* From a press release…
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and members of the House Republican caucus [yesterday] unveiled legislation asking voters to put an end to lame duck sessions of the Illinois General Assembly by moving up the date of inauguration. The proposal also requires the outgoing General Assembly to conclude their work by Election Day.
“You never know what shenanigans are going to be played in a lame duck session. In 2011 under the veil of night, Democrats in the lame duck legislature voted to impose the largest income tax increase on families and employers in the history of our state. Outgoing lawmakers, who are no longer accountable to the voters, should not be approving such controversial legislation,” said Durkin.
“History shows that these post-election lame duck sessions really only exist as venues to pass volatile, controversial legislation with the largest number of outgoing legislators – legislators who have technically already been replaced by the voters from their districts. These sessions are an insult to Illinois voters and need to be abolished,” said State Representative Kay Hatcher (R-Yorkville).
Durkin’s proposal would put on the November general election ballot a constitutional amendment asking voters to move the date of inauguration to the second Wednesday in December, approximately one month following the election. Currently, inauguration is held on the second Wednesday in January.
House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 43 would also prohibit the outgoing General Assembly from convening or acting on legislation unless a special session is convened with the joint approval of the Governor, and each of the four legislative leaders (the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the House, and the Minority Leader of the Senate). The purpose of the session must be specified in the proclamation and action limited to the topic identified.
“This would allow the legislature to convene if there was a true emergency such as an act of terrorism or natural disaster,” said Durkin.
* Ormsby’s take…
Essentially, the plan arms the minority party leaders with short-term veto power over any legislative action by the majority leaders and governor.
* Maura Zurick at the Tribune calls the proposal a “futile stab at ending Illinois’ ritual of putting off controversial issues until after an election”…
Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the speaker would take the matter “under review, but I don’t know why you would want to tie the legislature’s hands.”
Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, also said Durkin’s intention is to stop legislation when it sometimes can be easier to move along. “We shouldn’t change the Constitution simply because some members are more willing to vote for legislation when they are a lame duck than when they are not a lame duck,” Lang said.
Lots of people hate the lame duck sessions because so many things can happen that can’t happen before an election. But the other side of the coin is that some things just have to get done, so lame duck sessions are invaluable.