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They call it ‘Spring’-field for a reason

In Springfield, 11th-hour bills are springing up all over in the Illinois General Assembly, leaving the public with little if any chance to provide input. Citizens should “spring” into action and complain.

Published: Thursday, May 29, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

As the spring legislative session rumbles toward adjournment Saturday, it appears that Springfield, as in “Spring”-field, is again earning its name.

That’s because new and sometimes unfamiliar bills spring out of legislative committees, are rushed to the chamber floor, and are put to a vote before regular folks have much time to react.

We understand a bit about deadline pressure in the news business, but that should not be an excuse for legislative leaders to spring so many important bills on the public, let alone their representatives and senators, at the tail end of the session.

Examples abound.

n A bill to transform the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library into an independent state agency materialized in a House committee controlled by Speaker Michael Madigan, won approval, and zoomed to the House floor.

n A bill to tax soda pop quickly popped onto the radar. However, the “soda tax” got shot down in committee.

n Several budget bills have been sprung on the full House. A “doomsday” $35 billion budget faced its own doomsday Friday. However, the $35.7 billion measure that won approval Tuesday apparently fails to include enough revenue to cover its budgeted expenditures. Oh, and the House was too rushed to have a hearing on it.

n A bill inspired by the Madison County Health Department’s shutdown of a 12-year-old girl’s home baking operation was killed, revived, adjusted, and approved by the Senate.

n A rival school funding bill was introduced by Senate Republicans to counter the Democratic bill, which won approval while the GOP bill stalled.

n Non-binding questions on increasing the Illinois minimum wage and imposing a “millionaires tax” materialized and are up for consideration.

n A bill to skip a rulemaking process by the Department of Natural Resources regarding hydraulic fracturing was introduced, considered, then quickly abandoned.

n And, in a blast from the past, the Senate was presented with a resolution calling on Illinois to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment – a movement that died in the 1980s.

Yes, in “Spring-field,” last-minute bills have sprung up all over, but to our way of thinking, the process tramples on the rights of the public to be informed and to comment on pending legislation.

Citizens ought to “spring” into action and complain.

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