Legislative Roundup – May 22

No Ticket Quotas

Illinois lawmakers are sending Governor Pat Quinn a bill to put an end to police ticket quotas.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Jay Hoffman, passed the House Wednesday and has already passed in the Senate. It would prohibit police departments from setting quotas for the number of traffic tickets cops must write.

Police departments also cannot base an officer’s performance evaluation on the number of tickets they write.

Equal Rights Amendment

A resolution calling for Illinois to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment is advancing in the Legislature.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans passed out of committee Wednesday and now advances to the Senate floor. The Chicago Democrat says Illinois has been a leader in equal rights, but points out the state has “unfinished business.”

A movement to add an amendment to the constitution to say rights cannot be deprived based on sex languished in the 1980s when not enough states ratified the measure.

Illinois is one of 15 states that haven’t adopted the proposed amendment in the 40 years since it was sent to the states for ratification.

Republicans say the resolution’s timing is political and a distraction from the Democrats’ record this year.

Medical Cannabis For Epileptic Kids

The Illinois House has approved legislation that would let minors with epilepsy use medical marijuana.

Lawmakers voted 98-18 Wednesday in favor of the measure.
The bill would add epilepsy to the list of treatable diseases in Illinois’ medical cannabis pilot program. It also would allow children with epilepsy to consume oil from the marijuana plant.

Currently only Illinois residents 18 years and older may use medical marijuana in the state’s four-year pilot program.

Parents of children with epilepsy say consuming the oil reduces seizures and doesn’t make children feel high. Opponents disagree with further legalizing the drug.

The Senate approved the bill in April. But the measure must return to the Senate for consideration of a House amendment that prohibits children from smoking medical cannabis.

The bill is SB2636.

Capitol Funding

An Illinois lawmaker says she plans to file legislation that would pay for a capital construction program with the state’s sales tax on gasoline.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz said Wednesday that her legislation would mean $400 million for construction projects next year and $800 million in additional years.

Illinois’ sales tax on gasoline is 6.25 percent. The state’s share of money from the tax currently is sent to the state’s general revenue fund. But the Northbrook Democrat’s legislation would divert that money to capital construction if an extension of the state’s tax increase is approved.

Democratic lawmakers are working to gather votes to extend the income tax increase. Individual rates are scheduled to drop in January from 5 percent to 3.75 percent, creating a loss of $1.8 billion in revenue.

School Cuts?

Gov. Pat Quinn’s office has called attention to potential funding cuts to schools as part of an effort to extend the state’s temporary income tax increase.

Quinn’s budget office said Wednesday that schools would see $875 million in cuts if the tax rate rolls back as scheduled. The office also calculated the corresponding hike in local property taxes that school districts would have to adopt to make up the cuts.

The tax rate is scheduled to drop from 5 percent to 3.75 percent for individuals in January. That would reduce state revenue next year by about $1.8 billion.

Quinn backs a $38 billion budget makes the increase permanent. He and other Democratic leaders are having a tough time coming up with votes for the plan.

Opt Out Amendment

Legislation allowing schools to opt out of teaching topics like drivers’ education and black history has received backing from an Illinois Senate committee.

The amendment approved Tuesday was attached to a school funding bill, though more revisions could be on the way.

There are dozens of topics schools could decide not to teach including physical education. The idea is to save money. Some districts say they’ve been required to teach more topics but not funded adequately.

The main bill proposes changes to the state’s school funding formula, a move designed to help poorer districts. However, that would also mean school districts, particularly in Chicago’s suburbs, would lose money.

Lawmakers opposed to the amendment say it should be separated out and potentially sends a bad message.

The bill is SB16.

(Some material is copyrighted by The Associated Press. Copyright 2014 all rights reserved.)