State Roundup: This week’s committees to focus on tort reform, pensions and more

From Illinois News Network

Expect another full day of testimony in a special House Committee of the Whole Tuesday.

This time, state representatives will hear about tort reform. Last week a seven-plus hour Committee of the Whole focused on workers’ compensation with minority republicans criticizing the hearing as one-sided theatrics.

Two scheduled hearings, one Tuesday afternoon and another Wednesday morning, in a Transportation subcommittee will focus on proposed cuts to Amtrak.

Wednesday afternoon the House Personnel and Pensions Committee has a subject matter hearing to focus on Governor Bruce Rauner’s pension reform proposal.

McSweeny on cost shift

A state representative says shifting pension costs to school districts would cause property taxes to increase, something taxpayers cannot afford.

Republican Representative David McSweeny says the recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court striking down a 2013 pension reform measure means there will be calls to shift pension costs for teachers to local school districts.

After the ruling Friday, Moody’s issued a statement that the cost shift could be a major focus to lessen the burden on the state’s limited dollars.

McSweeney says that will cause property taxes in Illinois to increase putting Illinois property taxes at the top in the country, something his House Resolution 187 says is financially wrong.

The resolution has a broad group of bipartisan support and remains in the House Rules Committee. Illinois currently has some of the highest property taxes in the country.

New internship program at Treasurer’s office

They won’t be paid anything, but the experience will be priceless. That’s the word from Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs as his office announced a new internship program. The previous program came under fire when it was revealed several dozen connected individuals received paid internships, but there were no guidelines or performance follow ups. Frerichs says though there won’t be any money paid to the interns, they’ll get priceless first-hand experience in state government.

“Many of the interns can probably earn college credit and work is areas such as legal, investment operations, marketing, unclaimed property or policy and it’s an opportunity for us to provide real world, hands on experience to these students.”

Frerichs says Treasurer interns will have specific duties, their time will be tracked, applications and interviews will be scored and based on merits and the number of interns will be capped at twelve. A review of the office democrat Frerichs took over from republican Dan Rutherford found an intern program that lacked formal policies, procedures and supervision which led to inaccurate time sheets, excessive expense claims and travel voucher errors.

Problems found in Audit of Regional Office of Education #20

A recent audit of a regional office of education shows several problems, including grant dollars to cover deficit cash balances of other funds.

The Auditor General report published last week on the Regional Office of Education # 20 that covers Saline, White, Wabash, Edwards and Wayne counties, indicated the ROE did not have adequate internal control over the payroll process, had insufficient internal controls over financial reporting, was noncompliant with a federal homeless children education grant, failed to prepare monthly bank reconciliations, and lacked internal controls over fund expenditures.

The Auditor’s report says the ROE is working to correct the findings that have not already been addressed.

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