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Illinois Lawmakers Blow Past Deadline — Overtime Session Ahead

Jun 1, 2019
Originally published on June 1, 2019 11:54 am

The usual May 31st deadline for the Illinois General Assembly passed last night, but lawmakers are not yet done with their work.

Democrats racked up a number of big wins this session: raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, protecting abortion rights, and setting up a referendum on a graduated income tax.

But they also wanted to legalize sports betting, expand gambling, and pass a statewide building plan. None of that's happened yet — and they still need to pass a budget.

Democrats and Republicans say those ideas are on track, and they started passing related bills Friday night.

Democratic state Rep. Will Davis, from Homewood: “We know that as we continue to work collaboratively — if that is what we indeed want to do — when we work collaboratively, there are a lot of things that we can indeed get done.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin echoed those remarks.

“It’s amazing what we can do around in just a few hours if people are willing to work together, and we just started doing that,” Durkin told his colleagues. “So I feel we’re on a good path, and I’m pleased to put my vote on the board tonight, and let’s get our work done by tomorrow.”

Durkin’s talking about today — Saturday — when the House is scheduled to reconvene at 10 a.m. If that all falls into place, the Senate — which did not plan a return date this weekend — would have to return to the Capitol later this month.

Update: House session was pushed back to noon Saturday; the Senate announced it would reconvene at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Building Plan Moving Ahead

The Illinois Senate made the first move to get a $45-billion infrastructure plan approved early Saturday morning. Senators approved billions of dollars in bonding authorization for some capital projects, as well as paying down backlogged bills.

It also OK-ed billions of dollars in a long list of projects — from development near Soldier Field in Chicago to new libraries and updated residence halls at universities to overhauled water infrastructure in cities across the state.

But the roadblock is how to pay for all of it. The Rebuild Illinois proposal, the latest iteration of which was unveiled Friday afternoon, relied on legalizing sports betting and building six more casinos, as well as a gas tax hike and increased registration fees to pay for road, bridge and transit repairs.

The gambling plan, however, hit a snag when Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she did not like a provision in the bill allowing sports betting at sports venues like Soldier Field.

Members of the Illinois House are set to return Saturday to continue working on a deal.

Still, some lawmakers said they’d reached a deal on transportation funding — a 19-cent gas tax increase and higher registration and other vehicle fees. Any revenue measures would need approval from the Senate as well.

During debate, State Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, highlighted a few pieces of the capital spending plan, including $33.2 billion for transportation; $3.5 billion for community colleges, state universities and local schools; $4.3 billion for state facilities; and $420 million for expansion of broadband internet to underserved areas.

The city of Springfield would get $122 million for its rail improvement project. The University of Illinois Springfield would get $35 million for a new library facility and another $25 million for general building improvements.

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