Monday, August 27, 2007

Not So Fast

Just when you thought that it couldn't get any stranger, this happens. The Governor has now gone to court to force Speaker Michael Madigan to hold special sessions when the governor calls one. The gist of the suit is that the Governor wants a judge to tell the Speaker to quit telling members not to come to Springfield when there's nothing for them to do. I swear I'm not making this up.

The suit strikes me as the equivalent of a kid telling his mom to tell his brother to quit calling him names.

Without even reviewing the relevant case law, I will tell you that I think that the suit has more holes in it than Bill Buckner's glove. The Speaker has no more authority to force members to stay home than he does to compel them to appear in Springfield.

In a brave defense of the suit, Rebecca Rausch pontificated that:
"It is imperative that (the governor's authority to call special sessions) is preserved and honored," she wrote in an e-mail to "After lawmakers failed to follow the governor's special session proclamations to address serious issues like funding for the CTA, RTA, and downstate mass transit, we asked the court to confirm the governor's authority."
Hmmm, sounds reasonable enough. Until you look at the Special Sessions that the Governor has called so far this year:
  • Aug. 13, 2007 Chicago Transit Authority funding
  • Aug. 12, 2007 One-month budget, health protection grants
  • Aug. 12, 2007 Statewide transit funding
  • Aug. 11, 2007 One-month budget, community health centers
  • Aug. 5, 2007 One-month budget, home health program
  • Aug. 4, 2007 One-month budget, renal disease program
  • July 30, 2007 One-month budget, hemophilia program
  • July 28, 2007 One-month budget
  • July 11, 2007 Gun legislation, assault weapons
  • July 10, 2007 Budget for supportive living program
  • July 9, 2007 Grants for sexual assault victims, prevention
  • July 8, 2007 Teachers and Judges Retirement Systems
  • July 7, 2007 State Retirement System funding
  • July 7, 2007 Child Support Administrative Fund
  • July 6, 2007 Pension funding
  • July 5, 2007 Pension funding
  • July 20, 2004 Abstinence Education Program
  • July 19, 2004 Teen Parent Program
  • July 16, 2004 New Americans Initiative
  • July 15, 2004 Trauma Center payments
  • July 14, 2004 Team Illinois program
  • July 13, 2004 Family Care fund
  • July 12, 2004 Children’s Place program
  • July 9, 2004 Pre-natal programs
  • July 8, 2004 Community youth programs
  • July 7, 2004 Homeless youth programs
  • July 6, 2004 Domestic violence programs
  • July 2, 2004 Fee-for-services initiatives
  • June 28, 2004 Department on Aging budget
  • June 27, 2004 Department of Natural Resources budget
  • June 26, 2004 Environmental Protection Agency budget
  • June 25, 2004 Transportation budget
  • June 24, 2004 Law enforcement, human services budgets
  • With a couple of minor exceptions, not worth noting here, while the Governor was quick to call these special sessions, he never actually thought about having anything for the Legislators to do once they got there.

    Take the mass transit funding issue for example. A number of legislators (myself included), unions, transportation advocates and interest groups have supported SB572 as a prudent means of not only avoiding a transit funding crisis, but of providing reform and accountability for years to come. In fact, it's safe to say that it is the only substantive proposal with any tangible support on the table.

    The Governor's response? "I'll veto it." His alternative that he wanted to have a special session about? Um, none.

    You see, the whole idea of having a special session is to actually deal with a critical issue, like, oh, I don't know, mass transit funding, a capital bill, a BUDGET. You know, things like that.

    But to call one solely as a means of trying to wear legislators down into submitting to his unsupported legislative initiatives bastardizes the process to no end.

    The Governor is right, the concept of special sessions is being blatantly abused - but not by the Legislature.

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