SPRINGFIELD – A plan to pay off the state’s oldest debt – back pay owed to some 24,000 state employees – is headed to the governor with veto-proof bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature.

The Senate approved State Senator Andy Manar’s measure to devote $63.25 million to wages that have been owed to state employees since 2011.

“This problem has lingered on the state’s books far too long. We owe it, it’s not going away, and we have to address it,” Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, said.

The legislation (House Bill 4290) passed in the Senate with an overwhelming 58-0 vote Wednesday night. It passed in the House last week, also with robust bipartisan support.

The measure appropriates money to various state agencies to pay employees the wages they’re owed. The employees include correctional officers, caregivers for veterans and people with developmental disabilities, mental health professionals and others.

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services and AFSCME, the labor union representing the largest number of state employees, worked with Manar to determine how many workers are still owed back wages.

The largest amount, nearly $41 million, is owed to workers with the state department of corrections, followed by the department of human services, which owes more than $17 million to its employees.

“In my mind, this is a very simple matter. This is money that is owed for work that was completed under a contract between employees and their employer, the state of Illinois,” Manar said. “Paying these back wages is the right thing to do, and I urge Gov. Rauner to make sure it happens as soon as this bill lands on his desk.”

 

Category: Latest News

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar expressed optimism regarding the Fiscal Year 2019 budget passed tonight by the Illinois Senate.

“This is a responsible, disciplined plan that reflects the priorities of the people in my Senate district and throughout Illinois. It is a budget that allows us to continue restoring fiscal stability to state government while addressing immediate needs,” said Manar, who presented the legislation to the Senate Wednesday night.

“This budget was a bipartisan effort that was not contentious. When people come to the table, even in a partisan environment, compromise can be achieved and good things can happen.”

Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and chairman of the Senate Appropriations II Committee, is one of the Senate’s budget negotiators. He noted the following points about the proposal, which passed with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans:

  • It’s balanced.
  • It devotes $350 million more for K-12 public schools as required by the new school evidence-based school funding model. Every school will receive as much money as they received last year.
  • It contains $10 million for critical access care pharmacy payments to help independent pharmacies in rural communities that are struggling because of the state’s Medicaid managed care rollout and because of pharmacy benefit managers.
  • It restores funding that local mayors and village presidents lost when the Rauner administration cut it last year.
  • Funding to help install broadband internet at rural school districts is appropriated in this budget, which would enable the state to leverage a 3-to-1 federal funding match.
  • It establishes an innovative new college grant program called AIM HIGH to incentivize Illinois students to attend state universities, support local economies and help middle-class students afford a college degree.

Furthermore, Manar noted, the budget continues to fund health insurance for retired teachers and community college employees, and it fully funds the state’s group health insurance program. Both were targeted for cuts under Gov. Rauner’s budget proposal earlier this year.

The budget also rejects the pension cost shift that Gov. Rauner proposed for local governments, which would have assured local property tax increases in many communities and school districts.

“This budget proposal is a tremendous step forward because it sets priorities not just for one party or for one part of the state,” Manar said. “This budget is good for all of Illinois.”

Category: Latest News

Manar May 2018 350SPRINGFIELD – A vigorous plan to address the teacher and substitute teacher shortage problems plaguing rural and downstate Illinois school districts was approved by the Senate Tuesday.

The measure, sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), is based on suggestions presented by teachers in the 48th Senate District during a series of meetings with Manar in the fall. It slashes red tape to encourage educators outside of Illinois to apply for hard-to-fill jobs here, creates a short-term substitute teaching license and allows downstate retired teachers to substitute in classrooms without jeopardizing their retirement benefits.

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” Manar said. “We have classrooms that have gone dark all over the state because school districts simply cannot hire all the teachers they need. Cutting red tape and eliminating some of the barriers to teaching in Illinois should help us solve this problem.”

House Bill 5627 received bipartisan support and no opposition in the Senate and the House. It will be sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The legislation would do the following:

  • Provide full reciprocity for out-of-state educators.
  • Create a short-term substitute teaching license to allow people with certain qualifications to substitute teach for no more than five consecutive days. The $25 application fee may be reimbursed if the person teaches 10 days on the license.
  • Allows downstate retired teachers to substitute teacher for 120 days a year without jeopardizing their retirement benefits, rather than the current limit of 100 days.
  • Allows educators whose licenses have lapsed from failure to complete professional development to qualify for a substitute teaching license.
  • Requires school districts to create a short-term substitute teacher training program to provide information on curriculum, classroom management techniques, school safety and building and district operations.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate approved a measure sponsored by Manar to allow substitute teachers to provide evidence of physical fitness to school districts so they don’t have to pay for the cost of an exam. Applicants would still be required to show proof that they are free from communicable diseases.

This is an additional effort to reduce costs for prospective substitute teachers and get more substitutes into the pipeline. The legislation passed with bipartisan support in both houses and will be sent to the governor’s desk.

Category: Latest News

ICC Graphic650

SPRINGFIELD – Access to water and electricity, fair utility rates, decent cell phone and cable service, and safe railroad grades are all issues that are vitally important to rural Illinois consumers.

Yet no rural or downstate residents today sit on the Illinois Commerce Commission, the powerful five-member state panel that regulates utilities, approves utility rates, licenses trucking and towing companies and oversees railroad safety and crossing improvements.

Since taking office in 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner has appointed five members to the commission; none live outside of Cook and DuPage counties. It marks the first time in a century that the commission has lacked a downstate member.

“There is a lot of Illinois outside of Chicago and the suburbs, and the people in these communities deserve to have someone on the commerce commission who will represent their interests and their point of view,” said State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

(Go here, then click the hyperlinked text “Commissioner List” to view a list of past ICC commissioners, their hometowns and the governors who appointed them.)

On Monday, the Senate Executive Appointments Committee voted to recommend two of Rauner’s pending appointments to the commission: D. Ethan Kimbrel and Anastasia Palivos, both of Chicago. Manar, who is vice chairman of the committee, voted no on both recommendations.

Kimbrel’s recommendation was forwarded to the full Senate for approval Monday afternoon. It passed 45-1. Manar, who represents a largely rural swath of central Illinois, cast the lone no vote.

It was unclear when Palivos’ recommendation may receive a vote before the full Senate.

Category: Latest News

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