Bills to Watch

Updated February 20, 2019

Since the last day of the regular session last year, there have been a whopping 3,599 bills filed in the Illinois legislature! Only a small proportion of them will ever become laws. Looking at the bills today, it’s impossible to tell which ones will make it to the finish line. But some clear themes are emerging among the education bills, such as teacher licensure, school safety and discipline, college and career readiness, school district consolidation and governance, and property tax relief. We will walk through those topics and their related bills over the next few weeks.

We are especially excited that our initiative to accelerate school funding equity has been filed as Senate Bill 3793 and House Bill 4948, sponsored by Senator Andy Manar and Representative Will Davis, the education champions who overhauled the school funding formula three years ago.

Click here to view a list of the education bills that we are keeping an eye on this year so far. You can look up the full text and bill status of any of these bills by visiting In the column on the left-hand side of the screen, enter the bill number you’re interested to learn more about. (For a Senate Bill, you’ll type “SB” followed by the bill number. For a House Bill, you’ll type “HB” followed by the bill number.) This list of bills will be updated approximately weekly.

The bill filing deadline was last Friday, so in theory every policy bill that will be considered this year has already be filed. However, many of these bills will have amendments filed that will modify or even completely change their content. When bills are first filed, they go to a committee called “Rules” in the House and “Assignments” in the Senate. Then, some are assigned to a substantive committee, like the Senate’s “Education” or the House’s “Elementary & Secondary Education: Curriculum and Policy.” (But plenty will remain in Rules/Assignments.) Those committees meet weekly for the next couple of months to consider the bills that come before them. The committee members will vote favorably on some of these bills so that they can be considered “on the floor” (that is, they can be voted on by the whole House or Senate). (But again, some bills will remain in committee and never have a full vote on the floor.) Finally, bills will receive a floor vote. Those that pass will move to the opposite chamber and repeat the whole process. (In other words, Senate Bills that pass the Senate will go to the House Rules committee, then to a substantive House committee, and then have a House floor vote.) For more – or at least more entertaining – information, see this Schoolhouse Rock classic.

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


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.


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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