Lame ducks: What Illinois taxpayers should watch for in veto session
Lawmakers, including 37 lame duck legislators, on Nov. 13 convened in Springfield for a veto session likely to feature political pensions and unfunded mandates.
The Illinois General Assembly is starting its veto session with a lame duck legislature. Taxpayers should pay close attention this time around.
Start with a legislative session that comes after the election. Add in lawmakers who either did not get reelected, or chose to not run again. That toxic mix means sitting lawmakers will be voting on bills with few consequences for their actions. Even though constituents voted some of these lawmakers out of office, the legislators retain their voting power until the new General Assembly is inaugurated.
This year will be especially important because even before Election Day, there were 26 lawmakers who choose not to seek reelection. Add to that the defeated incumbents and you’ve got 37 lawmakers who can vote with little to lose.
Veto session is held every fall and is the General Assembly’s chance to take action on bills the governor has vetoed. With so many vital issues that could come up during veto session, Illinoisans should watch their lawmakers and their wallets during the next few weeks.
Bills to watch for
Pension perks for Chicago aldermen
Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a total veto of House Bill 5342, which would allow Chicago aldermen who previously served as firefighters to credit their time as an alderman to the firefighter pension system, rather than the municipal employee pension system. This means upon retirement they would receive a more lucrative firefighter pension, even though their final salary as an elected official was not at all based on their service as a firefighter.
If the General Assembly successfully overrides this veto, Chicago taxpayers will be on the hook for more pension liabilities, and politicians will crowd out pensions meant for firefighters.
Mandatory $40,000 minimum salary for all teachers
Rauner issued a total veto of Senate Bill 2892, which would mandate every school district in Illinois pay teachers a minimum of $40,000 by 2022. This costly mandate would fall on Illinoisans who already pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation. In many parts of the state, this mandate would mean taxpayers would be paying for minimum salaries that far exceed the median household income in their community.
Burdensome regulations on car rental services
Rauner issued an amendatory veto of Senate Bill 2641, which would classify startup companies that facilitate peer-to-peer car-sharing services the same as established, traditional car rental companies, thus subjecting them to similar regulations and taxes. This bill, as originally passed, would have given traditional rental car companies an advantage over car-sharing companies because traditional companies are exempt from certain taxes to which car-sharing companies are subject.
In his veto message, Rauner criticized the process by which this bill was passed, stating it did not allow any time for the public to comment. The amendatory veto eliminates a substantial portion of the bill and replaces it with new provisions that include more fair regulations specific to car sharing services.
Increasing age for tobacco use to 21
Rauner issued a total veto of Senate Bill 2332, which would increase the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21, and also eliminated an existing penalty for minors possessing tobacco.
This bill would add Illinois to the list of six states that already increased their smoking age to 21. In addition to tobacco, the bill would place additional restrictions on alternative nicotine products, such as electronic cigarettes.
How veto session works
During regular legislative session, lawmakers attempt to pass bills through the legislative process. Once a bill has passed both the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate, it is sent to the governor’s desk. The governor may then choose to sign the bill, in which case the bill becomes law. However, the governor may also veto the bill.
Total veto and amendatory veto are the most common ways the governor vetoes a bill. In a total veto, the governor chooses to reject the bill as a whole. In an amendatory veto, the governor vetoes part of the bill and issues recommendations on how he would like lawmakers to improve the bill.
Bills that are vetoed in any way are returned back to the General Assembly during veto session. The sponsor of the bill then has the opportunity to accept the changes made by the governor, do nothing and allow the bill to die, or attempt to override the governor’s veto.
Overriding a veto requires a supermajority vote in both the Senate and the House. A House supermajority is 71 votes, while a Senate supermajority is 36 votes. Currently, until the new General Assembly is inaugurated in January, the Senate Democrats have a supermajority in their chamber, but the House Democrats do not. In order to override a veto in the House, some Republicans would be required to vote in favor of overriding the veto.
If both chambers successfully override the governor’s veto, then the bill becomes law.