Higher Education Working Group starting talks on new funding formula
The bipartisan Higher Education Working Group is back at it again, this time, aiming to take steps to alter the future state of higher education in Illinois. The goal still remains to attempt to entice students to stay in their home state for school.
Senator Schimpf met with fellow group members in Normal on Thursday, Aug. 30, to discuss the latest goal—a new funding formula, similar in scope to the K-12 funding revamp passed last year.
“The Higher Ed Working Group has been able to accomplish a lot so far, but more work needs to be done to ensure the future state of higher education in Illinois is on solid ground and serving students and families as best it can,” said Sen. Schimpf.
Earlier this year the group helped author several bills signed into law this summer, including a new $25 million merit-based scholarship program and more year-to-year stability for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) which distributes state-funded grants for low-income students.
Ag-assistance measure becomes law
A new law will ease weight-limit restrictions on state highways during harvest time, improving the competitive outlook for Illinois farmers and agricultural commodities haulers as a way to assist the state’s leading industry: agriculture.
In response to feedback from the agriculture and trucking communities, which voiced frustration about the restrictions placed on axle weights, House Bill 5749 allows haulers to seek and obtain annual permits from the Illinois Department of Transportation and local authorities to exceed gross axle and gross vehicle weight limits by no more than 10 percent.
Permits are to cost $500 with a total combined permit fee of no more than $1,000. State permit fees will go to the State Construction Account Fund.
Supporters say allowing for increased haul weights during harvest season benefits farmers by helping them to be more productive, and allows Illinois to be more competitive and consistent with other states that have higher weight limits on their roadways.
The new law will take effect July 1, 2019.
New law creates career-focused apprenticeship program
High school students will soon have another option to help prepare them for their future careers. Seeking to connect talented young people with good-paying jobs that don’t necessarily require a college degree, House Bill 5247 requires the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to adopt rules that would allow students ages 16 and older to participate in industry-based occupational apprenticeship programs.
The standards of the programs will be reviewed and approved by the U.S. Department of Labor. The ISBE rules will allow students to waive certain non-academic graduation requirements that would otherwise stop them from being able to take part in the apprenticeship programs.
Similar bills sponsored and signed into law this year to increase opportunities for students include measures to combat the teacher shortage, and dual credit programs to help students save money and get a head-start on college.
New law protects property tax relief for disabled veterans
Veterans with disabilities will now have their Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption follow them to a new residence, even if they move during the middle of the year, now that Senate Bill 2306 has been signed into law.
Under the new law, the homestead exemption for veterans with disabilities will now be prorated if the veteran who qualifies for the exemption does not occupy the qualified residence as of January 1 of the taxable year.
Previously, if a disabled veteran receiving tax relief through the homestead exemption moved in the middle of the year, then he or she would have been responsible for paying the outstanding property taxes on their new residence until they reapplied for the exemption the next year.
The Disabled Veterans' Standard Homestead Exemption provides a reduction in a property's Equalized Assessed Value to a qualifying property owned by a veteran with a service-connected disability.
To apply for this exemption, veterans must contact or visit their local County Assessor's Office.
State launches the Driving a Cleaner Illinois program
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) announced the launch of the “Driving a Cleaner Illinois” program this week, aimed at improving air quality in the state by primarily removing old diesel engines from service.
This program makes way for cities, schools, transit agencies, and private businesses to submit project ideas to the IEPA detailing how they will replace the old engines with newer, more environmentally friendly options.
“Taking old diesel engines off our streets and out of our rail yards will lead to better air-quality for all of us,” said Gov. Rauner. “The projects that will be funded in this first round will provide benefits to the most sensitive populations, including school children and residents in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards.”
The “Driving a Cleaner Illinois” program is funded through a recent $108 million allocation to the state of Illinois from the Volkswagen (VW) Settlement.