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End the lame ducks?

Wednesday, Feb 5, 2014

* 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controversial legislation with the largest number of outgoing legislators – legislators who have technically already been replaced by the voters from their districts.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.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        


30 Comments
  1. - Elo Kiddies - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:27 am:

    Most of the members in a lame duck session will face re-election, just not for a long while. And there are lame ducks all through regular session — legislators who have announced their retirement, or who lost a primary.

    Bruce Rauner’s term limits proposal would increase the number of lame duck legislators, as officials who won their last term would be unable to face voters again and be lame from the time they were sworn.

    So… meh. Looks like a press release in search of a problem.


  2. - Hyperbolic Chamber - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:31 am:

    Last I checked, legislators were elected to 2-year terms.


  3. - MrJM - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:32 am:

    “You know, there’s still one way we haven’t bungled things in Springfield: gridlock. Let’s give that a try!”

    – MrJM


  4. - Norseman - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:34 am:

    The proposal is DOA.


  5. - Bigtwich - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    ““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”

    Best argument I have heard for term limits.


  6. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    ===Best argument I have heard for term limits. ===

    How?

    You’ll have huge numbers of legislators at the limits of their allowed terms looking for jobs.


  7. - countyline - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    Sounds like an awesome plan to me - if you can’t vote for something because you have to answer to the voters, you shouldn’t be voting for it when you don’t. You are there to represent voters and taxpayers.


  8. - Levois - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    So he wants to inaugurate the members of the General Assembly one month sooner? Does the inauguration include any of the state’s constitutional officers as well? I sympathize with what he wants to do, but this is a bit radical.


  9. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    So you are an elected representative but only until the election happens, then for the remainder of your term you just need to sit on your hands. If they want this to happen then they should make a person’s term in office end on election day.

    How about we make Governor’s stop governing when the election happens. Isn’t that the same concept? Make them close up shop for the remaining two months they have in office.

    This is a silly idea.


  10. - Upon Further Review - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    One thing that makes this plan palatable is the fact that in many counties, officeholders assume their positions in December, shortly after the election results are certified. If that is the case, it should not be that difficult to swear in the members of the G.A. weeks earlier.


  11. - tominchicago - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:02 am:

    I think that it is a sign that the ILGOP leadership in the General Assembly have resigned themselves to the fact that the Republicans will be in the minority for a long time.


  12. - Lord Stanley's Cup - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:03 am:

    Are lame ducks that much of a problem? Seems to me 2011 was an outlier because of the sheer number of lame ducks plus (notwithstanding the tax increase which as Rich says had to get done) the issues were at the precipice of passage and just needed the nudge, ie death penalty and civil unions. What’s more instructive is 2013 which was a dud because the issues were tougher, ie pensions and gaming.


  13. - GA Watcher - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    When was the last time a lame duck session resulted in significant legislation? I can’t think of any. Many start out with the promise of important things happening, but they usually end with a fizzle, not a pop.


  14. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:10 am:

    I go back and forth.

    Lame duck sessions promote compromise, and sometimes at the cost of other things.

    We need not look to far to see Carren M. Gordon, but hear me out…

    Representative Gordon voted, and there “seemed” to be a return on her vote, but as I recall the blowback resulted in the first attempt to be embarrassing for her and the Governor.

    If there can be accountablility in that manner, I am all about Lame Duck voting, session, horse trading, whatever.

    If the practice continues to be, at times but not too often, the rewarding, straight-up, and the vote against everything the Lame Duck previously was opposed to, and the only reason IS the carrot, and no accountablility …

    I may have to rally behind My Leader in the Illinois House.

    I want flexibility … with accountablilty.

    If a Lame duck session can keep to that, can’t be more about it.

    Otherwise, tough to see this than open “horse trading” and “resume building” based on the flipping of votes to get the next gig, and nothing … nothing else.


  15. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    Losers don’t demand rule changes. It is a waste of time. Like Madigan is going to cut back on anything he uses to win. Pretty pitiful.

    Until the Duckling and Mushroons either stand up to the status quo in the State House, or are replaced by Republicans in sufficient numbers to replace Madigan - this is the way he likes it and that’s the way he’s gonna keep it.


  16. - Upon Further Review - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    @GA Watcher:

    Um, the most recent increase in the state income tax was passed during a lame duck session. The Democrats even had to appoint a lawmaker to a vacant seat to come up with another vote to pass the tax increase.


  17. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    C-c and gay marriage didn’t get done in lame-duck sessions. Those were about as hot as they come.


  18. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:23 am:

    When Daniels was speaker, didn’t the republicans use the lame duck session to pass the law stripping the right of voters to elect U of I trustees and handing it over to republican governor Edgar to fill with appointments? Now all of a sudden it’s a bad thing. tominchicago hit the nail on the head.


  19. - downstate hack - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:37 am:

    “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.”

    Only in Illinois. Other States rely on courageous and honest legislators.


  20. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    ===Only in Illinois.===

    I don’t think we need to look too far, but I am sure other state’s Lame Ducks pass and do business that they can’t, sometimes, during normal session.

    Only in Illinois? You know that other states and the US Congress has never used the Lame Duck sessions to get things done?


  21. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:49 am:

    Seems as though the US Congress is going to use the Lame Duck session to pass the Farm Bill.

    As - downstate hack -, wonder if that might effect central and southern Illinois…

    “Only in ‘everywhere you don’t want to look’…”


  22. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    “Seems as though the US Congress WAS going to use the Lame Duck session to pass the Farm Bill.”

    Apologies


  23. - A guy... - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 11:57 am:

    You can get rid of the “lame duck” session without moving up the inaugural if that’s the problem. In days of yore, 3 days of Veto Session was the end. You can simply not have a session unless the Governor asks for one for an emergency.


  24. - Norseman - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:04 pm:

    To the merits of the proposal: it’s a little goofy to separate the inauguration dates of the elected state officials - with the General Assembly and the Governor (who cares about the LG) taking office in December, while the rest of the executive branch take office in January. So you can have the new Senate being seated by a new Governor, while the House gets convened by a lame duck Secretary of State.

    While seating the new General Assembly doesn’t create major problems, I see major problems with moving up the Governor’s inauguration. There needs to be transition process long enough to get a new administration put in place. Blago couldn’t get his act together by January. I see major problems even with a competent Governor-elect getting his administration put together in a matter of a few weeks.

    Regarding not allowing ducks to vote between election and inauguration, I don’t have a policy problem with the concept. I do object to the minority veto of a special session. There needs to be some mechanism to deal with emergency issues and this process cannot be delayed by the minority for partisan gain. Yes that exception can be abused, but it’s critical to the effective running of government that an exception be available.

    Practically, this will make things a lot harder for the solons to address controversial issues. That’s always bad for people trying to pass those controversial bills and good for the people opposed. The benefit to the public is obviously in the eye of the beholder.

    The bottom line is as I’ve said above, this is DOA. Move along.


  25. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 12:52 pm:

    Short sighted and stupid idea. What would happen if the winner of the gubernatorial race isn’t certified? What would happen if other offices aren’t certified in the line of succession?

    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocTypeID=HJRCA&DocNum=43&GAID=12&SessionID=85&LegID=79144

    http://www.ilga.gov/commission/lrb/con5.htm


  26. - DuPage Bard - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:28 pm:

    So would that apply to incumbent legislators that lose their primary as well?


  27. - walker - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 2:31 pm:

    Lame duck sessions can handle extremely difficult problems in ways that regular sessions do not.

    To blame the tax increase on the lame duck session is foolish or disingenuous, because there were enough legislators who realized that it had to be done at that time, that “Yes” votes were left unused on the table. Obviously no stone was left unturned in preparation, but there was a margin at the end. Durkin should know that he had some in his own caucus who begged those who were leaving, to “cover” them, since they knew it was the right thing to do but didn’t want to unnecessarily complicate their own campaigns.

    Spometimes the needs of the state transcend other concerns. Representatives in American democracy are hired to use their best judgment, not just to respond to parochial or ideological concerns of their supporters.


  28. - Anon - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 3:04 pm:

    GOP lameducks abolished the straight party vote in ‘97.


  29. - cicero - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 3:14 pm:

    I wonder if Durkin thinks it was an abuse of power when the lame duck Republicans abolished the straight party vote in 1997? Or is it only when Democrats pass controversial measures that it’s a problem?


  30. - Loop Lady - Wednesday, Feb 5, 14 @ 3:30 pm:

    Boo hoo…let’s see, if there was a majority of GOP in the legislature, something tells me Durkin and company would not resurrect this “poor us” or “we’re saving you form bad legislation” tactic…ya think? Next…!


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