Next week marks the scheduled end of the current Budget Session in Springfield. Here is a list of the issues that are still hanging:
There is still an impasse on the House and Senate bills presented to resolve the biggest issue facing the General Assembly. here isn’t much to report on. In terms of progress, there isn’t any.
Problems have also popped up. Governor Quinn has stated he will not consider passing a casino expansion bill if pension reform isn’t resolved. He also wants to make sure that the Illinois Gaming Board would have ultimate oversight of a Chicago casino. Finally, media speculation exploded over Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposing a new home for the DePaul University basketball team in the McCormick Place campus. The proposal includes two hotels and an 18,000 seat arena for DePaul. Sports-business experts question the economics which has led to speculation that this is actually the preferred site for a Chicago casino.
It looked like there would be major movement on this issue because of the Senate bill sponsored by Kwame Raoul. But this week, just like on pension reform, a competing House bill emerged. It swept through the House on an 85 to 30 vote and just like on pension reform, there is a stand-off. The key differences are that the House bill does not carve out Cook County to require a “may issue” standard that allows additional discretion by local law enforcement agencies. The House bill would engulf the entire state, trumping all local ordinances, including Chicago’s ban on assault weapons. The House bill is strongly opposed by both Governor Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton.
This legislation is still a handful of votes away from passage in the House. It passed in the Senate on Valentine’s Day this year. The key is the House Black Caucus. It is divided with four confirmed supporters, five leaning toward supporting it, four opposing it and seven still on the fence. It may only take converting a combination of four of the leaners/fence sitters. It is really that close.
SB1715 which allows and regulate hydraulic fracturing to conduct high-volume oil and gas drilling in Illinois passed in the Senate on April 11th and has been through second reading in the House and was approved by an 11-0 vote in the Illinois House Executive Committee. It is slated to go before the full House and if it passes, Governor Quinn has gone on record that he will enact it. This looks like a done deal. It may be used to broker votes from Southern Illinois legislators on other issues.
THE REAL REASON THEY ARE THERE
With all of those other major issues hogging the spotlight in the Illinois Statehouse, little attention has been given to the main purpose of this session – budget deliberations. Surprisingly with all the contention on the other issues, the actual crafting of the budget is going smoothly. Democrats in the House and Senate have agreed in principle on a budget that would maintain current spending levels on education, boost human services spending a bit and provide a road map to paying off massive overdue bills. It’s been smooth because the Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers, relegating the GOP members of the House and Senate to the sidelines during the process, so far.
But, even with it going smoothly, odds are there will be attempts to spend money that doesn’t exist and special interest groups will work the halls of the dome to make sure their priorities are met at the expense of others. During Budget Session, some things never change.