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Legislators take spring break

After 2 weeks away, it’ll be crunch time in Springfield

Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

SPRINGFIELD – It’s spring break. Let the party begin.

The General Assembly hit a sort of halfway point in the spring session last week. It was the deadline for bills that started in the House to get out of the House, and for Senate bills to get out of the Senate.

Of course, as anyone who’s been around this place knows, it can be a kind of fuzzy deadline. If there’s something that’s deemed important and has to be done, you can get around the deadline.

There aren’t any finished budget bills out there yet, and obviously the state isn’t going to do without a budget next year. Plus, the Senate extended the deadline for a bunch of its bills, so we don’t know their fate yet.

Still, for a lot of things, the deadline is the deadline, and if the issue hasn’t moved yet, it probably never will.

So now, lawmakers will take the next 2 weeks off before returning for the final push of the session. It’s either Passover break or Easter break if you are religiously inclined, or spring break for the secular.

Enjoy it while you can. When lawmakers return in 2 weeks, it’s pretty much nonstop until the end.

Politics derails

millionaire tax

Good news last week for millionaires, which, according to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, excludes all but about 13,600 or so of us here in Illinois.

Madigan scrubbed his proposed amendment to the state Constitution to impose a 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million a year. Just to be clear, you get the first $999,999.99 of income at the standard tax rate. It’s only the income from $1 million on up that would have had the surtax.

A Madigan spokesman put the blame on Republicans. He said they were more interested in protecting millionaires than helping school kids. Did we mention all the surtax money was supposed to go to schools?

That’s nice spin, but the fact is the amendment was done in by Madigan’s own Democrats.

Madigan could have had the amendment approved if all 71 House Democrats voted for it. However, state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, has never supported anything that even smelled like an income tax hike.

And Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, issued a press release saying he couldn’t support a “piecemeal” approach to dealing with the state’s budget problems.

So Madigan was down at least two votes among his own members. That meant he needed Republican support. Madigan surely knew no Republican was going to vote for an amendment that imposed higher taxes on millionaires, even if it was for the children.

So what we have is a campaign issue, which is what this was all about anyway. If it was on the ballot, it likely would have driven up turnout among Democrats, who tend to have fewer millionaires in their ranks.

But Madigan still has his campaign theme that Republicans care more about protecting millionaires than helping kids.

And perhaps most important of all, he has Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner on record against the thing.

Predators

get protection

The Senate voted last week to add the American black bear, the gray wolf, and the cougar to the list of protected species under the state’s wildlife code. There were no dissenting votes.

It means you can’t kill one of those animals unless it poses an imminent danger to a person or his property.

A number of reasons were offered to support the bill, mainly along the lines of saving rare or endangered animals.

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