Bills to extend bargaining rights to paramedics, benefits for EMTs, raise minimum teachers’ salaries all get the axe
By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Gov. Bruce Rauner was given another chance – in fact, a trio of chances – to approve bipartisan legislation supporting Illinois working people and, true to form, vetoed all of it.
The House and Senate in May overwhelmingly passed House Bill 126, which would extend bargaining rights to paramedics, and its companion, House Bill 127, which would provide health coverage and educational benefits if a paramedic or EMT suffered catastrophic injury or is killed in the line of duty.
The bills would mainly affect about 60 paramedics employed by local governments. Among them are Mascoutah, Highland and Troy in the Metro-East and Union County in southern Illinois.
On Aug. 19, Rauner vetoed both of them.
“The governor has demonstrated once again he is blinded by his war against unions,” Sen. Christina Castro (D-Elgin) said. “His anti-union actions and rhetoric are evident in everything he does, but even by his standards, this action against our emergency personnel is despicable.”
HB 126 would extend the same rights granted to fire fighters to paramedics that are also employed by units of local government. Castro said paramedics face the same dangers and serve their communities with honor and respect.
“Our paramedics put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe,” she said. “The next time the governor needs to call 911, he should take a second to remember how he took our emergency personnel for granted.”
HB 127 passed the House 96-7 and the Senate 49-2. Among those voting against it was another regional Republican, Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville.
Democrats will pursue an override.
On Sunday, Aug. 26, Rauner vetoed legislation that would have raised the minimum salary for an Illinois teacher to $40,000 within five years. The current minimum wage for Illinois teachers sits between $9,000 and $11,000 a year.
Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery, a high school English teacher, said the veto “further demonstrates Bruce Rauner’s disrespect for teachers, staff, and the work we do.
“The IFT supported this effort to increase teacher pay, though it was just one piece of the puzzle to attract and retain the educators our students deserve,” Montgomery said. “We must also fund programs to recruit, support, and diversify our workforce. In addition, we must show teachers more respect by reforming public policy, making retirement security attainable for new teachers, and providing supportive school environments with smaller class sizes, support personnel, and important courses like the arts and vocational training.
“A good leader would embrace these commonsense approaches to address the teacher shortage and strengthen our public schools,” Montgomery said, “but Bruce Rauner failed once again.”