SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker will soon have more bills to consider signing after the Illinois House this week approved three measures which had already passed in the Senate.
They affect student access to the polls on Election Day, limitations to when the secretary of state can suspend a driver’s license and what happens to police pensions when municipalities grow into a different section of the Pension Code.
Leave School to Vote
Senate Bill 1970, carried in the House by Rep. Nicholas Smith, D-Chicago, will give high school students who are of age and eligible to vote a two-hour window on election day or 15 days prior to leave school to vote in an election.
The bill provides the school may specify the hours in which the student may be absent, and ensures that voting absences will not count against enrollment calculations pertaining to the allotment of school funding.
“We want to encourage our young people to be engaged in civics,” Smith said during floor debate. “… Here is an opportunity for them to band together, leave school for a couple hours just like people do when they are at work, and go vote and return to school.”
The bill passed 74-40 in the House after Smith faced questioning from Republicans.
Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said the bill “coddles” students, who should have ample time to vote with access to mail-in ballots, early voting and polls which close several hours after most school days end. He also questioned why the bill does not require students to prove they actually voted, as opposed to just skipping class.
Smith said there are ways to prove participation in the election, such as receiving stickers at the polls, but there is no requirement for them in the bill.
“We’ll leave that to the schools themselves,” he said. “… This is another tool in the tool box for our young people to vote.”
The bill passed the Senate by a 40-10 vote on April 10 and will become law if signed by the governor.
License Suspension Limits
Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, passed Senate Bill 1786 through the House on Tuesday, removing from state law several non-driving-related instances that would lead to a driver’s license suspension. Those currently facing suspensions would have them lifted if the bill becomes law.
“The driver’s license suspension is a draconian debt collection tool,” Ammons said in floor debate.
Ammons said those who owe money from traffic tickets will still have to pay it, but they cannot face a license suspension because of the debt. She said a driver’s license is often a requirement for employers, and those facing suspension for being unable to pay fines are often unable to work because of the suspension.
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The Illinois secretary of state’s office favors the bill, she added.
The bill removes suspensions for failing to pay: more than 10 parking tickets, more than 5 toll violations, or due taxes or fees to the Illinois Commerce Commission. It also removes them for theft of motor fuel.
All other penalties pertaining to the offenses will remain, outside of the driver’s license suspensions.
The bill passed the House 88-27 Tuesday and will take effect July 1, 2020, if signed by the governor. It passed the Senate 38-10 on March 28.
Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, passed Senate Bill 1670 through the House on Tuesday to clarify the pension code as it pertains to employees whose municipality has grown large enough to be required to create its own pension fund.
Burke said the bill codifies that if a police officer in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund’s Tier 1 pension schedule works for a municipality with a population below 5,000, they will remain in Tier 1 in newly-created funds mandated in Article 3 of the Pension Code when the municipality grows beyond that number.
Tier 1 employees must have started before Jan. 1, 2011. Burke said the bill would affect eight departments in the state and approximately 50 officers.
Batinick said even Tier 2 in the downstate police and fire pension fund could be construed as an actual “benefit enhancement” over Tier 1 in the IMRF schedule because it has a lower retirement age. So he called the shift from Tier 1 in IMRF to Tier 1 in downstate police and fire pension a “pretty significant increase in benefits.”
Batinick voted against the measure and said he would have preferred a bill that allows the officer to opt to keep the current benefit structure or shift to Tier 2 in the newly-created plan.
He said benefits should remain flat instead of being increased, especially considering that the General Assembly is considering a separate pension consolidation measure that is necessitated because of growing unfunded liabilities on the part of many municipalities.
“So what we’re doing for those eight departments is, we’re dramatically increasing the benefits that they have to pay for their employees,” he said.
The measure passed 79-34 and will take effect immediately if signed by the governor. It passed the Senate 38-2 on March 28.
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