Illinois veto session issues plentiful, agreements few

Posted: Oct. 21, 2013 8:57 am Updated: Nov. 12, 2013 9:15 am

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois lawmakers who return to the statehouse for veto session on Tuesday will have one eye on the upcoming primary elections and the other on a raft of controversial issues that could embolden challengers.

"There are a lot of issues out there. Right now it's unclear how many of them are going to come up," said Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville.

Legislators have been told that proponents of gay marriage want to bring up a bill that has passed the Senate, but fell short in the House. Chicago-area politicians are pushing tough penalties for those convicted of gun violence. Archer Daniels Midland wants incentives to stay in Illinois, gambling interests want an expansion and pension reform remains a high priority.

"Gov. Quinn has said he won't support business incentives (for ADM or other businesses) until pension reform has been addressed," Sullivan said.

Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, said even though pension reform is supported by most lawmakers, there is no consensus on what should be passed.

"On pension reform, there is no language there yet and the committee working on a plan is not in complete agreement, so I don't know if that can move forward during veto session," Hammond said.

Even though the pressure to pass these big issues is huge, political experts say there's even more pressure preventing action by many members.

Candidate filing will remain open into early December, creating the possibility that controversial votes in the veto session could lead to primary challenges. Legislators may prefer not to risk alienating voters or constituencies within their own parties.

"Right now you're getting more political mileage out of taking positions," said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield. "It all works against it happening during the veto session."

For instance, Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, is among those who face stiff opposition after he announced his support for gay marriage.

A member of the black caucus, Ford is being targeted by church-based opposition. Although Ford's district is overwhelmingly Democratic, he has gotten frequent telephone calls from voters saying they will vote for an opponent if Ford votes for gay marriage.

"For the majority of those people, the primary is the general election," Redfield said.

A supplemental budget bill is less controversial, although similar legislation often gets tweaked during veto session.

Quinn has called for $30 million to help agencies handle the work involved with concealed carry permits, saying it will take time for fees to come in. In addition, there are funding requests for the Department of Corrections and other issues.

Budget issues generally get attention from the General Assembly, but other items have often languished in veto session.

"It's like watching paint dry," Hammond said of the fall sessions.


The Associated Press provided information for this story.