ILLINOIS (IRN) — Because of COVID-19, the Illinois Legislature could take up the ability to legislate remotely in the new year, but some have concerns it could limit accountability and taxpayer participation.
Democrats at the Illinois statehouse have a variety of priorities for the new year, including criminal justice reform, clean energy legislation and other issues. But because of COVID-19, some have continued concerns from meeting in person.
A bill filed this month by state Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, could make legislating remotely happen.
State Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, said lawmakers tried to allow that when they met briefly in May.
“It was our colleagues on the other side of the aisle who killed that motion,” Welch said. “I’m not in favor of coming down here in person. I just spent two weeks in my basement because of COVID-19.”
State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, also spent time in isolation because of the virus. He said it’s ridiculous to blame the failure of remote legislation this spring on minority Republicans when Democrats have a supermajority.
Regardless, Butler said the incoming legislature needs to address the pandemic and provide oversight.
“That has to be at the top of our list,” Butler said. “Also, we’ve got to figure out this budget mess that Democrats have put us in.”
The budget passed in May by Democrats was based on a progressive income tax constitutional amendment that voters rejected and federal aid that never materialized.
In the face of Gov. J.B. Pritzker announcing $711 million in expense cuts, state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said lawmakers have to end what he called corporate loopholes to plug the state’s $4 billion budget gap.
“We will fight to make sure that those immensely wealthy and profitable corporations pay their fair share to our state before we go after services that people need,” Guzzardi said.
Butler said majority Democrats need to address the state’s continued population loss.
“We need to unleash business to be able to create good jobs for the people of Illinois, which in turn would help revenues coming into this state because if we have a larger tax base to draw from, then it’s going to help the coffers of Illinois, without raising taxes,” Butler said.
There’s a lame-duck session possible before the 102nd General Assembly is seated the second week of January. The first order of business for the House will be to elect the next speaker. That’s expected to be contentious as House Speaker Michael Madigan no longer has majority support.