Illinois state government in 2019 will be fundamentally different from the previous four years. A new governor, J.B. Pritzker, has replaced former Governor Bruce Rauner, leaving Democrats in control of all statewide elected offices in Illinois. The 2018 elections saw significant losses for Republican House and Senate caucuses, putting them in the super-minority in both legislative chambers. Democrats now have control of Illinois state government.
That may not sound good for a Republican senator like me. While I prefer more Republicans in Springfield, the new political reality in Illinois does not change my job: to advocate for the 58th Senate District and vote in accordance with southern Illinois values. Despite having a numbers disadvantage, it is possible to shepherd legislation through the Illinois statehouse that reflects republican principles of responsible government, individual empowerment and economic growth.
I believe the formula for success is to build relationships and make common-sense arguments for how the proposed change benefits all Illinois people. While the partisan disputes consume nearly all the news media’s oxygen, I estimate over 80 percent of the legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly moves through on a unanimous, bipartisan basis. As I begin my third spring as senator, I plan to share proposals that will assist job creators to increase economic productivity in southern Illinois and reform our state-wide political systems.
I often say, “Salvation doesn’t lie in Springfield.” This phrase is true on many levels and applies to economic development. Our economic success depends on successful outcomes for the facilities, businesses and industries already in southern Illinois, not the growth of Illinois state government. The agriculture and energy sectors represent the twin pillars of the southern Illinois economy. This session I will serve on both the agriculture committee and the energy and public utilities committee. Both assignments will allow me to protect these industries from special interest groups that want to cripple their productivity.
“I believe the formula for success is to build relationships and make common-sense arguments for how the proposed change benefits all Illinois people.”
Even those of us committed to political civility still realize that Illinois’ government has performed dreadfully over the last several decades. Because I am not satisfied with the status quo, I am introducing legislation that would make major changes to some of our political processes. First, I am proposing a rule change that establishes a 72-hour cooling off period before an appropriations bill or budget receives a final vote. Another rule change that would benefit the Illinois Senate is to give each senator a small number of bills guaranteed to receive a committee hearing.
I am also proposing two amendments to the Illinois Constitution. One would limit the Illinois governor to one six-year term, giving the governor the additional time to implement an agenda without the distraction of a re-election campaign. Another amendment would take the prospect of a budget impasse off the table by rolling-over and freezing discretionary spending at the previous year’s levels if the governor has not signed a budget prior to the end of the previous fiscal year.
I’m excited for the potential of the spring legislative session. Our new governor has pledged to work in a bipartisan manner, and I will give him the benefit of the doubt. If we can keep everyone working together on good policy ideas, we can accomplish great things. Of course, there is no guarantee that things won’t break down along party lines, but my pledge to you is that I will always be ready and willing to listen and work with my colleagues, regardless of what region or party they hail from.