Illinois Government Essentials

Democratic Leadership Transitions

Some leadership transitions are smoother than others, and after Senate President John Cullerton abruptly announced his forthcoming retirement on the last day of the 2019 fall legislative session, Democratic senators began positioning themselves for an eventual January 19th Senate leadership vote that unpredictable beyond knowing the top two candidates.

Closing Out a Legislative Session & Handling an Impasse

Since the November 2018 state elections, the same political realities have remained in place regarding a Democratic super-majority with a handful of arguably 'at-risk' legislators, and since the beginning of 2019, most of the same financial realities have remained in place regarding a budget deficit, proposed new revenues, and potential capital development plan. Consistent with past legislative sessions, these realities will be managed by a small number of political leaders and ushered through the finish line over the course of the final two weeks of May in a manner that feels rushed but necessary.

Also of interest, are the varying degrees of support among the Democratic caucus members regarding hot button policies.

In reviewing voting roll calls in the House chamber, we can begin to see these distinctions that are so often portrayed during election season as simple Democrat versus Republican slogans. While a graduated income tax did receive near unanimous support among House Democrats, legislation involving a minimum wage, abortion rights, gun rights, and recreational marijuana were not voted on uniformly among Democrats or even Republicans.

The following House roll calls include a note regarding the policy being addressed by the Democratic legislative proposal and highlight in red where Democrats did not support the legislation along with two policies (i.e. recreational marijuana and gun rights) where Republicans arguably did not vote in line with their own party. From the most to least supported by the House Democratic members, the policies involved a graduated income tax, minimum wage, abortion rights, recreational marijuana, and gun rights. For the graduated income tax, the highlighted House Democrats include a note reflecting the final order of votes in support of the bill as well as one not voting.

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And as much as Chicago Democrats often "control" legislative priorities at the Illinois capitol building, in the 2019 fall legislative session we saw how issues with gambling expansion and local construction projects can pressure Democrats and Republicans outside of Chicago to come together in a manner uniquely frustrating to Chicago Democrats when a technical gaming cleanup bill passed but a Chicago casino cleanup bill did not...

By Hannah Meisel for The Daily LineNovember 15, 2019

In July 2017, the Illinois legislature voted to end the longest budget impasse in state and national history. For those watching closely, we saw how controlled voting can be in the General Assembly and how essential it is to know where votes are being protected or available.

(video credit, Reboot Illinois)
As a note for those who watch the video, 71 votes were needed in support of the veto override motion. This moment in Illinois history involved numerous political alliances, but the overarching story line was a political battle between the Governor, a Republican who vetoed the budget, and the Speaker of the House, a Democrat who has held that leadership position for over three decades. The budget proposal at issue in the summer of 2017 involved an income tax increase, so with the next election cycle less than a year away, legislators with potentially close races were cautious in their voting. With the voting open until the Speaker of the House gavels voting to a close, 71 votes slowly made their way onto the board, and once the threshold was met, legislators could safely vote against the motion knowing the budget would still pass.

Government Resources & More

253 Illinois laws went into effect January 1st 2019, and here are summary lists of the laws courtesy of staff for the Illinois Senate Democrats (click here) and Illinois Senate Republicans (click here).

With the beginning of the new year, there was also the transition of a new Governor. In addition to the above link to the Governor's executive staff and transition team members, for the official "Transition Reports" detailing policy initiatives for the new administration, click here.

For interactive state budget tools, click here.

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