SPRINGFIELD — A bill allowing the Monticello school district to issue up to $35 million in bonds for potential school construction was approved unanimously by the Illinois Senate Wednesday.
The measure, HB 4995, already has passed the House. It now goes to the governor for his approval.
Any bond issue still would need the approval of voters in the Monticello district.
The legislation is required, said Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, because the $35 million figure exceeds a statutory limitation.
"What we really need to do is fix this cap because every year we get a couple dozen school districts in here who are going to exceed it," he said. "It's the same thing all the time because it just costs more to build a school today than it did 20 years ago."
The Monticello school board hasn't decided yet whether it will remodel its current high school, build a new one or maintain the status quo, Rose said.
"The superintendent came to me and said, 'I don't know what my board is going to do but if it decides to do it, we want to take advantage of the low interest rate environment right now to get the best deal,' " Rose said. "And they don't want to pass a referendum in November and then come back next year and wait and wait for six months while interest rates go up."
— A bill sponsored by Rose that would allow anyone 35 or older who has served in the Armed Forces or the National Guard to serve as a firefighter was approved and sent to the governor.
Currently new firefighters in Illinois must be under 35 years old, but HB 4741 creates an exemption for former servicemen and women whose service was characterized as honorable and who are under 40 years of age.
"If a guy comes out of the military at 38, now they can go back to Illinois and be a firefighter," said Rose.
— A bill that would ease property tax increases on commercial property owners who rebuild after natural disasters was put back in the House Revenue committee where sponsor Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, said he hopes it gets a hearing next week. The legislation is designed to soften the economic impact of rebuilding after disasters such as the tornado that struck Gifford, which is in Hays' district. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn by May 31.
— There was no Senate hearing on amendments to Senate Bill 16, legislation that is aimed at revising the way the state distributes aid to public schools.