Losing by one vote, the Illinois Senate has again rejected legislation requiring schools to adopt more detailed policies against bullying. According to The Associated Press, the bill says schools must spell out how students can file anonymous complaints, how complaints will be investigated and what can happen to students who bully classmates. The legislation left it up to schools to decide how each requirement would be met.
The May 29 vote on House Bill 5290 was 29-21, but the bill needed 30 votes to pass. It also came up short last week.
Some conservative groups, such as the Illinois Family Institute, see the anti-bullying bill as cover for schools to lecture students about accepting homosexuality. They want to add a provision letting students and teachers skip any lesson that might contradict their religious beliefs.
Area lawmakers who voted for the bill were: Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Sen. John Millner (R-Carol Stream); voting against were Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora) and Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont). Voting present were Sen. Kirk W. Dillard (R-Hinsdale) and Sen. Steven N. Landek (D-Bridgeview). And, Sen. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) did not vote.
Judges May Be Unscathed in Pension Battle
Judges would be exempt from legislation intended to curb the rising cost of public pensions in Illinois by reducing benefits for recipients, Illinois Statehouse News is reporting.
Judges receive the highest average annual pension of any public employee, yet their benefits would remain untouched, according to legislation introduced by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The nearly 1,000 retired judges earn an average annual pension of more than $112,000. The average public employee retiree draws an average annual pension of about $40,000.
If the current changes to public pensions manage to squeak out of the General Assembly and get Gov. Pat Quinn's OK, the public unions would probably sue the state.
Ultimately, the fate of the legislation would be decided by the justices of the Illinois Supreme Court, who, coincidentally, are members of the public pension Judges' Retirement System.
Illinois House President Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) said judges were left out of the legislation to avoid a conflict of interest. According to Illinois Statehouse News, Madigan danced around questions of whether the omission of judges was a way to get a favorable ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court.
Leaving judges' pensions alone has some precedent. Judges were exempted when the state scaled back pension benefits in 2010 for new employees.
Gambling Bill Goes to Senate
The House approved a gaming expansion bill, and the Senate will probably take a floor vote on it before adjournment, according to Illinois Issues. Sponsors say they think Senate Bill 1849 would pass in the Senate. However, Quinn is opposed to the bill, so supporters would likely be seeking support to override a veto sometime down the road.
Sen. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) defended his bill last week during a floor debate. Quoted by Illinois Issues, he said: “When we have almost 8 percent of our people out of work, when we can’t cobble a state budget because we don’t have enough revenue, when the 30,000 or 40,000 jobs in the horse racing industry are disappearing, when our convention and trade shows are down—when they should be up—when thousands of our people every day get in their cars and drive through Chicago and the south suburbs of Cook County and spend their money in Indiana, I think this is much more than a bright shiny object. I think this is an imperative for state government to move this forward.”
The measure aims to open five casinos statewide, in Chicago, Park City, Danville, Rockford and in the south suburbs of Chicago. The exact location of the fifth casino would be up to the Illinois Gaming Board to decide. The bill includes slots at horse racing tracks but does not allow for slots at the Illinois State Fairgrounds or Chicago airports, which Quinn previously bashed publicly.
The bill also aims to reduce the number of gaming positions available from 2,000 in the original bill to 1,600. Casinos currently are allowed 1,200 positions. The Chicago-owned casino proposed in the plan would be allowed 4,000 positions. Lang said the bill clarifies language about the oversight of the Chicago casino, something Quinn had cited previously as a concern.