After taking a break for Thanksgiving, Governor Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders are scheduled to meet Monday afternoon, as the second, and final, week of Illinois' annual veto session begins.
The governor and leaders are meeting as Illinois approaches a deadline: When 2016 is over, so is a temporary spending plan.
Rauner continues to prioritize an agenda he says will grow the economy in the long run; Democrats continue to resist those plans.
House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, says passing a budget should come first. Madigan has brought in one rank-and-file legislator, Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, to be part of budget discussions, and says Madigan will call for other legislators to do the same.
“It's one thing to say 'Well, we'll do a budget and then we'll do these other matters and then maybe we'll find a way to fund it. I think people have fundamental questions about the budget as the first step," Brown said. "What’s going to be in that budget? Are you going to continue to devastate higher education, for example? Are you going to continue to put real ... limits on some of the social service programs, around there? How do you expect them to function? And so I think there's key questions on the budget that have to be answered."
There’s plenty else on this week’s docket … like a potential electric rate hike. Exelon says without state intervention, thousands will lose jobs as it closes nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities. Critics call an evolving compromise a "bailout" of a profitable corporation, but other former opponents are now on board as the package is scaled back, and as it fixes a long-simmering problem in state law which has hindered the renewable energy industry.
Hearings will also be held this week. A joint meeting of Senators and Representatives on Wednesday will focus on abuse of developmentally disabled persons living in group homes, following a Chicago Tribune investigation. First, a Monday House committee called by Democrats is set to debate Gov. Rauner's workers compensation plan.
Brown says it’s an opportunity for feedback on the plan. “We’ve been talking about workers’ comp for some time now – as if … that's the key to the Garden of Eden," Brown said, in reference to Rauner's calls for overhauling the system. "We know really it is as much about trying to take benefits away from working families, middle class families. We'd like to try to minimize that, focus attention on the insurance companies.” However House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says the hearing is premature, and last week sent a letter asking Madigan to hold off with the hearing, on legislation he introduced well over a year ago. Durkin says the governor and the top legislators should first agree to a compromise. Republicans says Illinois needs to reduce companies’ workers' compensation costs if the state is to be competitive and to grow the economy.
Finally, legislators will also decide the fate of vetoed bills. The Senate previously overrode Rauner's rejection of a bill to create automatic voter registration; this week, the House must do the same or the bill will die. Republicans have raised concerns about voter fraud that Democrats call unfounded.