What’s happening in Springfield?
Actually, quite a lot. The past few months have seen major legislative accomplishments, often after initial vetoes from Gov Rauner. Here is a list of some of the most important:
1. The Budget. The Illinois House voted July 6th to override Rauner’s veto of a budget package, giving Illinois its first spending blueprint in more than 2 years, and ending the nation’s longest fiscal stalemate since at least the Great Depression. Rauner lost an unprecedented battle with the “Springfield insiders” he once campaigned to dethrone when lawmakers approved a budget deal and $5 billion tax hike over his objections and without the pro-business reforms he promised for years. Rauner is now considered to be one of the country’s most vulnerable incumbent GOP governors. “It’s hard to point to a lot of strong accomplishments “ said Christopher Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the U of I. “Is it enough to say ‘I worked hard for you. I couldn’t get it done but keep me and I’ll keep working at it?’ Or does he look like an ineffectual bumbler that’s driven the state into the toilet?”
2. On August 18th, in response to Charlottesville, the Illinois House and Senate passed a resolution condemning white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the KKK and any other group that espouses hate, and condemned the acts of violence in Charlottesville as domestic terrorism.
3. Legislation making it easier for transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates was signed on August 25th, along with legislation banning the so-called “gay panic”defense in criminal proceedings.
4. Legislation to create an Illinois Muslim Advisory Council was signed on August 25th.
5. Automatic Voter Registration. On August 28th, Illinois became the 10th state to enact AVR which will automatically register Illinois residents when they get or renew a driver’s license.
6. Trust Act. Also signed on August 28th this new law prohibits state and local police in Illinois from arresting or detaining a person solely because of their immigration status.
7. School Funding. On September 1st, Rauner signed a bill making sweeping changes to the way Illinois funds its schools. The bill distributes state aid more equitably, gives districts more flexibility on state mandates, allows residents in well funded districts to reduce their property taxes, gives a major boost to Chicago’s struggling school system and creates a controversial new tax credit for donations to private school scholarships. Condemned by teacher unions as a backdoor voucher program, the tax credit was a GOP idea that was considered critical to passing the compromise legislation.
8. On a lighter note: Legislation was also passed designating milkweed as the official state flower, cycling as the state exercise and shelter dogs and cats as the official state pets!
Stay tuned: a number of important bills are still pending, several after vetoes from Gov Rauner:
HB40 (protects abortion rights should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade), Minimum Wage Increase to $15, Student Loan Protection, and others.