What can you expect from the 98th General Assembly?
After the most recent elections, the Illinois House has gone from 64 Democrats and 54 Republicans to 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Four Republican incumbents lost their seats. The Illinois Senate went from 35 Democrats and 24 Republicans to 40 Democrats and 19 Republicans. One Republican incumbent lost her seat.
These results are historic: they mark the first time in the history of Illinois that one party has obtained veto-proof majorities in both Houses of the Illinois General Assembly at the same time. This Democrat veto-proof majority represents a potential power shift between the legislative and executive branches of government.
What issues will likely crop up when the newly reconstituted legislature convenes in January?
The new 98th General Assembly will mark the first time in the history of Illinois that one party has obtained veto-proof majorities in both chambers at the same time. In part, this results from several planned legislative retirements mostly due to the reapportionment action required every ten years. Reapportionment always results in new legislative membership. There were however, several incumbents defeated as they ran in new legislative districts. The new membership in both Houses will make up the largest “freshman” class since the House blanket ballot in the 1960’s.
The Illinois House (click here to see results) went from 64 Democrats and 54 Republicans to 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Four Republican incumbents (Saviano, Mathias, Cole and Morthland) lost their seats, while there were no incumbent defeats suffered by the Democrats in the House. There will be a total of 25 new Representatives, a figure that represents more than 20 percent of the membership. Of these 25, three of the “freshmen” (Hoffman, Smith and Sandack) are actually returning legislators who had previously served.
The Illinois Senate (click here to see results) went from 35 Democrats and 24 Republicans to 40 Democrats and 19 Republicans. One Republican incumbent (Pankau) lost her seat while the Democrats lost no incumbents in the Senate. There will be a total of 16 new Senators (more than 25 percent of the total) with five of these “freshmen” (Biss, Rose, Barickman, Connelly, and Cunningham) coming over from the House.
The House has reserved as many as six additional session days, from January 3rd through the 8th, before final adjournment of the 97th General Assembly. These days will be in addition to the previously scheduled Fall Veto Session scheduled for November 27th through November 29th and December 4th through December 6th. The inauguration of the new 98th General Assembly will be on January 9th. While the Senate hasn’t officially issued its calendar for days in early January, it is anticipated that it will follow a similar schedule leading up to the inauguration.
The political dynamics should be fascinating in the new General Assembly. The Democrat supermajorities in both the House and the Senate mean that the party should be able to pass any legislation, including bonding increases which require a three-fifths majority vote, with no Republican votes. The size of these Democrat majorities also confers the ability in the legislature to override any gubernatorial vetoes without Republican participation.
Several major issues—originally tackled by the 97th General Assembly—remain on the table in Illinois. It’s likely that many more issues that are near and dear to Democrat constituencies will be introduced in the coming year.
Government employee pension reform, plugging the $83 billion pension liability, worker’s compensation reform, mortgage foreclosure reform, vacant property enforcement, Medicaid reform, prison reform, education funding, tax increases, the minimum wage, property tax reform, gaming expansion and special funds and fee diversions are issues that will surely see new life.
Several factors are key to effectively advancing a legislative agenda in Springfield. Fully understanding the rules, knowing the legislative schedules, having strong relationships with, and access to, key decision-makers are essential if one is to help shape successful outcomes.