The Illinois House has voted to eliminate legislative scholarships, which allow lawmakers to award up to eight tuition waivers to students attending in-state universities. The scholarship program has been under fire as lawmakers continue to get caught abusing the system to award money to ineligible students. For example, more than one lawmaker has been accused of awarding several scholarships to non-related students who listed the same address.
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State Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) says that type of thing gives lawmakers a bad name. “The overwhelming majority of us award the scholarships correctly. We do not abuse the program,” he says. “But the program itself has brought this body into disrepute.” The measure’s opponents say it’s because the majority award the scholarships correctly that the program should be spared, but more safeguards put in place. It comfortably passed the house 79-25.
Its future in the Senate, however, remains uncertain. A spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) says she will co-sponsor the H.B. 3810 in the Senate, but the Senate’s own version of a scholarship elimination bill has been stalled in committee for months. “We’re afraid this bill will meet the same fate as all of our previous efforts to eliminate the program that is fraught with abuse,” says spokeswoman Patty Schuh. Schuh says Radogno’s measure, S.B. 2932, can’t get a public hearing and has been “bottled up” in the Senate Executive committee. Governor Pat Quinn released a statement applauding the House, and encourages the Senate to pass the measure as well.