With the election over, it’s time for state lawmakers to return to Springfield for their annual veto session, which begins Tuesday.
Like four years ago, legislators return with the prospect of a different governor being sworn in just over two months from now.
Unlike four years ago, the new governor will be a Democrat who will be working with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate that grew even larger on Election Day.
Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said the change coming to the governor’s office alters the atmosphere for this veto session.
“A lot of this stuff might get pushed off until (next year),” Butler said. “I do not see where we have any huge pressing issues that are going to be taken up in the veto session.”
Butler said avoiding an override vote would be particularly true for bills that didn’t get supermajorities when they passed the General Assembly. They could be reintroduced next year, and sponsors would hope for a different outcome with a different governor.
Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said circumstances also may have changed since lawmakers were last in session, leaving some sponsors to rethink their bills.
“There’s any number of factors that might lead to a legislator not calling their bills,” Manar said.
He also said the transition as Pritzker prepares to assume office will have an effect.
“I think the transition to the new administration is going to require much attention not just from the incoming administration, but from legislators as well,” Manar said. “I think, at this moment in time anyway, it is taking up much of the oxygen in the room.”
Here are some of the issues facing lawmakers this week.
Court of Claims
When lawmakers found out that families of veterans who died of Legionnaires’ disease at the Quincy veterans home could get only limited compensation from the state, they acted.
They approved Senate Bill 2481 which raised the limit on awards from the Illinois Court of Claims from $100,000 to $2 million.
Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to change the bill and cut the maximum payout to $300,000. He said the higher amount ignores “the impact of vastly expanded future litigation on the fiscal position of the state and its taxpayers.”
Rauner said the $300,000 limit is “more reasonable and justifiable.”
As an amendatory veto, lawmakers must take some action on the bill. They can either vote to override Rauner’s changes, or they can vote to accept them. If they do nothing, the bill will die.
Teacher minimum wage
Lawmakers last spring approved legislation to gradually raise the minimum salary paid to school teachers to $40,000 a year. The increase would be phased in over a five-year period to give school districts time to adjust. After it reached $40,000, the minimum salary would be adjusted each year for inflation.
The minimum salary for teachers set in state law now is $9,000 a year, a level that was set 38 years ago.
Manar sponsored Senate Bill 2892 and said it would be one tool to help combat the teacher shortage in Illinois. However, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill, saying it interferes with local control of school district salaries and imposes an unfunded mandate on schools. Some poorer school districts said they would have difficulty complying with the law.
The bill passed the Senate with a supermajority, but not the House. Manar said he hasn’t determined whether he will seek an override.
“We’ll continue meeting with individual members on Tuesday when legislators return to Springfield,” he said. “The outcome of those conversations will determine whether or not we call the bill for an override.”
Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 2332, which raises the age to legally purchase tobacco in Illinois to 21. However, neither chamber approved it with a veto-proof majority.
Rauner vetoed the bill, saying it will not prevent tobacco from getting into the hands of teens who want it.
“Raising the age people can purchase tobacco products will push residents to buy tobacco products from non-licensed vendors or in other states,” the governor said in his veto message.
Proponents of the bill said raising the age to buy tobacco will save lives because the older a person gets, the less likely they are to take up smoking. They also disputed it would cause teens to go to other states to buy tobacco, although business groups insisted they would.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, could not be reached for comment. After Rauner vetoed the bill, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said lawmakers would attempt an override. If it failed, he said, the legislation would be reintroduced next year.
Lincoln library foundation
The activities of the Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation will come under scrutiny by the House Tourism Committee this week.
The foundation has come under criticism for spending millions of dollars on a hat purported to have been owned by Abraham Lincoln, although there is no conclusive proof. The foundation has also sought money from the state to pay off the final $9.7 million of a loan it obtained to buy the collection of Lincoln memorabilia that included the hat.
Butler, who sought the hearing, said he wants to hear more about efforts to authenticate the hat and get a better understanding of the relationship between the privately run foundation and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Butler also said the foundation needs to come forward with a plan on how it can retire the remaining debt from buying the collection.
“I do not believe the foundation should be asking for state assistance right now,” Butler said. “That’s a very difficult proposition to give upwards of $10 million to a private institution when it’s their responsibility to pay off the debt.”
The veto session is scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week and three more days, Nov. 27-29.
Contact Doug Finke: email@example.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.
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November 11, 2018 at 05:42PM