State lawmakers are focused on November — and not just for the General Election or its expected chaotic aftermath. They are tentatively planning a three-day veto session to begin Nov. 17, depending where the state is in the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to return. It’s entirely dependent on the severity of the virus at the time,” Senate President Don Harmon told Playbook. “If the Black Caucus is ready to advance an agenda, it’s even more important that we do everything we can to be in session.”
House Democrats may have more to say about a November session after next week’s caucus retreat in Springfield, where members can attend in person or by Zoom.
“The final plans haven’t been made,” Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, told Playbook. “It will be decided based on the advice we get from health experts. Just like it was in May.”
There are a few ways the General Assembly will return. It could be choreographed like the mini-May session, where senators met in the Capitol building and House members met in a nearby convention center, allowing them to spread out. Or state senators could do their legislative work virtually, since they voted on that option in the spring, while House members meet in the Capitol.
This week, the Legislative Black Caucus is holding two subject matter hearings to narrow down potential legislation — or an omnibus bill — for any November meeting.
The group has already laid out a four-point policy plan that addresses criminal justice reform (including reducing violence and increasing police accountability), education and workforce development, economic access, and health care and human services.
The Black Caucus is being tight-lipped about specifics, not wanting to give opponents — police and law enforcement groups — too much time to organize against the legislation.
1) The scheduled veto session is for six days, not three. The Black Caucus has demanded that the GA meet for the full session.
2) The House Democrats are not having a retreat next week. My phone blew up this morning. Sample text from a House Democrat…
Maybe my invite was “lost in the mail?”
The Senate Democrats are having a retreat next week.
3) The Senate rules allow for remote participation in a session, but not a remote session. From the rules…
The President, in consultation with the Minority Leader, may establish a process by which Senators and members of the public may participate remotely in hearings for standing committees, special committees, subcommittees or special subcommittees, and service committees. […]
In times of pestilence or public danger, the Senate may adopt a motion to allow a member to remotely participate and vote in the regular and special sessions of the Senate, provided that at all times a quorum of members is physically present at the location of session. [Emphasis added.]