Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Two constitutional amendments fall flat, while two others move forward

By Jamey Dunn

Two legislative efforts to get proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot failed today.

The push for a constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax fell flat today. To meet the deadline to get the amendment on the November ballot, the Senate would have had to have approved it today. Democratic Sen. Don Harmon, who is the sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 40, said he had the votes in his chamber. But Harmon of Oak Park said he did not want to call upon his colleagues to take a tough vote if it seemed that the measure had no chance of passing in the House. “I have said from the get-go, I want to make sure the reception in the House is a warm one, and we want to make sure we have the votes lined up in the House,” Harmon said today.

Opponents of the amendment dub it a tax increase because graduated rates, which are in a separate bill, proposed by Harmon and other backers, assume that the temporary income tax rates would become permanent. The amendment itself would not affect rates but would only allow for a graduated income tax. Currently, the state’s Constitution calls for a flat tax. Supporters of the plan filled the capital rotunda today, chanting, “We want a fair tax.” Harmon lobbied House members and called on the Senate not to adjourn when it broke for committees in the afternoon, giving him more time to try to round up the votes needed. But in the end, it was not enough and the Senate adjourned this evening without taking a vote on the amendment.

The proposal faced an uphill climb in the House from the beginning of session. Republicans have been outspokenly opposed to the plan and it would have needed support from every Democrat in the chamber to pass. Marengo Democratic Sen. Jack Franks signed on to a resolution opposing a graduated income tax, and House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters recently that the amendment was far from having the support it needed to pass in the chamber.

Meanwhile, a proposal from Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno to impose term limits on constitutional officers failed to get the support needed to make it out of committee today. Radogno said that her position on term limits has “evolved” over time as she has become frustrated with conditions in Illinois. “The public is clamoring for change. They want new ideas. They want new faces,” she said. Democrats on the committee chided Radogno for introducing the proposal so close to the deadline to get amendments on the ballot. Radogno filed her resolution last week. Additional session days would have to have been scheduled to meet the necessary timeline if the amendment had moved forward. But Radogno said that if Democrats were interested in passing it, there was still enough time left.

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is backing a push to put a constitutional amendment for legislative term limits on the ballot through a citizen initiative. The Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits, which has Rauner as its chairman, plans to turn its signed petitions in tomorrow. Yes for Independent Maps, a group spearheading a citizen initiative campaign for an amendment that would change the way legislative districts are drawn in the state, plans to turn in its petitions on Thursday. If the signatures are approved by the State Board of Elections, both proposed amendments would likely face court challenges before they would reach the ballot.

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