By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD — Should lawmakers turned out of office by voters in November continue voting on issues during a lame-duck session?
Lawmakers are scheduled to work for five full days before a new General Assembly is seated Jan. 9, but there’s only about one day’s work to do.
The Illinois Senate was back on Wednesday and is scheduled to work on Thursday, and then they’ll come back again for another session day next week.
State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said lawmakers could take votes on a dozen bills.
“I know there are things like (money) for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that needs to be addressed. I do think we’re going to have same-sex marriage,” Steans said. “There may be a budget implementation bill, and there may be a gun bill.”
Steans figures that will take one full day.
But state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said none of those issues are so important that lawmakers cannot wait until the new General Assembly is sworn-in next week.
“I don’t know why (there is such a push), unless Democratic leaders think their chances are better in this lame duck session than in the next session,” Luechtefeld said.
It costs $40,000 a day for the full General Assembly to return for session. Those costs will be lower because only one chamber is scheduled to be at the Capitol at a time, and some individual lawmakers may skip out as well.
Luechtefeld said he is disappointed that it does not appear lawmakers will vote on pension reform.
“It doesn’t appear that there is one single proposal that (the Democratic leaders) have wrapped themselves around,” Luechtefeld added. “Until that happens, it doesn’t appear pension reform will happen.”
Steans said there is a chance for pension reform, but only if the House acts first.
Lame-duck Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, said pension reform may be the only vote lam- duck lawmakers would be needed for.
“I am not going to vote for anything that I would not have voted for in the past,” Cultra said as he cleaned out his desk on the floor of the Senate. “ And I don’t think a lot of other lame ducks will either.
Cultra said the 2013 lame-duck session is nothing like the short session in 2011, when lawmakers used lame ducks to pass a 67-percent personal income tax hike.
Both Steans and Luechtefeld, who won re-election, said the lame-duck session could produce a few new laws quickly. But they say both say nothing is going to happen this week that won’t happen eventually.
“I don’t think, honestly, the vote on any of these issues would be different in the new General Assembly,” Steans said.
“We’ve done this a lot. The same people are running government now that have been running it for 10 years,” Luechtefeld said. “I guess they feel they are safe.”
The Senate is scheduled to go home after Thursday’s session. The Illinois House is scheduled to return to the statehouse on Sunday, with sessions also scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
The new General Assembly will be sworn in on Jan. 9.
Contact Benjamin Yount at [email protected]