Despite the crush of business that faced the Illinois General Assembly in its final week of scheduled spring session, there seemed to be less tension under the dome than in the past four years marked by a pitched battle between a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature.
“It’s very different than last year,” state Sen. ANDY MANAR, D-Bunker Hill, said early last week as lawmakers aimed at a weekend finish of the session. “This doesn’t minimize the challenges we have in this state, ’cause they’re deep and they’re real. But I think most people walk into this building with (a) positive attitude, and they come here to solve problems, and they feel like their voice can be heard.”
The big difference, Manar said, is not only that Gov. J.B. PRITZKER is a Democrat, but that he is otherwise different from former GOP Gov. BRUCE RAUNER.
“He’s open to talking to people who disagree with him,” Manar said of Pritzker. “He’s not into punitive response for the slightest disagreements that he has with people of his own party or the other party. That’s as opposite of Bruce Rauner as you could imagine.”
Rep. TIM BUTLER, R-Springfield, said looking from the outside, things do seem “toned down a bit” from before. But, he added, “I still think some of the partisan issues continue to boil under the surface.”
“It seems a little more calmed down because we don’t have, obviously, the governor’s office and the legislature getting in a lot of fights over issues,” Butler also said.
But, Butler added, while Republicans were in a lot of discussions, some issues were resolved in a very partisan way, including moves toward a graduated income tax, an abortion rights bill, and a big increase in the minimum wage, “all of which were roundly opposed by Republicans.”
Butler also noted that Rauner worked on a bipartisan basis to make strides on criminal justice reform. And he said rank-and-file lawmakers then and now work together on many issues, if not the high-profile ones.
On the big issues, as lawmakers passed parts of Pritzker’s agenda throughout last week, something more than style was obvious: Elections matter, and 2018 was a good year for Democrats in Illinois.
Just like the band Maroon 5 was a highlight of the inaugural ball at the State Fairgrounds in January, the governor and and First Lady M.K. PRITZKER brought GEORGE CLINTON — a legend and leader of Parliament and Funkadelic — to perform for an early 85th birthday party for Secretary of State JESSE WHITE on Wednesday.
For the event, a giant tent was erected on the mansion lawn. All legislators were among those invited.
“M.K. and I were thrilled” to have the party, Pritzker said later. He called White “one of the great public servants in the history of the state of Illinois. He’s revered. He’s a friend.”
“We obviously were interested in making sure we had entertainment that was appropriate to the evening, and so we were glad to get George Clinton to come and perform,” Pritzker said. “We also had … a number of Illinois distillers and craft beer manufacturers provide, for Jesse White’s birthday, some spirits. … Everybody enjoyed themselves, I believe.”
I caught some flak back in 1997 for writing that if then-Gov. JIM EDGAR had served booze at the Executive Mansion like his predecessor JIM THOMPSON did, maybe he would have had better luck getting lawmakers on his side to pass school finance reform that year.
Edgar ended up getting a lot done in his eight years as governor and is still looked back on as a popular chief executive.
Pritzker has apparently used the Mansion well for entertaining. And while funk may not be every lawmaker’s favorite music, Pritzker’s choice of entertainment helped shine a “Flashlight” on the idea that his desire to work with folks was “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” and he was hoping that getting passage of key parts of his agenda would make the Statehouse seem like “One Nation Under a Groove.”
Other than the donations of refreshments, the Pritzkers picked up the tab for the party.
Campaigns can be nasty, but U.S. Reps. RODNEY DAVIS, R-Taylorville, and LISA BLUNT ROCHESTER, D-Delaware, agree that once elected, people can and should work together.
Under a program called the American Congressional Exchange, Davis visited Blunt Rochester in her state last year, and both lawmakers toured various sites, including agricultural and heavy equipment companies, in Davis’ 13th Congressional District last week.
One stop was a meeting at the Statehouse with Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago, and Senate GOP Leader BILL BRADY, R-Bloomington.
Blunt Rochester said at the Statehouse that there is a lot of farming in her state.
“We served on the ag committee together, and to see the fruits of some of that work in terms of the farm bill, that was also very positive,” she said of the visit. “More importantly, I get a chance to spend some time with a colleague, and I think that’s really what’s necessary for us to problem-solve — to know each other as people.”
Davis is already campaigning hard against Democrat BETSY DIRKSEN LONDRIGAN, who came close to defeating him in 2018 and is running in 2020. I asked Blunt Rochester if she is helping Davis politically with the show of bipartisanship, even as his campaign, among other things, recently accused Londrigan of trying to make the 13th “a vassal state” of Chicago.
“There’s always a lot of politics that goes on,” Blunt Rochester said. “The purpose of this trip is to show that while we’re elected … we need to work together.” She said voters can make informed choices at election time.
“Lisa and I have a history, since she was elected in 2016, of working together,” Davis said. “We don’t always agree on every issue. Politics is going to come into play because of the never-ending election cycles. … This is an opportunity to show not only my constituents but show the American people that we can have our differences, but in the end, we can come together on policy.”
Contact Bernard Schoenburg: email@example.com, 788-1540, twitter.com/bschoenburg.
Region: Springfield,Feeds,Opinion,Region: Central,City: Springfield
via Opinion – The State Journal-Register http://bit.ly/2EMjS6J
June 1, 2019 at 05:11PM