ILLINOIS (IRN) — Legislation giving only vaccinated school staff the benefit of taking COVID-related sick time as administrative leave rather than sick time could soon head to the governor’s desk.
A measure similar to House Bill 1167 originally passed the General Assembly last year only to be met with a veto by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Pritzker vetoed House Bill 2778 in January and then put his support behind the idea that a new bill should be done to only benefit vaccinated school staff.
Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, explained the bill’s journey up until this point.
“The governor sent back his veto with a message to the General Assembly suggesting that we take this course instead,” Harmon said. “This bill embodies that veto message and deals with both paid administrative leave and sick leave for teachers.”
If signed by the governor, vaccinated school staff would be eligible for paid sick leave for COVID-related absences. However, unvaccinated employees will not.
“We are going to allow pay concessions for sick days for those teachers who have been vaccinated only,” said state Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy. “This only applies to vaccinated individuals.”
Opponents of the measure argued the bill is the governor and his administration trying to enforce the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on schools.
“This is trying to put the vaccine mandate into law,” said Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods. “The governor has tried many ways to have a vaccine mandate and he’s been struck down by the courts and otherwise, this is just another way of the governor trying to enforce a vaccine mandate.”
Harmon countered that.
“This is not a vaccine mandate,” Harmon said. “There is no requirement that one needs to be vaccinated to work in public schools. It is, however, an incentive.”
There are also provisions in the measure giving retroactive time to vaccinated staff who previously took time off because of COVID-19 issues and guarantees pay for workers like bus drivers if schools have to shut down because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The measure found bipartisan opposition, but secured enough votes to pass both chambers and could now be sent to the governor.