Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
When the legislature converges on Springfield next month for Fall Veto Session, there will be no shortage of issues to address. From Governor Quinn’s efforts to approve additional spending and borrowing to his vetoes of any number of “meaty” bills, there will be few dull moments. Here are a few brief synopses of the issues we are likely to face.
On the education front, the governor vetoed the $9.1 million appropriation for the FY12 regional superintendents and their assistants’ salaries and $2.25 million for their programs. Quinn believes that funding for these regional functions should come from local sources. The governor also reduced funding for school transportation by 23 percent or $89 million from budgeted levels. Again, he believes this mandated service should be funded by already overburdened property taxes.
SB 178, vetoed by the governor, would strip some of the powers and duties of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services following the employee health insurance debacle. The legislation also provided additional oversight powers for approving healthcare contracts to a legislative commission.
The governor changed one of my pieces of legislation from who can receive a General Assembly Scholarship to abolishing the program next year. While I agree with this drastic action to correct unethical actions by a few legislators, the governor overstepped his veto authority.
Fall Veto Session may also bring about new legislation to address some lingering or new issues since spring session. One issue involves an extension of the Illinois Medical Practice Act of 1986 that will sunset on November 30 without action. Then there will likely be legislation to address a recent court decision regarding labor issues at Chicago’s McCormick Place and the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority.
We may also see legislation to address Illinois’ depleted unemployment trust fund. With high unemployment, the state has used all the funds paid by employers and had to borrow $1.8 billion from the federal government to pay its responsibility for the first 26 weeks of benefits. Negotiations using the agreed bill process are ongoing to devise the best repayment strategy for the full amount owed to the federal government and to rebuild the fund balance.
Finally, the governor’s likely veto of SB 744—the gaming expansion legislation—would undoubtedly see action. If the bill is vetoed, I believe that all stakeholders will come together to reduce the number of new gaming positions; require counties and municipalities to “opt in”, rather than “opt out” of the video gaming law; and eliminate electronic gaming on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
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