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Senate approves more MAP grant money
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Senate approves more MAP grant money

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Illinois General Assembly stock

The "brass rail" outside the House and Senate at the Illinois State Capitol.

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois General Assembly has passed another bill that would provide money for grants to low-income college students, but it faces a likely veto from Gov. Bruce Rauner.

While the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the Republican governor were able to reach agreement last month on a bill to partially fund grants through the Monetary Award Program and operations at public universities and community colleges, the latest proposal is similar to previous bills the governor opposed. The Senate approved the bill Thursday on 39-15 vote after it was approved Tuesday on a 68-45 vote in the House.

Sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, Rauner’s chief political rival, the bill would authorize spending $227.3 million dollars to fully fund MAP grants for the 2015-16 school year. The earlier bill Rauner signed provided $167.6 million.

But the major difference – and the major sticking point for Rauner and his fellow Republicans – is that there is no specified funding attached to the new bill. The GOP argues that the state is already spending more than it will bring in this year.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a farce,” Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said before the vote.

But Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said it would allow the state to make good on its promises to colleges, universities and students across the state.

“It’s important to the future of the state of Illinois,” Trotter said.

Many public and private schools fronted their students money to cover MAP grants in the fall semester, but some reconsidered as the state’s budget impasse dragged on into the spring.

Rose also objected that the House has effectively killed a bill the Senate passed with strong bipartisan support that would have given universities and community colleges additional funding for operations in addition to providing more for MAP grants. It would have covered the cost by letting the state off the hook for money borrowed from special funds to plug holes in last year’s budget.

Meanwhile, the Senate voted 42-16 to approve a bill from Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, that would automatically register eligible Illinois residents to vote when they apply for or renew a driver’s license or state ID card.

The state currently offers people the option of filling out a voter registration form at secretary of state facility, but Manar’s bill would change it to an opt-out system. The secretary of state’s office would handle the initial screening, but local election authorities would continue to handle the actual registration.

The change would streamline a “duplicative process,” Manar said, and hopefully encourage more people to vote.

“This is about reducing redundancy in government, it’s about raising accuracy of voter rolls, and most importantly, it’s about opening up doors of democracy to people of this state who are citizens of the United States of America,” he said.

Some Republicans, including Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, had raised concerns about whether the proposal would create more opportunities for voter fraud, including by people who are living in the country illegally.

The Senate also voted in favor of a bill that would legalize and regulate online wagering on fantasy sports contest, but a supporter quickly asked for the vote to be reconsidered.

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