4/3/2006 2:36:00 PM Guest Column More than 100 bills going to governor
By Rep. ROGER EDDY For The Daily News
As expected, the past week was very busy. The General Assembly approved more than 100 bills last week that will be sent to the governor for his consideration. Obviously, I can't cover all of those bills. I will cover as many as possible, plus a couple of issues.
HB 1463 passed the Senate and will now go to the governor for action. This bill provides for the cancellation of the drivers' license or permit of any person under the age of 18 who is a chronic truant. It also prohibits the issuance of a driver's license or permit to an unmarried person under 18 years of age who fails to maintain school attendance.
Another bill dealing with driving also passed the Senate last week. HB4768 increases the hours of behind the wheel instruction a minor is required to complete (as certified by parents on a log) to 50, rather than 25 hours. It also requires 10 of those hours to be driven at night.
HB 2650 provides that, if a county police officer writes the ticket for a speeding violation in a construction or maintenance zone that occurs on any highway other than an interstate highway, the additional fine of $125 or $250 shall be deposited into the county's Transportation Safety Highway Hireback Fund (rather than into the Transportation Safety Highway Hireback Fund in the state treasury). This removes the possibility that the governor can sweep a fund which was created with dollars initiated by a county officer. This is another example of how the General Assembly continues to frown upon fund sweeps that have become the hallmark of this administration. The use of this county fund is limited to hiring off-duty county police officers to monitor construction or maintenance zones.
SB 2400 also passed the House last week. This legislation has been the subject of a lot of constituent mail. It allows all municipalities and counties to regulate smoking in any enclosed indoor area used by the public. I voted yes for this legislation. The legislation itself does not prohibit smoking in all indoor areas. It allows for local control of that issue in all city and county jurisdictions. This is a local-control issue, and I believe this is the best way to handle it rather than to have the state dictate to all cities and counties.
We also passed SB 2810 out of the House and on to the governor. This measure attempts to thin deer herds in the state by amending the Wildlife Code to allow unused gun deer permits that are left over from a regular season to be rolled over and used during any separate harvest period held within six months of the original season for which those tags were issued at no additional cost. The legislation would become effective immediately if signed by the governor.
Many of you have read and heard about the fiasco surrounding the administration of ISAT tests to students in Illinois this year. This test is given to Illinois children in order to determine whether they meet certain academic standards. Schools are then rated and even sanctioned based on the performance of students on these tests. This year, the tests were delivered late, with some missing pages and mislabeled. Hundreds of complaints have been registered about the test this year.
The contract for the test was awarded to a Texas-based firm named Harcourt. It is actually a multi-year contract worth well over $50 million. That company has admitted publicly that it hired a person named John Wyma as a lobbyist to help secure this multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. It turns out that Wyma, in addition to being a lobbyist, was also a member of the governor's staff when he was in Congress. The late test delivery, other test errors and the lobbyist contract association continue to cause a huge uproar. After all, the reliability and validity of the state assessment system is now in question.
Three weeks ago, a House Resolution was filed (HR 1005) which demand ed that the State Superintendent of Schools appear before the House Elementary & Secondary Education Committees to answer questions related to the problems with this test. Finally, after a press conference and a very fiery floor debate this week, the House resolution has been posted for committee hearing. Obvious questions need to be asked about the ISAT test. Some educators are truly upset about what appears to be a contract that was gained through undue influence which has resulted in this round of tests being very questionable.
We need answers and I hope Superintendent Dunn is prepared to provide those answers. Students and schools throughout Illinois deserve to have a testing system that is free from questions concerning reliability, validity and undue lobbying influence. Our children deserve better and we must demand that at all costs. I believe that the current testing company should be fired and a new proposal for tests should be released by ISBE that is free from any undue influence from lobbyists or anyone else.
Last week, the Timberland Resolution (HJR 95) which allows for assessors to hold the line on timberland assessments also passed the Senate. It looks like the governor's office is going to enforce the resolution through the Department of Labor. A task force will determine a fair method of assessing timberland during the next two years. This resolution was the result of a bipartisan measure which I co-sponsored in the House. Thanks to all constituents who contacted me about this issue. Together, we made a difference!
Finally, last week I filed a resolution calling for the State Inspector General to audit the Chicago Public Schools system. This system receives around 25 percent of all state school money, has a declining enrollment, is collecting more in local tax revenue and now says that it needs $328 million to balance next years' budget. Last year, the state sent more than $70 million to the Chicago Public School pension system while shorting the downstate teacher's retirement system's scheduled payment over $ 1 billion. I think it is time for some answers that an audit might provide. Maybe they need the money, but so does every other district in the state.
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.
Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville) represents the 109th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.