Eye On Illinois: Which of year’s big stories will have lasting significance?


How will you remember 2021?

There are as many answers as there are readers. The response depends entirely on the prism through which each person ponders the question. To consider the issue here, I looked back at some 200 Eye On Illinois columns to consider which state government stories might have the most lasting impact.

The year’s high point, from a Statehouse standpoint, might be encapsulated in the first eight weeks. Lawmakers rammed massive criminal justice reform through during a lame-duck session before seating the new General Assembly. Then Democrats wouldn’t give Mike Madigan another term as House Speaker, which led to him retiring from the House altogether – a previously unthinkable sequence.

Meanwhile Illinois Senate Republicans named Dan McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods, their new leader while the state party tabbed former Gaming Board Chairman Don Tracy, of Springfield, to replace Tim Schneider, who left his post a few months early.

February also contained one of 2021′s most contentious sessions of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a consideration of state college and university teacher training program standards. Though the JCAR typically operates in obscurity, and while even the bulk of its agenda while in the spotlight is dull and procedural, the pandemic and decisions involving education have given many taxpayers a new understanding of how certain state policies actually come into being.

We’ll also look back on 2021 for the development of the new legislative maps, both because of their direct impact on the General Assembly and our Congressional delegation – Would U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger have chosen to sit out 2022 if the lines fell a different way? How will three downstate Republicans split up the electorate in two new districts? Then there is the legal wrangling over Democrats’ timetable and use of American Community Survey data versus official U.S. Census totals.

September brought final approval of another round of energy legislation that includes $700 million in ratepayer subsidies for Exelon in order to keep open two nuclear plants. The package has several other components, and might ultimately be contextualized with October’s passage of the Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois Act, at least if the people pushing to reduce the states carbon footprint become the victors who write this history.

2021 also gave us a better idea of the state’s legal recreational marijuana market – revenues skyrocket while the government struggles to make good on equity promises and treat home growers fairly – and we remain at the vanguard of legalized sports betting, another billion-dollar industry that could factor heavily in seeing the Chicago Bears leave the city for the suburbs.

Madigan leaving was the biggest surprise, but the other developments will have the most long-term significance. How will you remember 2021?

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

via Shaw Local

December 30, 2021 at 08:29AM

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