding formula, but also bailed out the Chicago teachers' pension fund at the expense of all the other schools in the state.

Senate Democrats held onto the bill for two months before sending it to Governor Rauner for action. If they had not done that, the debate we are having now would have been resolved weeks ago. Once he got the bill, Governor Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to remove the Chicago bailout. But in order for it to become law in its amended form, a majority of the House and Senate would have to go along with him. Instead, the Senate met on Sunday and voted to override the Governor's action – restoring the Chicago bailout.

Political gamesmanship got in the way on Wednesday, as Speaker Madigan called a purely symbolic vote on the language of the Governor's amendatory veto, in spite of the fact that both parties were still negotiating a compromise. Many House Republicans voted "Present" rather than participate in this charade. No one voted for it – not even its sponsor. It was pure political theater and a waste of time.

The latest word we have now is that the leaders of both parties in each House will meet on Friday and the House will be back in session Wednesday. It is possible that the House could try to override the Governor's veto – thus enacting the law with the Chicago bailout included – or the leaders could reach an agreement and then present that agreement to us for a vote.

We need serious discussion about this important issue – far more serious than the theatrics we saw this week. Political games created an artificial crisis by dragging this into August when it could have been done weeks ago. Now those same political priorities are getting in the way of enacting a bill to give adequate and equitable state funding to all of our public schools, without sending millions to bail out a Chicago pension fund.

There is still time to reach a negotiated agreement, and the parties must come together quickly to do so. Education is too important for these political games.

While legislature wrangles with SB 1, some education funds are released

Not all of the state's funding for public schools has been held up by the ongoing debate over Senate Bill 1. The state Comptroller issued $429 million in "categorical payments" to schools late last week. This is money awarded to school districts to cover specific costs such as transportation and special education expenses.

The money sent last Thursday has actually been owed to school districts since March, but wasn't paid because the state didn't have enough cash to cover all of its expenses. It is yet another problem caused by our large backlog of unpaid bills. The categorical money is separate from the general state aid that provides most of the state's assistance to school districts.

The first school aid payment was supposed to be issued August 10, but the state was unable to issue it on time because money in the state budget for general state aid can't be distributed until a new school funding formula is enacted. This shows what a mistake it was for Senate Democrats to sit on the school funding bill and do nothing for two months over the summer.

Second Amendment Legislative Day

I was honored to join with a bipartisan group of more than 20 legislators for Second Amendment Legislative Day, sponsored by my colleague Rep. Dan Swanson. We had the chance to tour the Springfield Armory in Geneseo and Rock River Arms in Colona as well as attend a presentation by L.W. Schneider of Princeton, a firearm component manufacturer and a shooting event at the Milan Rifle Club. The event was put together to help legislators better understand the firearms industry and its impact on jobs in Illinois.

According to Rep. Swanson, there are 194 firearm manufacturers in Illinois, employing almost 14,000 people. In total, firearms manufacturers and their suppliers have a $2.18 billion impact on Illinois' economy. As a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights, I appreciated Rep. Swanson's work in bringing this group together to study the positive impact that law-abiding gun owners and the firearms industry have on the state of Illinois.

Selective Service registration required for most federal aid

Federal law requires all American males to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. Late registrations are accepted all the way up to the age of 25, but a person who is required to register may find himself ineligible for federal jobs as well many kinds of federal aid including college loans if he has not registered yet.

The Selective Service System is the directory of Americans who are available for service if the military draft should ever be re-instated. It has been used throughout American history whenever it has been necessary to draft Americans into military service. The military draft was ended near the end of the Vietnam War. It has not been brought back since, even though the years since then have included the last two decades of the Cold War, 9/11 and the war on terror. Selective Service remains in place just in case it were ever to be needed again.

Those needing to register can do so at their local post office. More information is also available at the Selective Service System website at www.sss.gov.

Did You Know?

Illinois has 102 counties. The most populous of these is Cook County, which is home to 5,194,675 people. The least populous county in Illinois according to the 2010 Census is Hardin; at the southeastern corner of the stat
e; which has a population of 4320.