Governor Rauner signed pivotal legislation today that will limit the future size and scope of community college severance agreements.

Prompted by a $763,000 contract buyout approved by a former College of DuPage (COD) Board for outgoing College President Dr. Robert Breuder, State Representative Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) filed HB 3593, which limits future buyout or severance agreements to no more than one year of salary and benefits. Even though a newly-elected COD Board of Trustees voided the Breuder deal, Ives said her bill will prevent other college boards from inking similarly excessive deals for underperforming administrators.

“That agreement was irresponsible and disrespectful to the taxpayers who fund the College of DuPage,” said Ives. “While the new board seems to be acting more in line with the best interests of the college’s stakeholders, this new law will prevent mismanagement at the levels we’ve seen at COD from happening in the future.”

According to Ives, the new law also limits employment contracts with a set start and end date to no more than four years with no provision for any automatic rollover clauses.

Joining Ives at the bill signing in Chicago on Tuesday were Chief Senate Sponsor Michael Connelly and new College of DuPage Board President Kathy Hamilton.

Ives has been the leading force in the House of Representatives in responding to allegations of malfeasance at the College of DuPage. In addition to HB 3593, Ives was also the Chief Sponsor of the unanimously-approved HR 55, which directed the Illinois Auditor General to conduct a thorough performance audit of all State moneys provided to the College of DuPage for fiscal years 2007-2014.

In addition to Ives’ HB 3593 and HR 55, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) also took aim at the College of DuPage this year by sponsoring HB 303, which adds transparency to publicly-funded severance agreements by making them subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). McDermod’s bill was signed into law earlier in the month.

“Given the startling instances of mismanagement of taxpayer dollars at COD, I view this grouping of legislation as a very solid step in the right direction,” said Ives.

To hear more about this new law, click here.
House Republicans Defend Fair Bargaining Process for State Employees & Taxpayers
On Wednesday, House Republicans blocked an attempt by the Democrat majority to override Governor Rauner’s veto of SB 1229. The bill would have changed the way that the State of Illinois negotiates with labor unions in cases of alleged negotiation impasses. The measure would have instituted “interest arbitration” as the preferred method, for four years, for the State of Illinois to negotiate with most of its organized workers.

The bill was seen as a pathway for the State’s largest union, AFSCME, to bypass the collective bargaining process and use interest arbitration to impose a labor-management contract on the State. AFSCME’s contract offer, which could have been adopted in its entirety under interest arbitration, could have resulted in an increase of $1.6 billion in salary costs and an additional $700 million in health care costs over the next four years. I spoke on the House floor about the cost of the proposed contract and how it would impact union jobs since Illinois does not have the money to fund the contract. You can listen to my floor remarks here.

SB 1229 is bad public policy aimed directly at Governor Rauner. The Governor has committed in writing that the tolling agreement extending the current contract will remain in place until both sides agree they are walking away from the negotiating table. The Governor will not lock out employees and is committed to remaining at the table until a final deal is reached. He cannot and will not force unions to strike.

The Democrats’ proposal would take away negotiating authority from the duly elected Governor and put state labor contracts in the hands of an arbitrator, not elected or accountable to taxpayers, who would not be allowed to compromise or come up with a reasonable solution. Whereas normally arbitrators are given discretion to forge a compromise, that would no longer be the case (at least not for the current administration). Arbitrators would be forced to choose between labor’s request or the State’s proposal with absolutely no discretion… all or nothing.

After a total veto by Governor Rauner, SB 1229 was returned to the General Assembly for a possible override as provided for in the state Constitution. A three-fifths vote in both houses of the legislature is required to override the Governor’s veto. While the Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto, the Illinois House voted on Wednesday, September 2 to sustain Governor Rauner’s veto, thereby defeating the bill (71 votes had been required). The House vote was 68-34-9.

Teamsters Sign On to Four-Year Labor Agreement with State of Illinois
Governor Bruce Rauner announced the agreement on Monday, August 31. The contract included key concessions by both sides. 4,600 State employees are covered by the new agreement, which must be ratified by a rank-and-file vote by organized Teamsters.

Key features of the new contract include a four-year wage freeze, maintenance of existing health care benefits, and a reduction in the number of unused vacation days that future new State hires in Teamster-organized work spaces will be allowed to carry over. The new State contract with the Teamsters union does not officially affect the status of State employees who are members of other labor unions, including members of AFSCME.

Moody’s Warns of Consequences if Budget Stalemate not Resolved
The global bond rating service, which has imposed several cuts on the debt status of Illinois, warned the State of potential further downgrades in a report published on Monday, August 31. The report called attention to the current budget impasse of the State of Illinois, which is attempting to operate without a legally enacted spending plan for fiscal year 2016. FY16 began on July 1, 2015.

Changes in the debt rating of Illinois as a whole, and of subsidiaries (such as the University of Illinois) affect interest rates that must be paid by Illinois taxpayers. Rating agencies such as Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings have given Illinois the lowest debt rating of any U.S. state.

House Moves Forward on Heroin Crisis; Bill Passed over Governor’s Veto
HB 1, which was drafted with the active participation of law enforcement, contains numerous changes to State and local programs aimed at heroin and other opiate drugs. The bill strengthens the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. It creates a program to move towards universal availability of heroin-overdose-reversal medications (opioid antagonists) in the hands of first responders and in the formularies of health insurance policies. The bill will enhance criminal penalties for “prescription shopping,” expands Medicaid to cover opioid dependence medications and opioid antagonists, and makes other changes.

The bill was drafted by the House Bipartisan Heroin Crisis Task Force, a special House committee that held many hearings on opiate drugs and opiate addiction issues. The Task Force heard emotional testimony from the families of loved ones who had overdosed on opiate drugs. After the bill was sent to the Governor’s desk for final action, Gov. Rauner wrote an amendatory veto to remove sections of the bill that had implications for the State’s budget and taxpayers. The amendatory veto would have reduced costs to the Medicaid program by removing medication-assistant treatment for alcohol or opioid dependence, and cutting out opioid antagonists.

Some budget experts saw the Governor’s amendatory veto as a reasonable response to the State’s budget crisis. However, Speaker Madigan made it clear that the amendatory veto motion would not be called and that the House would have to cast an up-or-down vote on the original bill as passed by both houses of the General Assembly. The House voted 105-5-0 to override the Governor’s veto on Wednesday, September 2. The measure now moves to the Illinois Senate for another override vote and possible final action.

The bill to create this program, HB 3219, became law through Governor Rauner’s signature on Thursday, August 27. Lead co-sponsors included House Republican Reps. Michael McAuliffe and Christine Winger.

Website Gives Illinois’ Business Climate a Grade of “F” for 2015
The failing grade was the result of Thumbtack’s Small Business Friendliness Survey of nearly 18,000 small business owners nationwide. Survey results paralleled concerns raised by House Republicans about Illinois’ job-creation atmosphere and business climate. Thumbtack respondents also gave failing grades to California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Thumbtack’s survey asked respondents to comment on ten separate criteria, which were aggregated to generate a final total. The variables included ease of starting a business, ease of hiring, regulations, health and safety, employment/labor and hiring, tax code, licensing mandates, environmental regulations, zoning, and training-and-networking programs.

Surveyed small businesspeople gave above-average grades to three of Illinois’ neighboring states: Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin.
The Chicago Tribune published an excellent editorial this week which clearly outlined why lawmakers should stand with Governor Rauner on Wednesday and vote against the Democrat attempt to override his veto of SB1229. Read on:

Don't cave to Madigan: Why independent Democrats should put taxpayers first

On Wednesday, Illinois House members are scheduled to reconvene in Springfield. A showdown between Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan could unfold over a bill that would imperil the finances of this already debt-ravaged state. Adding to the intrigue? Campaign season officially kicks off this week, too, as lawmakers begin collecting petitions to get on the ballot for 2016.
Illinois — where policy and politics perpetually collide. Politics often wins.
A dangerous bill that would limit Rauner's authority to negotiate labor contracts — he's currently in talks with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — could get called for an override vote in the House.
This bill has one purpose: to block a governor who's trying to discipline an undisciplined state government. Rauner vetoed the bill because it would let AFSCME declare an impasse during contract talks and head to binding arbitration. Arbitrators — unelected middlemen unaccountable to taxpayers — would choose between AFSCME's demands and Rauner's retort. The Senate has voted to override Rauner's veto. If the House does the same, the bill is law.
Current Illinois labor law requires the two sides to strike a deal. To compromise. Former Gov. Pat Quinn spent more than a year negotiating with AFSCME and at one point grew so frustrated, he canceled AFSCME's existing contract, which he had extended several times during talks. Still, AFSCME didn't try to strip Quinn of his authority to sit at the table.
AFSCME is pushing hard for the override. The union believes an arbitrator would be more generous than Rauner is, potentially granting all of AFSCME's costly demands. So far those demands include salary increases of 11.5 percent — and up to 29 percent for certain positions when seniority is factored in — over four years, Rauner says.
Rauner has proposed a wage freeze, noting that state workers have received raises during the last decade that far outpaced those in the private sector. Seeing as the state already faces a $4 billion budget hole, Rauner says Illinois can't afford union demands that would add another $1.6 billion in spending.
The two sides have been talking since the contract expired June 30. Both agreed to extend its terms until Sept. 30.
That's the policy explanation of what's at stake. Now, the politics:
Madigan and Rauner are fighting a war for the future of Illinois. Rauner ran TV ads over the summer blaming Madigan for Springfield's financial implosion. Madigan has blocked nearly all of Rauner's legislative agenda.
So overriding Rauner's veto would thrill Madigan. Forget the risk to taxpayers and the unprecedented, possibly unconstitutional, intrusion into executive authority. Madigan wants to win.
To override, Madigan needs all 70 other Democrats to stand with him. That includes fiscally conservative, independent-minded Dems who normally would oppose so unfairly pitting the interests of labor leaders against those of taxpayers.
Consider Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills, who's been pro-business and budget-conscious. She sponsored a 2011 bill that became law and assures that contracts governors and other statewide officials cut with unions only extend through their terms and don't hamstring their successors. AFSCME leaders fought her, but she stood up to them: "When a governor comes in, it's a new term. We want the opportunity for him or her not to have their hands tied," she said at the time.
A House override this week clearly would tie Rauner's hands.
Sente voted for the bill in May, but everyone knew Rauner would veto it. It was a safer vote then than it is now. Will she vote to override? We'll see. She and other swing Democrats are tight-lipped.
Adding to the intrigue: Sente faced a tough re-election campaign last fall against Republican Leslie Munger, whom Rauner later appointed state comptroller. The Democratic Party of Illinois, chaired by Madigan, spent more than $300,000 defending Sente's seat.
Two other Democrats, Jack Franks of Marengo and Andre Thapedi of Chicago, didn't vote on the bill in May. Like Sente, Franks has been an independent voice, as has former prosecutor Scott Drury of Highwood. Franks and Drury helped kill Madigan's proposal last year to tax millionaires. That is, both have bucked Madigan before.
This law would sunset in four years. It's aimed solely at Rauner, whom voters elected on the precise promise that he would take a tougher stance against unions during contract talks. If every Democrat caves to Madigan, those voters, aka taxpayers, will pay for every extra dollar the arbitrators award.
Republicans are expected to be unified against this bad bill. It only takes one Democrat — just one — to kill it. Will those independent, fiscally conservative Dems now bow to Madigan? Or will they acknowledge that this is an unprecedented swipe at a governor's ability to negotiate to the end on behalf of taxpayers?
Wednesday, if the override is called for a vote, we'll find out.

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