Bill would let students leave school to vote
SPRINGFIELD -- A measure that would let eligible high school students leave school to vote has been sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Senate Bill 1970, carried in the House this week by Rep. Nicholas Smith, a Chicago Democrat, would give students a two-hour window on Election Day or 15 days beforehand to cast a ballot.
The bill would let the school specify the hours in which the student could be absent, and it would ensure voting absences would 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, a Plainfield Republican, said the bill "coddles" students, who should have ample time to vote with access to mail-in ballots, early voting and polls that close several hours after most school days end. He also questioned why the bill would 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 "we'll leave that to the schools themselves," he said.
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
The House on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 1786, which would remove 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 became law.
"The driver's license suspension is a draconian debt collection tool," said Rep. Carol Ammons, an Urbana Democrat who ushered the measure through the House.
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.
The Illinois secretary of state's office favors the bill, she added
The bill would remove suspensions for failing to pay: more than 10 parking tickets, more than five toll violations, or due taxes or fees to the Illinois Commerce Commission. It also would remeove them for theft of motor fuel.
The bill passed the House 88-27 Tuesday and would take effect July 1, 2020, if signed by the governor. It passed the Senate 38-10 on March 28.
The House on Tuesday also voted 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.
House sponsor Kelly Burke, an Evergreen Park Democrat, said Senate Bill 1670 would codify that if a police officer in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund's Tier 1 pension schedule worked for a municipality with a population below 5,000, he or she would remain in Tier 1 in newly-created funds mandated in Article 3 of the Pension Code if the municipality grew 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 would take effect immediately if signed by the governor. It passed the Senate 38-2 on March 28.