By Bethany Jaeger
Thursday’s House rejection of a new state income tax structure isn’t a done deal. We knew it could come back in some form, but Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat and deputy majority leader, filed a “motion to reconsider” after yesterday’s vote. (Scroll to the bottom of this page to see record of Hannig’s motion.) The maneuver allows the chamber to take another whack at the same legislation, maybe with some changes.
Twice last year legislators used the motion to block legislation from advancing even though it received enough votes to pass. Senate Democratic leadership halted an electricity rate deal from advancing to accommodate a particular utility (scroll down to "procedural maneuvering"). Downstate House members stopped a budget deal from advancing to gain leverage for electricity rate relief.
Hannig’s move was the opposite. The income tax measure failed, and Hannig was one voting against it. He said in a phone conversation Friday that he told the sponsor, Rep. Mike Smith, a Canton Democrat involved in education matters and passionate about education funding reform, that he agreed with him philosophically but didn’t think the constitutional amendment was ready to go on the ballot. So Hannig voted against the measure, but he filed a motion to reconsider so that Smith would have an opportunity to bring the measure back with some changes that potentially could change some Democratic and Republican “no” votes to “yes” votes.
So, yes, you can bet on Smith’s measure coming back sooner rather than later. Constitutional amendments must be approved by both chambers before May 4, and given that the measure still needs to be revised, approved by the House, read three different times and approved in the Senate, with a week off April 21-25, Hannig said the House would need to reconsider the measure rather quickly.
Rewriting the rules
By Bethany Jaeger
House Speaker Michael Madigan sent a letter to lawmakers today to describe implications of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s lawsuit against Secretary of State Jesse White. White’s office refused to publish administrative rules to the governor’s desired health care expansions because the rules never received approval from the legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Because the two offices disagree on the authority of JCAR and, therefore, the ability to publish the rules so the administration can enact the expansions, they want direction from the court, as one agency spokeswoman said this morning. “Both parties in this case recognize that the lawsuit is part of a process intended to clarify the laws surrounding healthcare expansions and JCAR’s constitutional standing,” said Ruth Igoe, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which filed the suit and runs the programs. “We consider this an amicable process.”
Madigan disagrees and described the lawsuit in the letter as a “back-door effort to implement the governor’s policies.”
“The lawsuit, filed at the governor’s direction, is an explicit statement that he does not want executive agencies to work in a cooperative manner with the legislature,” he wrote.
The governor’s office did not return a phone call.
Watch Illinois Issues magazine for more about the implications of the lawsuit.
Redrawing the map
By Patrick O’Brien
The battle that ensues every 10 years to draw the map for legislative districts could be solved by more than names drawn from hat if a new measure becomes law.
The proposed constitutional amendment has the support of House Speaker Michael Madigan, according to Mike Lawrence, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Lawrence, long-time journalist and former spokesman for then-Gov. Jim Edgar, says the proposal would take the element of chance out of the controversial task of updating district boundaries every 10 years. And it would be designed to make it easier for the two chambers to compromise. Currently, both chambers must agree on the same map. Under this proposal, the House and Senate would draw and approve separate maps, essentially controlling their own destinies.
If the two parties can’t agree on how to compose the map, two Illinois Supreme Court justices would appoint a so-called special master to redraw the map. The special master usually is a lawyer, Lawrence says.
Since 1981, lawmakers have come to a standstill three times. So they randomly drew from a hat to pick the winning party that would redraw the map.
Control of the process typically benefits that party, often because districts are oddly designed to produce certain results.
For the state’s Republican Party, the next redistricting in 2010 may be especially important because of the changing demographics of Illinois, particularly in the Chicago suburbs.
The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., reported last month that self-identified Republicans account for only 25 percent of Illinoisans. Democrats account for 35 percent, and independents 40 percent.
As more people leave Chicago and Cook County for the suburbs, Democrats gain strength in the suburban counties.
Lawrence says the plan would take some of the political venom out of the process and restore geographical sense to the map.
A House committee will hold a public hearing on the measure next week.