Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The Illinois Legislature finished the two scheduled weeks of the annual veto session on December 2, when the Senate adjourned until January 4. The veto sessions during each two year session are required to allow the legislature to deal with changes that the Governor makes to legislation sent to him after the regular legislative session concludes. The veto session takes on additional meaning during an election year, when many legislators decide to retire (or have a forced retirement due to an election loss). Added to this thought is the requirement that every state legislature, following the taking of the national census every ten years, that legislative and U.S. House districts must be re-districted or re-apportioned, to account for changes in population that have occurred over that ten year period.

In Illinois this year, significant changes have take place in the legislature. Many changes have occurred in the both chambers of the Illinois legislature due to numerous retirements, some because of election loss, death or early resignation (not necessarily politically changed hands, however) in 2010. Therefore, increased emphasis is placed on dealing with what may be controversial legislation during the “lame duck” session when many of those “retiring” members are still around to cast votes.

This year in our “veto session” most of the time spent in the Capitol was dedicated to dealing with bills still alive on the regular calendars in each chamber, and not so much time on changes made to bills modify by the Governor. Two controversial energy projects have made their way through the House, and are likely to be called for a vote in the Senate prior to the current session ending, and the new session beginning in early January. In both cases, these projects want electric and gas consumers, through existing utility rate structures, to pay a guaranteed rate of return for the projects to move forward. Proponents of the projects point to the job creation benefits, the use of Illinois coal, and the revitalization of a formerly polluted site for positive benefits of all citizens.

Additional debate in this “veto session” has centered on social issues, like providing legal rights for same sex couples in civil unions. Under legislation sponsored and passed in the Illinois Senate, gaming would expand exponentially under provisions creating 5 new casinos in Illinois and providing existing race tracks to become “racinos” (a combination of casino and horse racing). In part, this legislation has been promoted to generate new revenue to begin digging Illinois out of its huge budget deficit, now pegged at over $13 billion.

So you can see the truth of the old adage in legislation and politics that “anything can happen when the legislature is in session” and it usually does!

Looking ahead to the new 97th General Assembly convening after inauguration and swearing in of the members of the legislature, and the 6 Constitutional Officers on January 12, we will likely see actions on major legislation colored by the one immediate task on the plate of the members, creating new districts that they may run in during the general election in November 2012. The next two years should be very interesting from that perspective, in determining whether we make progress on a whole host of issues, with the largest one being how to address the 800 pound (and gaining weight) gorilla in the room—our state deficit.

Rich Clemmons
Gov Plus Consulting
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