Friday, May 20, 2011
SPRINGFIELD – As the 2011 Spring legislative session approaches its end, Democrats released the first version of a long-anticipated legislative redistricting map, said State Sen. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove).
Also this week, controversy surrounding the state’s College Illinois! pre-paid college tuition plan drew headlines.
Lawmakers and citizens alike saw the Senate Democrat’s redistricting proposal for the first time May 19. Like Illinois residents, Senate Republicans have been reviewing the proposed map to assess its impact on citizens, as well as its compliance with the Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and other relevant statutes.
While detailed analysis was not immediately available, most news reports indicated that the map placed political advantage over all other considerations. The proposed map shifts current district lines, drawing a number of current GOP senators out of their current districts and into areas currently represented by other Senate
The map was drawing close scrutiny from minority voting rights groups who want to determine if voting rights took a back seat to partisan political advantage and protection of incumbent politicians.
It’s widely anticipated that the proposal could be revised in the coming week. In order to advance the maps that favor Democrat lawmakers, the Democrat majority must approve the maps by May 31.
Two Senate redistricting hearings have been announced to allow public review of the proposed map. The first hearing will be held in Chicago, at noon, May 21 in Committee Room C-600 of the Michael A. Bilandic Building. The second hearing will be held in Springfield at 9:00 a.m., May 24 in Committee Room 114 of the State Capitol. Live streaming of the hearings will be available online at www.ilsenateredistricting.com.
House Bill 3500, a measure protecting the privacy of FOID card holders, passed the Senate Friday afternoon after passing the House in April. Sen. Sandack was one of many co-sponsors of the legislation which aimed to prevent the Attorney General from releasing information of gun owners to the public. The bill will now go to Governor Quinn to sign into law.
In response to months of negative press and troubling reports surrounding College Illinois!, the state’s prepaid tuition program, a number of House and Senate lawmakers on May 19 called for an overhaul of the College Illinois! program. House and Senate legislators have filed resolutions urging administration of the program to be moved from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to the Comptroller’s Office. That same day, Gov. Pat Quinn replaced the head of ISAC.
Lawmakers believe that the Comptroller’s oversight could yield better results and closer financial management for College Illinois’! 55,000 contract holders. Currently, the program has $419 million in investments that are not in stocks and bonds, which places 38 percent of the fund at risk. It is also estimated that College Illinois! is 31 percent underfunded, and investments have been moved from safer stocks and bonds, and placed into riskier hedge funds and private equity investments.
Recently, State Auditor Bill Holland’s office revealed that College Illinois! is running a deficit of $300 million—the most substantial financial shortfall of any prepaid tuition plan in the nation. A recent audit also found that College Illinois! employees chose to invest funds in an enterprise that was flagged as risky; ultimately the bank failed and the investment—more than $12 million—was lost. To make matters even worse, Crain’s Chicago Business recently revealed that the former ISAC executive director invested College Illinois! money in funds run by friends and past associates, and that ISAC didn’t pursue proper scrutiny of those investment practices.