Continuous Summer Session Continues: A Look At Today's Agenda

Jun 23, 2015

Credit Bethany Carson / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois General Assembly doesn't typically meet during the summer. But legislators are back for another one-day session today.

A week ago, the Illinois House spent hours debating Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's idea to partially privatize the state's department of commerce.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said then he's open to the concept, though on a trial-basis.

"We're going to insist that the legislature be in a position to examine the results, to look at the performance of the Governor's idea over a few years, come back and review it and decide whether we should continue or go back to the old system," Madigan said last Tuesday.

Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, says the House could vote on that today. Brown lso says the House may take up a property tax freeze -- again. It's another of Rauner's top demands, but several previous tries fell to defeat.

A series of House committees will meet; one hearing will focus on cuts Gov. Rauner says he's making to Community Care, a program that helps provide elderly and disabled individuals with home care help, to manage the budget during an impasse.  The salaries Rauner is paying his top staff is the subject of another hearing. It comes after questions about Rauner paying aides he calls "super-stars" salaries above that of people in those positions under former Gov. Pat Quinn's administration. 

Across the capitol rotunda, the Senate will spend the day in a special hearing on what Democrats characterize as "middle class issues."

During last year's election, a majority of voters said in a non-binding referendum that they wanted to raise the minimum wage in Illinois to $10 an hour. While the Senate voted to do that, the House hasn't been able to get it done.

"I am planning on not allowing the minimum issue (to) fall by the wayside. It's a critical component to the development of the middle class," said Sen. Kim Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood and a longtime advocate of a minimum wage hike. To that end, the Senate will hold a special session focused on the wage, as well as on requiring employers to offer paid sick leave.

It's one of many examples of a divide between Democrats in the legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner-- who says he would agree to a $10 minimum wage in 2022, and only if his pro-business platform passes.

Meanwhile, most of the budget bills that had been on hold are now on the governor's desk. Eyes will be on Gov. Rauner to see what he does with them.

Rauner has been disparaging of the spending plan approved late last month by Democrats because it spends billions more than the state has, saying "our people deserve so much better. Not another phony budget."

But there could be trouble if Rauner vetoes the measures. In just more than a week, Illinois' current budget expires. Without a new one in place, the state would lose most capacity to pay its bills.

Rauner is tying the current budget to that series of pro-business, and often anti-union, ideas he says will make the state more competitive in the long run. Until then, he says he won't discuss revenue that could fill the budget gap. Democrats say the governor needs to focus on immediate fiscal needs.

Brown says the governor has not reached out to the Speaker about the budget, but a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton says conversations are ongoing, mostly focused on a property tax freeze and overhaul of workers' compensation. Cullerton has instited that because schools are largely dependent on property taxes, any limit on how much municipalities can raise rates must be tied to a change in the state's education funding formula.