THREE VETOES REMAIN FOR “VETO” SESSION
The fall session, which begins on Tuesday, October 22, officially remains a “veto” session, but only three vetoed bills remain on the docket for lawmakers to consider. The Governor vetoed 10 bills over the summer, seven of which have already been acted on.
Free Museum Entry (HB 1200/Total Veto): Reduces the number of days that aquariums or museums must be open to the public free of charge from 52 (one day a week) to 26 days each year. This was done as a cost-saving measure for cash-strapped museums such as the Field Museum in Chicago. The Governor vetoed the bill saying that limiting free museum days to 26 days a year was too restrictive.
Mass Transit Bids (SB 1474/Total Veto): Increases the bid threshold amount to $40,000 (currently $10,000) for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Regional Transportation Agency (RTA), Metra and Pace. Governor Quinn vetoed the measure, saying the increase in the bid threshold was too much and arguing that any changes affecting Chicago area mass transit should wait for the recommendations of the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force, which he formed.
Township Advisory Referenda (HB 2454/Amendatory Veto): The key provision of this bill was vetoed out by the Governor. The measure required that advisory questions before a township board must be related to the business of the township. Currently, townships must place an advisory question on the ballot if 15 voters petition the township board. This has raised concerns in some townships that small groups of people are forcing the townships to place numerous irrelevant questions on the ballot. The legislation also requires 15 days’ notice (now 10) for meetings, agendas, sales hearings, and new tax referendum meetings.
Governor Quinn issued an amendatory veto, removing the language limiting advisory referenda to topics related to the business of the township saying it “silences the voices of the citizens by limiting the topics which may be the subject of advisory referenda.”
Previously Acted on Vetoes
What about those other seven bills vetoed by the Governor?
Three were vetoes of bills that duplicated other measures signed by the Governor. One was a spending veto that eliminated money that was already in another budget measure. Two were vetoes the Governor made earlier in the year: a “Smart Grid” clarification measure (SB 9) and Right-to-Carry legislation (HB 183). Both vetoes have already been overridden. The seventh was the Governor’s attempt to hold legislative pay hostage until pension reform has passed. That action was invalidated by the court.
It is widely speculated that the General Assembly may consider some form of pension reform during the fall “veto” session. Illinois’ pension system is the worst-funded in the nation with only 39 cents in assets for every $1 of obligations. One conservative estimate puts the state’s pension debt at $100 billion and rising.
A workable solution has been maddeningly difficult to achieve. After failing for years to negotiate a fix to the problem, Gov. Quinn suggested that a Conference Committee be formed to develop a solution. Despite proposing the idea of the special committee, Quinn has declined to participate in the process or provide any guidance on either defining the scope of the reforms or lining up legislative support for a proposal.
Heading into the fall session, a clear path to reform remained uncertain. However, as with many issues in the legislature, no one is counting out the possibility that a last-minute agreement could be reached.
INCENTIVES TO RETAIN BUSINESSES
A tax incentive for Decatur’s Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) may also be on the agenda for “veto session.” ADM, a worldwide crop processing and commodities trading company, made headlines in recent months when it announced its intent to move their headquarters out of Decatur, most likely to Chicago. ADM has asked for state support to remain in Illinois and has pointed out that they are also being pursued by other states.
The issue could possibly be tied to incentives for Naperville-based OfficeMax, which plans to merge with Office Depot and is in the process of determining where the combined companies’ headquarters will be; and with the move of the North American headquarters of the Zurich Insurance Group within Schaumburg.
EMANUEL WANTS STIFF GUN PENALTIES
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal for mandatory prison terms for some gun violations may also come up during “veto” session.
While gun rights advocates have traditionally supported tough sentencing laws for violent offenders, they say they are concerned that if the measure is too broadly written it could snare first-time offenders who inadvertently violate the law.
The Governor’s office has also raised concerns that mandatory sentences will exacerbate prison overcrowding; however proponents have said the social cost of not keeping gun violators behind bars exceeds the cost of imprisonment.
During “veto” session lawmakers may also attempt to fix a problem with legislation that was intended to assist organizations that sponsor charitable “poker run” fundraisers.
The legislation was originally requested by a statewide organization of motorcycle enthusiasts who feared they could run afoul of the law when sponsoring the charity fundraisers. The events generally involve club members riding from one location to another and drawing a card at each location, with the person scoring the highest poker hand at the end of the day winning.
After the legislation was implemented, the groups found that the cost of securing a needed license could exceed the amount generally raised for the charity.