State Roundup: Nekritz: Pension reform was great achievement despite constitutional question

From Illinois News Network

Even though the future of a pension reform bill is uncertain after this week’s State Supreme Court hearing, one of the chief sponsors says it is crowning achievement of her career. During an Illinois News Network radio profile, Representative Elaine Nekritz says pensions are one of the biggest issues facing the state.

The Buffalo Grove democrat says one of her greatest achievements in her nearly thirteen-year career in Springfield was the pension reform law passed in 2013. Nekritz says the effort clearly was taking on what was traditionally a democratic constituency–employee unions.

“It was not something that I relished doing but I felt that I think both Senator Daniel Biss, who I worked very closely on this with, and I felt that the leaders were stalled, the process was stalled, the governor was stalled, there was no leadership and we said ‘alright, let’s just go draft a bill and see what we can do with it’. And that is what really kickstarted the process.”

The State Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the pension reform bill Wednesday and are expected to rule by May. Illinois’ state pensions face a one-hundred-eleven-billion dollars shortfall.

Tuition waiver bill could have committee hearing next week

Proposed amendments to a measure to abolish a perk for the children of state University employees isn’t enough for the University Professional of Illinois union and others. They continue their opposition.

The measure form Democratic Representative Jack Franks would do away with a fifty-percent tuition waiver to state universities for children of university employees. Franks kept the measure in committee and eventually amended the bill for implementation for the next school year.

The proposed amendments also grandfathers in students who are already taking advantage of the perk. But the UPI union says the proposed bill would violate an agreement between employees and the employer. Franks says that’s a good argument, but something has to change.

“And one of the ways to lessen the impact is to fill some of the budget holes and this is a ten million dollar perk that’s very hard to justify in today’ age.”

The Illinois Federation of Teachers and UPI say the perk doesn’t cost the state any money because state government doesn’t reimburse the universities. Franks contends that proposed cuts in next year’s budget for higher education means universities have to tighten their belts anywhere and everywhere they can. The bill remains in committee, but Franks says he’s ready to move on it next week.

Crowdsourcing bill gains bipartisan support

A bill that would allow less red tape for startups seeking investments is gaining support in the Illinois House. The measure from Democratic Representative Carol Sente (SEN’-tay) would make certain levels of investments in startups exempt from filing and registration requirements, if they meet some conditions.

Republican Representative Tom Demmer had a similar bill he tabled so he could back Sente’s measure. Demmer says crowdsourcing websites are growing as a way to help entrepreneurs fund their projects and the bill would do away with some red tape for investors.

“They can become an equity owner earlier on in the process while avoiding a lot of the very time consuming, very demanding reporting and filing requirements that often go with making public stock offerings.”

Demmer says there are some limitations but the ultimate goal is to open up investment opportunity for Illinois’ entrepreneurs.

“We put a limit on the dollar amount you can invest, the amount the investors can put into it themselves, and we say ‘look, let’s try to make, for at least for some of these low end transactions, let’s make it very, very easy to connect an entrepreneur with an investor’.”

The measure was placed in the House Judiciary – Civil Committee with a possible hearing one of two days next week. House Bill 3429 currently has support from a bipartisan group of twenty-eight lawmakers.

License plates restrictions passes House

A measure passed the House that would keep the Secretary of State from issuing a series of special license plates unless the number of applications exceeds two-thousand.

Democratic State Representative John D’Amico says the goal of House Bill 1560 is to keep the series of special plates, which numbers in the dozens, from being too confusing for both drivers and law enforcement. Some lawmakers said the measure doesn’t go far enough but D’Amico says it’s a work in progress.

“I’m hoping that someday we can come to an agreement with something where it will be one plate with a sticker or something on there where you’ll be free to support whatever group you want and try to stop all these numbers being duplicated and the wrong people getting these tickets in the mail as well.”

The measure provides that all fees collected will be deposited in the designated special fund, regardless if the plate is produced. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

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