Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Veto session roundup

By Jamey Dunn

The Illinois General Assembly's fall veto session was scheduled to continue through tomorrow, but both chambers canceled their Thursday sessions and hit the road after little legislative action this week. Here’s a rundown of what did happen: 

Veto stands 
The House voted not to override Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of House Bill 1200. The measure would have cut the number of free days museums are required to offer from 52 to 26. Rep. Joe Sosnowski argued that lawmakers should give museums a break because the state has not given them an operating subsidy in more than a decade. He said that low-income residents would still have plenty of opportunities to attend on free days or through school and library programs. Sosnowski said that by allowing museums to offer fewer free days, they would have more money to spend on education and outreach programs. “It will enhance and increase what museums can do.” The measure passed in the House in April with 79 “yes” votes and 36 “no” votes. Today, only 49 members voted in favor of an override, while 67 voted to uphold the governor’s veto.

Several legislators rose during debate to argue that the change would cut off opportunities for many families.  “The governor is correct. The purpose of a museum is to educate, to provide culture. And when we deny that, limit access, we really hurt all of us in this state,” said Chicago Democratic Rep. Monique Davis. Quinn reportedly lobbied aggressively for support of the veto. “It’s always important to ensure that our residents with modest incomes have equal access to our world-class museums and cultural institutions,” he said in a written statement. “I commend members of the House for their vote today. They did the right thing.”

Budget issues 
Today, committees continued to debate adding additional spending to the current fiscal year’s budget. Gov. Pat Quinn is seeking about $200 million in additional spending. The money would cover back wages for state employees, which a judge ordered the state to pay with interest, set-up costs for the state’s concealed carry licensing system and operational costs in the Department of Corrections. The money would come from revenues that Quinn’s budget office said will come in higher than originally estimated. Budget committees held hearings today and yesterday but have yet to vote on any of it. Lawmakers said they plan to continue considering the new spending over the next week while they are out of session.

Same-sex marriage opposition rally 
After thousands of supporters of same-sex marriage held a rally and march yesterday, their opponents packed the Capitol today. Republican Sen. Kirk Dillard, who is running for governor, was one of several speakers who addressed the crowd. “I have said that I would veto the gay marriage bill,” Dillard said. “I believe that government which governs least governs best. But there are times when government has a solemn duty to stand up and protect its citizens.” Dillard emphasized his belief that children need both a mother and a father to thrive. “Every child in this state deserves to have a mom and dad.” Republican Sen. Jim Oberweis also spoke. He was at the rally collecting signatures to challenge U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin. He said he plans to run against Durbin if he can get the signatures required to get onto the ballot.

State retiree health care
The state is shifting many retirees from traditional Medicare plans to privately managed Medicare Advantage plans. Some lawmakers are unhappy that one provider did not qualify for the bidding process. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability held a hearing on the issue today.  You can read all about it in this post.

The House officially voted in Western Springs Republican Jim Durkin as the new minority leader yesterday. Illinois Issues interviewed him before he was sworn in. You can read that story here.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return for three more days of veto session starting on November 5.


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