Election Wrap-up 2020

Dan Reitz | IOGA Lobbyist

The Fall Veto Session is currently scheduled for November 17-19 and December 1-3, but given the pandemic, lawmakers will most likely only meet for a few days for one week rather than gather in Springfield over two separate weeks. With the rising number of COVID cases in Illinois, it is also possible that the General Assembly could forego the fall session and meet in January prior to the new legislature’s inauguration for a short “lame duck” session. If the General Assembly does convene, the top agenda items will focus on legislation prepared by the Legislative Black Caucus dealing with criminal justice, healthcare disparities, education, and economic opportunities.

Committee Hearings

The Senate has announced a series of committee hearings, all virtual, leading up to the fall session. The hearings align with the Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda for the upcoming fall and spring sessions.

    • November 6 – Healthcare: Diversity in Health Care Workforce and Culturally Competent Health Care
    • November 6 – Economic Development: Equity in Food Access, Agriculture, Cannabis, and Technology
    • November 9 – Healthcare: Policy Recommendations on Health Disparities, Access to Health Care, Behavioral Health, and Diversity in Health Care/Culturally Competent Health Care
    • November 10 – Criminal Justice Reform: Police Licensure
    • November 10 – Economic Development: Diversity in Procurement, BEP and DBE Policies and Labor Unions

The House Special Investigative Committee canceled its meeting this week. Chairman Chris Welch noted that the committee is waiting for documents from ComEd.

Caucus Leaders

Soon after Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady announced he would not seek reelection for the caucus leadership position, the Senate Republicans voted for a new leader, choosing Senator Dan McConchie of Lake Zurich. McConchie pledged to work for balanced budgets, smaller and smarter government, lower taxes, economic reforms, and a world-class education system. Senator Sue Rezin was named Deputy Leader. Brady’s announcement hints that he could consider a statewide run, possibly governor, in 2022. Senator Brady will continue serving in the Senate.

Representative Stephanie Kifowit of Aurora previously announced she would challenge House Speaker Michael Madigan for his leadership position. Representative Maurice West joined a few other Representatives in announcing that he would not be voting for Madigan as Speaker. Given the perception of several Democrat losses tied to Madigan’s ethics questions, the Speaker could face a challenge to his leadership in January. Madigan needs 60 votes of the likely 72 Democratic Representatives to remain Speaker.  I would expect Madigan to garner the 60 votes to remain Speaker.

US Senator Dick Durbin publicly blamed the ethics controversies surrounding House Speaker Mike Madigan for the Democrat losses this week, which included Kilbride’s failed Supreme Court retention, Betsy Londrigan’s defeat to Congressman Rodney Davis, the graduated tax amendment, and several House and Senate races in Illinois. Durbin said Democrats “paid a heavy price for the speaker’s chairmanship of the Democratic party” and that “his presence as chairman of our party is not helping.” Many pundits assumed that Madigan would win as many as 8 to 10 seats and gain the largest majority in recent history. Instead, House Republicans are in contention to have won 4 seats over versus the Democrats’ 2.

Governor Pritzker, when asked by the media if he agreed with Senator Durbin that the Democrat party needs new leadership, replied, “yes.” US Senator Tammy Duckworth has publicly said Madigan should no longer be House Speaker. Madigan responded by saying he looks forward to “continuing our fight for working families as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.”

On the House Republican side, Representative Tony McCombie of Savanna reached out to colleagues for support as House Republican Leader, challenging Leader Jim Durkin, saying that the caucus wants change. Durkin says he has already secured the majority of votes. McCombie had been leader of the House Republican Organization for campaigns.

The Senate increased its Democratic majority by one, 41 D/18 R.

The House Republicans currently have a net gain of two seats, 72 D/46 R.

Both Democrat caucuses still have a supermajority.

Campaign Update:

Continuing with its 32-year streak in voting Democratic in presidential elections, Illinois supported Joe Biden for President of the United States over Donald Trump by a margin of 55%-45%.  Illinois voters also re-elected Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Durbin to a sixth term over token Republican opposition.  However, other than these two statewide races, Republicans consolidated their hold over rural, downstate Illinois and recouped some of their losses in 2018.  Republicans will pick up a Congressional seat (challenger Oberweiss is leading incumbent Underwood. Illinois House Republicans will pick up 2 seats. The current make-up of the Illinois House is 74D-44R. Illinois Senate Democrats will extend their super majority to 41-18, with the pick-up of the Oberweiss seat by Representative Villa (D).  In Illinois’ only Supreme Court race, Republican David Overstreet defeated democrat Judy Cates to replace retiring 5th District Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier (R).  The 3rd District voted not to retain Democratic Justice Thomas Kilbride.  The statewide ballot initiative to amend the Illinois Constitution to allow for a graduated income tax failed by a vote of 45% of those voting on the question in favor to 55% opposed, setting the stage for a Lame Duck Session income tax increase.  It appears that the ballot initiative could also have had a negative effect on state Democratic legislative races.  None of Illinois’ statewide offices, all held by Democrats, were up for election this year.

Votes are still being counted in a few races. Mail-in ballots postmarked by November 3 can be counted until November 17.

Congress:

13th District– Incumbent Republican Congressman Rodney Davis easily defeated Betsy Londrigan in one of the most hotly contested races in the nation.

14th District-Republican Jim Oberweis may succeed in a very close race against incumbent Lauren Underwood (D), possibly picking up a Congressional seat for the GOP.

Graduated Income Tax

Governor Pritzker blasted the opponents of the graduated income tax proposal following its 45-55% failure, saying they “lied about what would happen if it passed” and left “working people holding the bag,” blaming Republicans for “swearing their allegiance to the wealthiest interest in the state” and throwing “middle class families under the bus.” The graduated income tax was a keystone to Governor Pritzker’s 2018 campaign and necessary for the administration to balance its budget without cutting spending. He is now saying cuts will be “painful,” as much as 15 percent to agencies or legislators will be asked to pass an income tax increase as high as 20 percent increase. The flat income tax rate is now 4.95 percent.

Healthcare advocates are already asking for the administration to protect human services from any budget cuts. The governor had earmarked additional funding that would have been raised by the graduated income tax increase, including $400 million for contributions to the state employee health plan, $42 million for Medicaid provider rate increases, and $40 million for rate increase in the community care program.

The governor is reportedly telling agencies to oppose any bill introduced with a fiscal impact.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin proposed that the administration begin with a 4 percent across-the-board cut to the state budget as a starting point for addressing the budget deficit.

Supreme Court

Justice Tom Kilbride became the first State Supreme Court Justice to have his retention vote fail, creating a question as to how a new justice is appointed to fill the empty seat. Kilbride’s term will end December 6, 2020. It is questionable as to whether Kilbride as the sitting justice, but whom voters chose not to retain, will have influence as to who replaces him. The Court is now 3 Republican and 3 Democrats. Kilbride’s replacement will tip the Court to either party, an important consideration as the Court will undoubtedly decide whether any new redistricting map is constitutional.

The state constitution requires the Court to appoint an interim justice by a vote of at least four justices until the next election in 2022. If the appointment is made by the Court before December 6, when Kilbride’s term expires, then Democrats, including the Kilbride vote, would have the 4 deciding votes on a successor.

Looking Ahead to Spring Session

Looking ahead to 2021, there are four topics that will dominate the discussion in Springfield.

The first is the political structure of Illinois. Despite still having supermajority Democrat control in both the House and Senate and a Democrat governor for another two years, Republicans were the winners in the 2020 election. They defeated a graduated income tax proposal pushed very hard by Governor Pritzker, they denied retention for a long-serving Democrat Supreme Court justice by tying him to House Speaker Michael Madigan, and they retain a whole bunch of suburban seats that nearly everyone expected Democrats to carry away. Speaker Madigan faces a challenge to his leadership with already one member openly seeking the leadership position and another pledging not to vote for Madigan. The political climate in Illinois is even more geographically divided now with Republicans holding strong downstate and Democrats maintaining the population-heavy Chicago and suburbs. Conversely, Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady has already been replaced with Senate Republican Leader-Elect Dan McConchie. The new General Assembly will be inaugurated on January 20.

The second is the state budget. With the sound defeat of the graduated income tax measure, the state’s dismal finances become even more of a top priority for the Pritzker administration, with Illinois already balancing a budget by borrowing as much as $5 billion from the Federal Reserve and a state economy reeling from the COVID-19 closures. The administration will depend heavily on a potential Biden administration subsidy, need to impose serious spending cuts, and/or possibly seek an income tax increase.

The third is COVID-19 and how the General Assembly convenes its next sessions. The fall Veto Session is tentatively scheduled for November 17-19 and December 1-3, but legislators will most likely forego two separate weeks of traveling to Springfield, and if they decide to have a fall session, will instead meet just a few days before Thanksgiving. That said, leadership could put off a fall session and wait until early January to meet during a “lame duck” session and then following the new inauguration. Depending on COVID-19 cases going into the new year, the session calendar could be condensed from the typical January to June schedule to meeting in committees virtually but not convening in Springfield until March or even April.

And finally, the last, and perhaps most politically hot, is the new district map for the 2022 elections. Essentially, every member just elected this week is now a lame duck moving into the 2022 cycle since each House and Senate District will be redrawn based on census data. The map must be voted on by May 31. With supermajorities in both chambers and a governor, the Democrats have considerable control over drawing districts; however, any map will be challenged in the courts and will eventually be presented to the State Supreme Court. With the Republican win of the 5th Judicial seat and failure of Democrat Justice Tom Kilbride to gain retention in the 3rd Judicial seat, Republicans could now have control 4-3 of the Supreme Court, giving the GOP some measure of play in the map-making process for the first time in decades.

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