Thursday, November 18, 2010

Little action in first week of veto session

By Jamey Dunn

In their first week back after the general elections, Illinois lawmakers did not take up many of the issues statehouse watchers expected to be on the table for the veto legislative session.

Legislators were lobbied this week by activists asking for the repeal of the death penalty, local government officials asking for reforms to the pension system for police and firefighters, mayors asking for casinos to combat unemployment, anti-gambling groups hoping to fight the spread of casinos and slot machines and citizens asking for civil unions rights for same-sex couples, to name a few.

However, the General Assembly failed to act on any of these hot-button issues.

The House rejected two of governor Quinn’s amendatory vetoes with no debate. His changes to House Bill 5206 would create a citizen’s initiative program, which would allow voters to propose ethics legislation. The original bill, which was preserved in Quinn’s changes, allowed county officials to more easily purge deceased voters from their rolls. Rep. Dan Brady, a Republican from and the sponsor of the bill, said he did not oppose Quinn’s changed in theory, but he was concerned they might bog the bill down or make it unconstitutional.

The House also overrode Quinn’s changes to a controversial measure, which would seal state employee evaluations from the public. He wanted evaluations public expect for law enforcement, citing safety and security concerns.

A Senate committee heard testimony on a gaming expansion bill, and a House committee did the same on police and firefighter pension reform. But neither took a vote.

Speaker Michael Madigan made positive statements about civil unions to reporters and characterized passing the measure as an “appropriate” thing to do. But the bill did not come up for a vote or debate.

Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno formed two bipartisan legislative committees to research Medicaid and workers' compensation reforms, two issues Radogno has said she wants to see addressed before Republicans will vote in favor of borrowing or a tax increase. The groups are scheduled to present their findings to the Senate by January 3. Cullerton dropped a $4 billion borrowing plan to pay the state’s pension payment for this fiscal year from the schedule of a committee hearing, saying he would not move the bill without Republican support.

Cullerton also introduced HB 5057 that would boot over 700 appointed officials who have remained at their positions after the expiration of their terms. New nominations would have to be approved by the Senate, and those who were removed would be eligible for nomination again.

“This is not in any way passing judgment on those serving in these positions. Rather, it is an effort to return to the important system of checks and balances in the Illinois Constitution,” Cullerton said.
Many of the positions that would be affected by the bill are unpaid posts and some are vacant. However, some include members of the governor’s cabinet.

Cullerton expects lawmakers to take up the bill when they return to session after the Thanksgiving holiday. The Illinois House is scheduled to return November 29 and the Senate November 30.

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