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Today an emergency stopgap bill to fund higher education passed in the House. Senate Bill 2059 was presented as a measure to keep state universities open through the summer months and until further funding can be appropriated for higher education. Specifically, the bill has appropriated $600 million for higher education institutions from the Education Assistance Fund, funding which is immediately available.

Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) was on the forefront of discussions on this legislation. Fortner proposed a plan on Monday and worked diligently with legislators on both sides of the aisle throughout the week to find a solution to keep state universities open and running.

“This bill was an important step to ensure our universities can keep their doors open through the summer, and to give our students assurance that their universities are there for them in the fall,” said Fortner. “There is still much more to accomplish, but today was proof that we can make progress on funding issues through bipartisan work by members of the rank and file in the House and Senate.”

The Senate has approved the bill and it awaits final action from the Governor.

Rep. Fortner is hopeful the success of this legislation will set a tone for further resolutions on other funding related matters.
Higher education in Illinois is in crisis. The state has not appropriated basic operations money to the state universities this year. As a result one institution is preparing to close on May 1 and others cannot guarantee that they will be open when students return in the fall. May 1 is also the day when students traditionally must decide where they will attend in the fall. If students are uncertain about the future of our state universities, they may not plan to attend. Waiting longer to fund our universities may come too late to get those students back. There are three things we can do now to help this crisis.

First I propose that we utilize the Educational Assistance Fund (EAF) as a stopgap to fund the universities through August. The EAF will have about $600 million left in it at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. August is an important time since that is when students return and revenue from tuition, room and board comes to the universities. In SB 2046 (J. Cullerton/Currie), the total appropriation for ordinary and contingent expenses for the state universities and the Illinois Math and Science Academy is $1,079,180,600. This represents a full year appropriation, but there was no identified revenue to pay for it. An equivalent expenditure for four months from May 1 to August 31 would be one third of that, $359,726,867.

Second I propose that we provide one semester of MAP grant funding to help keep Illinois students of limited means at college in Illinois. SB 2046 also appropriates $397,073,100 to provide the MAP grants. Half of that to fund one semester would be $198,536,550. Combining the four-month university appropriation along with one semester of MAP grant funds comes to $558,263,417. This can be funded entirely from the EAF this fiscal year.

Finally I propose we give the universities relief from some of the procurement code. This has been a request from the universities long before the current administration and would be expected to save many millions. Modifying HB 4644 (Brady) to affect just the universities would provide this kind of relief and help the universities better manage their budgets while the state seeks a full long-term solution.

Of course the best outcome would be a full budget for all agencies. But anyone following the budget impasse in Illinois reads about the lack of trust among the leaders. A full budget is difficult at best in this environment. The General Assembly successfully took a more limited approach in December, appropriating money for cities to take care of snow removal and pay the lottery winners along with a long list of other activities. The General Assembly can take that approach again and move past this crisis in higher education.

Representative Mike Fortner recently hosted a clean energy forum to provide background on the Clean Energy Jobs bill (House Bill 2607). The forum brought together a wide variety of advocates from different sectors in the community; from government to business to interest groups like the Sierra Club. Representative Fortner and Representative Steve Andersson (R-Geneva) were on hand to answer questions and provide legislative insight on the bill.

Rep. Fortner is already a co-sponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs bill, and he stressed that any interested groups who want to share important information and voice concerns about the bill are helpful, in order to produce a comprehensive piece of legislation.  “We need to update state policy to bring in technology that can aid us economically - to create jobs, reduce pollution, and save money. This is an issue we’ve known is coming for a while and as a state representative, I welcome input to help us create the best bill possible to achieve this.”

To learn more about Clean Energy Jobs and House Bill 2607, visit

Please join State Representative Mike Fortner for a FREE Document Shredding Event to be held on Saturday, September 19th in the parking lot of the Batavia VFW.

This is a free event being provided to all residents as an opportunity to safely and securely dispose of any and all paper documents that you have been in need of getting shredded. The event will run from 9am – Noon on Saturday, September 19th at the Batavia VFW at 645 S. River St in Batavia. 

Schools must have a legitimate reason to demand students provide their social media passwords under a bill signed into law this week by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Chief sponsor Rep. Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago, said his bill — HB 3527 —  strikes a balance between student privacy and school districts’ legitimate needs to investigate problems such as bullying.

“There are still different ways to get that information,” he said. “What they can’t do is to ask for that password and go off and use that password on their own,” he said.

Brian Schwartz of the  Illinois Association of Principals said the measure appears well balanced.
“We think it’s a much better bill and a much better law and will allow building-level administrators to investigate violations of school district policy but still allow (for) and protect kids privacy,” he said.

Fortner’s measure defines and clarifies a reasonable-cause requirement, whereas earlier legislation was sometimes being cited as justification to implement blanket policies.

Under the new measure, a school would now need reasonable cause — such as report by a victim, parent or witness — before entering students’ social media spaces to look for information.

“There should be a real event going on before demanding private passwords, otherwise it’s just fishing without cause,” Fortner had said.

The new act takes effect immediately.