The Legislation You Don't Know
Updated: May 20, 2021
By Kathleen Murphy
This is Breakthrough Ideas’ Lighting Up the Media.
Information is power. And when it comes to power - getting it and keeping it, Illinois politicians know every trick in the book. One of those tricks is inadequate bill review.
The SmartBuy Program - for example - bails out student loans for one-thousand privileged Illinoisans. It was passed in 2019, as part of Governor Pritzker’s massive spending plan.
Student loan bailouts are an unpopular policy that prioritize highly educated adults over truly vulnerable populations.
Illinois legislators knew the idea was unpopular, so they slipped the SmartBuy program into the Governor’s massive spending plan and forced it through the legislature with only a few hours for bill review. No one knew what they were voting on. Forget about media coverage. It was finally discovered and reported on in the Chicago Tribune 2 years after the fact.
In another example, the Illinois House passed HB 2789 last week. It gives control over how schools operate to the Illinois Department of Health if there’s a public health declaration - eliminating any local input from school boards, principals, teachers and families who know far better than Springfield bureaucrats what’s best for their community.
It’s an outrageous measure - in and of itself - that’s sure to be a disaster in a state as diverse as Illinois, if it’s ever implemented.
But there’s more. On April 22, maybe a couple hours before the bill was passed out of the House, Democrats tacked on an amendment that said: Not only would the Department of Public Health dictate how all public schools would operate - the DPH would dictate how all NON-PUBLIC schools operate.
This is the state taking control of your private and faith-based schools. The legislation is opposed by the State Board of Education, Chicago Public Schools and the Department of Public Health.
Who supports it? Teacher Unions. See, private schools and some public school districts found ways to get their kids back to school safely. It destroyed the narrative that it was “dangerous” to reopen schools, and changed the way a lot of people looked at teacher unions. Reopen plans were successful, while CTU and IEA continued to insist on keeping kids out of school. It made them look like the destructive, machine interests they are. It’s bad for the brand.
HB 2789 is terrible, vindictive legislation that the unions tried to sneak through.
I give the media a little break here. How could they have known about amendments that most legislators didn’t even know about?
HOWEVER, established Chicago and Springfield media outlets have been our watchdogs for decades. There have been countless bad laws, unfunded mandates, and punitive regulations passed in this manner. This has happened on their watch. Some newspapers have written about the need for adequate bill review here and there. But the state’s a disaster, so clearly the occasional op-ed isn’t enough.
Here’s what needs to happen:
Extend the Legislative Review Process. We advocate 72 hours for bill review prior to a vote.
New Leadership.BUT to get to an extended legislative review process, you are going to have to get rid of the politicians and special interests who are benefitting from a lack of transparency.
Accountability. To get to new leadership, bad actors have to be held accountable publicly. Our watchdogs have to stop protecting the people and interests who put these unfair processes in place.
Since outlets like the Sun-Times are actually owned by entrenched interests (SEIU), I won’t hold my breath. But this is the direction we need to go.
In the meantime, call your State Senator and demand they vote against HB 2789.