Eye On Illinois: Process April session in context of June, November votes


Amid the flurry of activity closing the spring legislative session, consider a bigger picture thought experiment: If your preferred candidate wins in November, how different might things be this time next year?

Every spot in the General Assembly will be contested this fall, along with the governor’s mansion and other statewide executive offices. While many campaign debates rightly focus on issues of the day – pandemic response, crime rates, inflation – the ritual of enacting an annual budget is a predictable, core function.

Some change is given. Consider a Wednesday tweet from state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, while watching House Majority Leader Greg Harris and Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer debate the budget in the Executive Committee “and realizing the depth of knowledge that is leaving the chamber after this year.” (Harris, D-Chicago, is retiring, and Demmer, R-Dixon, is running for treasurer). “These two have encyclopedic knowledge of the state budget and next year will be interesting with new budget leads on both sides.”

Their House seats likely won’t change parties, but freshman lawmakers are never carbon copies of the veterans they replace. Still, if the overall makeup of either chamber doesn’t shift to where Republicans can reasonably stall Democrats’ goals, the greatest opportunity for a significant difference in Springfield climate is a Republican defeating Gov. JB Pritzker.

Illinois has had Republican governors for more than half my life (I was born during Jim Thompson’s first term, so it’s just been Pritzker and a dozen years of Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn), but it’s hard to shake the recent memories of the tense budget stalemates that marked Bruce Rauner’s 2015-19 gubernatorial term.

Many voters won’t reject the status quo. But if you’re a Republican primary voter, are you considering which candidate is best suited to negotiate compromise with a likely Democratic General Assembly? Are you backing your favored ticket based primarily on ideology? Perhaps you’re in a swing legislative district and hoping to flip a blue seat to red. Are you examining who has the best chance of being influential as a minority party freshman?

This isn’t an attempt to tell readers how to vote, but rather to examine this week’s proceedings and filter them through campaign promises of newcomers and outsiders to see what best reflects your vision for Illinois’ future.

A main reason lawmakers opted to end the session early is to focus on campaigning. They like distance from the busy work of legislating as well as the difficult votes that define their record. But voters don’t have to give them that space, nor should they choose candidates without assessing their ability to work within the immutable Statehouse structure.

How different might things be? A lot depends on what happens between now and November.

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

April 18, 2022 at 07:11AM

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