Legislators return to the Capitol on Wednesday for the final week of their fall veto session and their last scheduled session days until January. This week's State Capitol Q&A takes a closer look at what they've accomplished so far in this session and a number of items still on the agenda.
It's now or never time for the issues facing state lawmakers, at least as far as 2009 is concerned.
Legislators return to the Capitol on Wednesday for the final week of their fall veto session and their last scheduled session days until January.
"There's active discussions on a lot of big things," Gov. Pat Quinn told reporters after meeting Tuesday with legislative leaders.
This week's State Capitol Q&A takes a closer look at what they've accomplished so far in this session and a number of items still on the agenda.
Q: How much of lawmakers taken care of so far?
A: Quite a bit of what they planned to deal with this fall.
The Senate voted two weeks ago to put a proposed constitutional amendment allowing recall of future governors on next year's ballot. That is a key item pushed by Quinn, who says it's an important tool to empower voters if Illinois runs into a repeat of what it faced earlier this year with impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Facing intense lobbying and pressure, lawmakers and Quinn also found a way to fill a $205 million gap in the MAP grant college scholarship program, which faced no funding for the spring semester.
Of course, the MAP solution was to offer the program money with no way to pay for it, creating yet another budget hole to be filled at some later point. Quinn is pushing short-term borrowing to fill that and other budget holes.
"It will be there and it will be paid for," Quinn said of the scholarship program.
Q: What's left to be considered?
A: Several issues are still on the table, none bigger than campaign finance reform.
Lawmakers and reform advocates have been talking for weeks about the best way to structure limits on donations. They seem to have agreed on all but one issue – whether to cap the amount of money legislative leaders and political parties can give to candidates.
But that's a big sticking point. Leaders say such limits will only send money around the limits and make it harder to track. Reformers say limits will put some damper on leaders that now have too much political muscle.
Quinn said he favors limits on donations but wouldn't say Tuesday how restrictive those should be.
"We're still working on it. We've got to see what's in the bill," Quinn said. "The bottom line is to have reform."
Republican leaders said they were worried the issue was being pushed aside.
Lawmakers will have to decide how to proceed on legislative pay raises. They approved a revamp of the system in the spring, but a veto by Quinn put that in some limbo.
Also look for a legislative push to end free rides on mass transit for seniors, a costly perk pushed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Q: Will all this get done this week?
A: That's tough to say. Quinn and lawmakers seemed confident this summer they'd have campaign finance reform done this fall, but the leader money issue could delay action until next year. Legislators also could move ahead with the other reforms agreed to with advocates and leave that issue until later.
Bills Quinn vetoed, such as the legislative pay raise measure, will be resolved in some fashion by the end of the week. Those bills could be accepted in a new form, go back to their original version or die because lawmakers don't take more action.
It's clear there will still be a lot of work left after this week.
The state budget picture continues to worsen, and money runs shorter each week. Lawmakers don't expect to consider a tax increase or other revenue generators until after the February primary election. And even then, those won't be an easy sell with the November general election not far away.
Ryan Keith can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.