Capitol Update: ComEd 4 Verdict, Education, Flood Levels, Budget

The House of Representatives has two weeks left of its 2023 legislative session. Here is an update from this week.

Corruption Trial Verdict Tied to Former House Speaker Mike Madigan

This week’s verdict reaffirms what has been wrong with our state government for decades and further proves why we need stronger anti-corruption reforms signed into law.

The corrupt acts by these lobbyists connected to former Illinois House Speaker have been decades in the making. I hope this guilty verdict sends a message to the Democrat leadership that the old way of conducting business in the legislature should be over and it’s time to pass meaningful anti-corruption reforms in the legislature.

House Republican Literacy Working Group, Unveils Bold Legislative Package

On Wednesday I joined my colleagues in a capitol press conference to improve education in our state.

My colleague State Representative Dave Severin was appointed to serve as the House Republican chairman of the Literacy Improves Future Endeavors Working Group by Illinois House Republican Leader Tony McCombie back in February of this year. Since that time, my colleagues and I have met several times to hear from educational advocates and interested stakeholders, taking testimony and building a comprehensive legislative package aimed at improving educational outcomes, advancing literacy, and addressing current teacher shortages that are harming students in Illinois public schools.

“Pandemic-era lockdowns have really harmed the development of our school children, especially our youngest students in the area of literacy proficiency,” Severin said. “We’ve seen test scores dropping through the floor and too many students being left behind. The legislative package that I’m helping to sponsor takes direct aim at these learning gaps and tackles the tough issue of teacher shortages.”

This week my colleagues and I unveiled a sweeping legislative package that includes the following bills:

HB 4070 (Severin) – Requires ISBE to develop a comprehensive State literacy plan that includes, at a minimum, the following: 

  • Developing class size goals for grade K-6 classrooms
  • Developing a comprehensive reading teacher content area test
  • Establishing a grant program for districts to hire reading and literacy specialists and coaches
  • Establishing a grant program for districts to provide bonuses to teachers that receive the reading teacher endorsement on their current license. 

HB 4067 (Swanson) – Provide that professional development providers may offer opportunities on reading/literacy instruction.

HR 256 (Swanson) – Establishes May 7 through May 13 as “Read with Your Kids” Week referencing the Dolly Parton “Imagination Library.” 

HB 4069 (Friess) – Creates a Temporary Teacher Apprenticeship Program as an alternative pathway to licensure and establishes foreign language endorsements for those fluent in the foreign language to teach foreign language courses.

HB 4068 (Schmidt) – Extend the sunset date for additional return to service for retired teachers.

HB 1213 (Caulkins) – Creates a scholarship program for teachers to get master’s degrees in order to increase dual credit courses.

HB 1297 (Elik) – TRS optional credit for private school teachers.

HB 4066 (Weaver) – Creates the Parent Advisory Committee within ISBE to study and make recommendations on proposed teaching and learning standards. Requires school boards to have a policy in place to allow parents/guardians to review curricula and learning material.

Flood crest rolls down the Mississippi River

The snowmelt-fed high waters, the runoff from heavy snows this past winter in Minnesota and Wisconsin, are moving down the Mississippi River toward the sea.  On Monday, this flood crest reached the Quad Cities.  

Authorities have set up sandbag walls in many Illinois towns and cities.  Illinois cities along the flooding zone include Quincy, with the crest expected on Friday, May 5, and in Alton, with a similar event expected on Sunday, May 7. Based on current water patterns, south of Alton the riverbed becomes wide and deep enough to handle the added water without excessive flood activity. A once-in-a-lifetime flood, such as the Great Flood of 1993, can cause extensive danger to the riverbanks south of St. Louis.

In Illinois, flood responses are headed by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the state agency for disaster preparedness and mitigation.

Revenue numbers for April show sharp decline in State revenues

Tax receipts for the month, which saw the final submission of many 2022 income tax returns, dropped $1.84 billion below year-earlier numbers. While a decline had been projected, this shortfall was dramatically higher than the projections. Personal Income Taxes paid to the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR), which includes income tax payments from individuals, trusts, estates, and pass-through entities, fell $1.76 billion below the receipts paid to IDOR in April 2022.

The sharp decline in April 2023 revenue will have a chilling effect on overall revenue numbers during the remainder of FY23 and into FY24. The trends in Illinois economic activity that led to this payment gap cannot be expected to go away. Based on these April numbers, the nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) has reduced its projection of the State’s FY23 tax-fueled general funds cash flows by $728 million.

CGFA has also been compelled to adjust its numbers for FY24. After reallocations of certain categories of cash flows, the FY24 numbers – like the FY23 numbers – are now in precarious balance. The State expects to bring in barely enough money to meet its existing spending commitments for FY24, the fiscal year that will start on July 1, 2023. My Republican colleagues and I will redouble their efforts to help the State get control over its massive, momentum-driven need to continually spend money the State does not have.

-Rep. Amy Elik