3/29/2006 2:35:00 PM Guest Column Eddy: State legislative session nears the finish line
By Rep. ROGER EDDY For The Daily News
There are two remaining weeks scheduled for the 2006 spring session of the Illinois General Assembly. Last week, weather and the primary election slowed action in the House. In fact, we only voted on a handful of mostly agreed legislation. However, over 50 bills were moved from second to third reading and dozens of other measures passed through committees to the floor for consideration. So, the next week or two will be very busy.
One of the bills we will consider is SB2915. I am chief House sponsor of the act which requires the state police to establish and maintain a Meth Manufacturer Database for the purpose of identifying meth manufacturers and making that information available to law enforcement and the general public. Under the act, the state police must make the information contained in the Statewide Meth Manufacturer Database accessible on the Department's home page. With all of the dangers involved with meth manufacturing, this will allow both law enforcement agencies and the general public to know the location of these dangerous manufacturing facilities.
We have passed some good legislation over the past couple of years to help in the fight against meth. Law enforcement officials and other groups within the 109
th legislative district have been instrumental in this effort. SB2915 is another example of how input form professionals and the public can result in good legislation to fight problems that we have. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and I expect it to sail out of the House in the next couple of weeks and on to the governor.
Last week, the governor once again made a push for the General Assembly to pass an assault weapons ban. The measure (HB2414) failed to get enough votes in the House a couple of weeks ago. It is the subject of a bitter battle between pro gun forces and anti-gun groups. As you all know, I think that we need crime control and not more gun laws. Enforcement of existing laws is needed and not additional infringements on our 2nd Amendment Rights.
Two murders of innocent children in a Chicago neighborhood a couple of weeks ago have sparked the latest efforts by anti-gun activists to see HB2414 pass. The death of those two innocent children is, of course, a terrible tragedy. We should all want that type of senseless violence to end. The truth is that the weapons used in those killings are already illegal in Chicago, yet the fact that the weapons were not legal did not stop the crime from taking place. In fact, in the City of Chicago, where most of our gun restriction laws already exist due to home rule, is where most of the hand gun murders take place.
There are several bills dealing with education that will reach the House or Senate floor for a vote next week. HB4365, allows for cooperative high schools to receive the same consolidation incentives which are given to districts that consolidate. This is an incentive for high schools to join together to and still receive all consolidation incentives without actually going through a consolidation. I am a co-sponsor of this legislation. The bill passed the House and is now in the Senate for final action.
In addition, a major school district reorganization bill is pending in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. That bill would remove many obstacles to school district reorganization that currently exist without mandating consolidation in any way. I have worked with the governor's office and Democratic legislators for a couple of years on the language in this bill. This legislation has the potential to allow for more reorganizations in the next few years than have taken place over the last twenty years under existing reorganization laws in Illinois. The key is that the legislation allows so much flexibility for schools and communities to reorganize in ways that benefit children and taxpayers without forcing consolidation. It comes in the form SB80.
I am also working hard in education appropriations committees to see that downstate schools receive a fair share of education funding increases scheduled in the FY07 budget. It looks like the governor is going to support around $400 million in new spending for elementary and secondary education for FY07. Around $300 million of that amount should go to support an increase in the per pupil foundation level and to fund all of the mandated categorical spending required such as special education and transportation. Another $30 million is earmarked for new early childhood programs. This money will definitely help downstate schools.
I would like to see even more of the remaining $70 million go to cover escalating costs in special education. As of now, the governor and ISBE want to spend millions on laptops for some selected seventh graders in the state, $10 million for a pilot program to reduce class sizes to 15 students (once again in only selected schools), about $5 million to implement a new "strategic plan" and about $15 million in new money to start a universal preschool program. It is not that the proposed ideas are not good ideas. However, we need to reimburse schools for the skyrocketing costs of mandated programs like special education at 100% before we start new programs that could become unfunded mandates in the coming years.
Let me know what you think! You can track legislation at www.ilga.gov If you have any comments, please write me at either P.O. Box 125, Hutsonville, IL 62433 or 222-N, Stratton office Building, Springfield, IL 62706, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will also keep you updated on my web site: www.peopleforeddy.com