Friday, April 6, 2012

SUAA Mini Briefing

Author: The State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA)
Title: SUAA Mini Briefing
Publication: SUAA Website
Date Published: April 5, 2012

Thinking back on the days right before the Legislative Spring Break (beginning March 30 through April 16) there were several reasons for positive reactions to the decisions that were made in both the House and the Senate. March 30th was the deadline date for the third reading of the substantive bills. Those substantive bills have now left the House of their origination. Today's focus will be on the House of Representatives because this is where most of the bills on the SUAA watch originated.

House Resolution 706 Amendment 002 is a House Appropriations bill for the 2013 Fiscal Year. Both sides of the aisle, leaders Speaker Madigan and Minority Leader Cross, have pledged that they will work to reduce the State's spending. At this time there are reductions below Governor Quinn’s budget proposal.

The Resolution reads that the House expects $33,719,000,000 to be available in the general funds for not only spending but for paying the State obligations - unpaid bills. Included under non-discretionary items were the Pension payments of $5.1B for the normal cost of the five State funded pensions systems. Group Insurance is also included at $1.17B.

The Governor is looking to reduce Medicaid by $2.7B. This might be unattainable in just one year as was stated in the Committee of the Whole by Joy Johnson Wilson, Health Policy Director of the National Conference of State Legislators on March 22nd. (A Committee of the Whole is a device in which a legislative body or other deliberative assembly is considered one large committee. All members of the legislative body are members of such a committee. This is usually done for the purposes of discussion and debate of the details of bills and other main motions.)

HB3116 Pension Abuse Abatement (Jefferson, D - 67) was left on the House Floor in order of Second Reading. This bill would have kept retirees from moving to other government employment in another state and collecting their pension while receiving a salary unless their pension was suspended. This bill will not come forward again during this session - hopefully not in the future either.HB4513 Metropolitan Water Reclamation District legislation which increases the required employee and employer contributions was of interest because while this pension fund is not within the five-State funded pension systems the changes DO allow for a continued 3% COLA. HB4996 is the SURS Return to Work bill sponsored by Rep. Biss and now by Senator Steans in the Senate. There will most likely be some changes made to this bill in the Senate, but not many. One of the changes will be the effective date; a year to implement. The bill does not affect those who are under federal grants. Passage in the House was 112 yeas 2 present. SUAA's Legislative Steering Committee provided information to Rep. Biss along with other campus liaisons and lobbyists.

HB5531 was a big win for current employees and some annuitants. The bill would have repealed the provision that permits the children of employees of the State-funded universities to receive a 50% reduction in tuition fees. This is a benefit for all employees on the university campuses. The vote was 26 yeas - 75 nays - 7 voting present.

HB5790 Unused Sick Leave Credit was left on the House Floor under Second Reading. HJRCA5 - was also left in House Rules. While it can be brought back at any time, it would have to be passed by both the House and the Senate by May 6th to be on the November General Election Ballot. Constitutional amendments do not have the same rules as do legislative bills. This constitutional amendment provides that a bill shall not become a law without the concurrence of three-fifths of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly if that bill increases a benefit under any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof.

For those of you who have either read the headlines of newspapers about TRS Executive Director Dick Ingram, please do not have any fears. SURS financial state is quite good; no one is looking to take the COLAs from the annuitants or reduce the 3%. The pensions are being funded; investments are doing well and it looks as if there could be solutions coming forward to change Tier II.

While there are no crystal balls to tell what adverse legislation will prevail as session moves to the adjournment date; we do know that we look forward to being able to count on the SUAA membership and friends to guide us as decisions are made. Thank you for answering the calls to action - we know they work. Your efforts are being recognized as SUAA was mentioned on the House Floor during the last few days. Let's keep working for the good of all! Enjoy this Easter weekend!

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