Bills to Watch

Updated December 5, 2019

Veto session is now squarely behind us and legislators are back in their districts. (Remember that “veto session” is the time that the Illinois legislature convenes for two weeks in the fall to consider bills that the governor vetoed and other pressing issues that have arisen since the regular session adjourned in May.) Unless something extraordinary happens, they will not come together again at the Capitol until January.

As for the substantive updates, veto session saw a few small clean-up bills related to education, some bigger non-education bills (like pension investment consolidation and a cap on the price of insulin), and a lot of discussion about other things that didn’t come together (like a ban on ethylene oxide and casino tax structures). As for education, a few bills passed both chambers and are on their way to the Governor for his signature.

  • Senate Bill 10 focuses on helping address the teacher shortage crisis and greater due process for special needs students. Its chief sponsors are Senator Andy Manar (D) and Representative Fred Crespo (D). SB10 corrects an issue that arose after the legislature eliminated the requirement that teacher candidates take the Basic Skills test. Eliminating the test removed one pathway for paraprofessionals, those individuals who are in a career already but who want to become teachers, to earn their teaching licensure. Adding a paraprofessional competency test restores an option for teacher aides to get certified. Another amendment to the bill could grant Chicago Public School parents additional time to request a hearing for special education for their child.
  • Senate Bill 460 supports parent engagement of students with IEPs (individualized education plans). Its chief sponsors are Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D) and Representative Crespo. Over the summer, a bill became law that made lots of changes to Special Education laws in CPS. Some of those changes were: requiring the district to publish on its website proposed changes to Special Education policy and allow virtual public comments before the board votes on the changes; translating Special Education guidance documents into Spanish and, upon request, into other languages; sending parents copies of all written materials 3 days before an IEP review meeting; allowing parents to view service logs recording the type of IEP services and minutes administered; and having the school notify parents in writing if services required under a student’s IEP were not provided. Oftentimes, after a complex bill becomes law, small changes are identified that need to be tweaked to implement it well. A bill that makes these changes is sometimes called a “trailer bill.” Senate Bill 460 is a trailer bill that makes a couple of small changes, specifically allowing more time to phase in the requirement that schools provide written copies of IEP materials.
  • House Bill 744 helps make college more affordable. Its chief sponsors are Representative Katie Stuart (D) and Senator Pat McGuire (D). HB744 makes technical changes that are needed for implementation of the AIM HIGH program, which will provide college affordability grants to Illinois students attending public universities.

Separately, the spring legislative session calendar was recently released. This notes the days from January through May the legislature is expected to be in session. You can see the calendar here.

And finally, one thing that caught a lot of folks off guard is that Senate President John Cullerton announced his retirement. He will be leaving in January. Sen. Cullerton was instrumental to the passage of school funding reform. He empowered members of his caucus to keep pushing this, despite the political risks, and he made the issue a top priority for years when others were content to ignore it. Senators will gather for a special session on January 19, 2020 to elect the chamber’s next president.

Need a refresher on the legislative process in Illinois? Keep reading.

ILLINOIS LEGISLATIVE PROCESS 101

The Illinois Senate and House of Representatives usually convene in the state’s capital, Springfield, during two periods each year.

The first is known as “regular session” and takes place from January through May. Generally, bills considered during regular session need only a simple majority vote to pass. That means it takes 30 votes in the state Senate and 60 votes in the state House for a bill to pass. Most legislators try to get their bills passed during this time.

The second or “veto” session” happens for two weeks in October and November. The first order of business during this time is often bills which the Governor vetoed over the summer. However, the House and Senate can, and often do, take up new items.

It is harder to pass a bill with immediate effect during veto session because it requires a super-majority vote to pass in each chamber; that is, 36 votes in the Senate and 71 votes in the House.

Bills can originate in either chamber (Senate or House). If a state senator files a bill in the State Senate and it passes, it goes to the House. If a state representative files a bill in the House and it passes, it then goes to the Senate. Along the way, a bill is considered by a committee of the chamber which will also invite expert witnesses to hearings and review relevant research. When it comes to Education matters, the key committees are the Senate Education Committee and the House Elementary & Secondary Education Committees.

Once a bill passes both chambers, it goes to the Governor. The Governor then has four options:

  • sign the bill into law;
  • do nothing, in which case the bill automatically becomes a law after a certain period;
  • reject the bill entirely (this is a “veto”); or
  • issue an “amendatory veto” to suggest a small change to the bill.

If the Governor vetoes a bill or does an amendatory veto, legislators can reconsider the bill during veto session.

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More details on how a bill becomes a law in Illinois.

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See previous Bills to Watch updates here.

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