House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, is making the closing days of the 96th General Assembly interesting.

House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, is making the closing days of the 96th General Assembly interesting.

Madigan told House members they will be in session for several days in January. These are days that previously weren’t scheduled.

Why be in session in January when the veto session is just ahead?

There are a couple of reasons. One, all of the lame ducks in the legislature will still be in office in early January. Those lawmakers can pretty much do what they want, since they won’t be facing the voters again.

The other is changing vote requirements. If you want to pass a bill with an immediate effective date during the veto session, it takes a supermajority. In the House, that means 71 votes to pass a bill rather than the usual 60. After Jan. 1, though, the vote requirements go back to normal.

So if you’ve got a bill that you want to become law right away — say, a tax increase, just for instance — it will be a lot easier to pass after Jan. 1 than during the veto session.

That’s not to say such a bill is looming. Madigan still wants Republicans to put votes on a tax hike, and there’s no indication they are willing to do that, now or in January. But if you’re a lame-duck Republican who believes a tax increase is needed, you could vote for one in January and make a quick exit.

Just thinking out loud.

By the way, Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago, hasn’t scheduled any days in January yet.

*As for the veto session, it appears once again lawmakers will try to cram some major issues into the six-day session, issues they couldn’t resolve during the regular spring session, which lasted about five months.

They’re talking about major gambling expansion, civil unions, pension reforms, a possible tax hike, and who knows what else.

Lawmakers have a rich history of springing stuff during the veto session, stuff that might deserve a longer, more deliberative review. Remember, the remake of Soldier Field was one of those quickie veto-session deals.

Of course, there’s no guarantee lawmakers will end up doing anything on any of those issues. That’s another part of the rich history — big talk before they start, and then pffft.

*One thing that won’t happen during the veto session is creation of an open primary in Illinois.

It’s been so long now that many people may have forgotten, but Gov. PAT QUINN used his amendatory veto powers last summer to add the open primary to a fairly routine elections bill. Madigan has long objected when he thinks governors are going too far with an amendatory veto. Essentially, he’s prevented the House from accepting those kinds of changes.

This AV stretches the limits, and Madigan doesn’t want open primaries anyway, so kiss this thing goodbye.

*Gasoline prices are on the way up again, just in time for holiday travel. Funny how that works.
Coincidentally, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability issued a report again deflating the notion that the state gets a tax windfall when gas prices rise.

Remember, Illinois is one of the very few states that applies the sales tax to gasoline. Obviously, when the price of gas goes up, the amount of sales tax the state collects from it goes up.

Inevitably when gas prices go up, someone yells “windfall for the state.” It’s tough to track because gasoline sales taxes aren’t separated from everything else. The sales tax you pay on your giant soda at the gas station goes into the same pot as the sales tax on your gasoline.

COGFA crunched the numbers as best it could. The bottom line, it determined, is “... if people are spending more on motor fuel, they are likely spending less on other areas.” Last budget year, sales tax collections on gasoline increased an estimated 2 percent. Sales tax collections on everything else went down 7.7 percent.

End of windfall.

*The National Taxpayers United of Illinois has a new nickname for the governor. In a press release, they referred to him as “3-County Quinn,” a reference to Quinn outpolling Brady in all of three counties in the election.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.