Springfield, Ill. –  More than 200 bills were signed into law this week, including measures that State Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) says are intended to increase transparency and accountability in state government and Illinois’ schools, keep sex offenders off social networking sites, and change how legislative and judicial pensions are calculated.   On August 11, comprehensive legislation was signed to increase transparency and promote accountability through the creation of a public Web site known as the “Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal.”  

House Bill 35 (PA 96-0225), co-sponsored by Sen. Althoff, will allow Illinois residents to access a variety of information including state expenditures, tax credits, state employee salaries and state contracts. Similar legislation was enacted at the federal level and in other states, and has received widespread support from grassroots organizations, trade associations, press associations and taxpayer protection groups.  

Another bill, House Bill 2235 (PA 96-0266), seeks to open up school administrator and educator salaries to the public. Currently school districts aren’t required to delineate specific teacher or administrator salaries, which makes it difficult to know when or how increases are made. A Chicago Sun-Times editorial highlighted the issue, and advocated for greater public insight into these salaries.   The new law will require elementary and secondary school boards to submit an annual report to the Illinois State Board of Education on the base salaries and benefits of the district superintendent, all administrators and all teachers. Public universities and community colleges will similarly be required to submit an annual report to the Illinois Board of Higher Education that includes the base salary and benefits of the university president and all administrators, faculty members and instructors.  

Also this week, House Bill 1314 (PA 96-0262) was signed to prohibit convicted sex offenders from accessing social networking Web sites, like Facebook, MySpace, etc., if they are on parole, mandatory supervised release, probation, or supervision. With hundreds of millions of users, many of whom are children and teens, social networking sites have been identified as another way that sexual predators can target potential victims. Sen. Althoff said that the new law will remove that opportunity for contact, and keep sexual offenders out of forums that not only have the potential to be abused, but are impossible for law enforcement to ever completely supervise.   Finally, a measure received the governor’s approval that will prevent lawmakers and judges from “padding” their pensions at the end of their careers. For years, the rules regulating legislative and judicial retirement benefits have been criticized for allowing lawmakers to end their careers at a significantly higher salary—thus ensuring a hefty long-term “boost” to their pensions.  

Senate Bill 369 (PA 96-0207) changes the way pension benefits will be calculated; the calculation will no longer rely on the legislator’s or judge’s last day of pay. The benefits will now be calculated by taking the average of the four highest consecutive salary years in the past 10 years.  

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