Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Last hurrah? Or a great big raspberry from General Assembly to Gov. Quinn?

It’s going to be intriguing to watch the General Assembly when it convenes for its fall session beginning Wednesday.

For it is the last time legislators will have to deal with the actions and desires of Gov. Pat Quinn. It will be interesting to see what their farewell gift, of sorts, will be to the soon-to-be former governor.

QUINN HAS SAID he wants to have his last significant action as governor be the signing into law of a measure that boosts the minimum wage in Illinois to just over $10 per hour – a nearly two dollar boost over the current state rate and three dollars higher than the federal minimum wage.

But to do so, he needs to have the state Legislature first approve such a bill.

Will a Legislature that often has been willing to thumb its nose at Quinn’s desires feel any need to act on the measure and give the governor a victory?

Or is the major act of this particular veto session – running Wednesday through Friday, then resuming Dec. 2-4 – going to be an override of a veto Quinn issued during the summer months with regards to regulation of ridesharing services.

HOW WILL THE Quinn years come to an end – a bill-signing ceremony meant to thumb his nose in the face of Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, who has said he does not want any action on minimum wage until he become governor in mid-January?

Or with the General Assembly telling Quinn to “shove it” with regards to ride-sharing?

It would be times like this that Quinn wishes Rauner’s campaign rhetoric about “100 years” of Democratic power in state government (referring to the length of service of Quinn, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and state Senate President John Cullerton) were actually true.

Because then there would be a united front likely to push the minimum wage issue into a bill that would become law. The one-time consumer advocate who helped create the Citizens Utility Board could claim another achievement on behalf of “working people” before he leaves office.

BUT THE REALITY is that the personalities within the Democratic Party power structure often are at odds with each other – they don’t unite in the way that conservative Republicans do.

I have heard way too many legislators tell me that Quinn’s whims are so capricious that they can’t count on him to back them – so they feel no desire to necessarily back him.

Not even on an issue in which the referendum question earlier this month indicated strong support from voters. It’s not about deferring to Rauner in any way – I’m sure Democratic leadership is already preparing itself for a fight to ensure the new governor does not get a swelled ego just because of his new title.

It is why I expect the Quinn farewell to the governorship will involve an attempt to overturn the ride-sharing measure – involving those services such as Lyft and Uber that provide alternatives to taxicab service in select neighborhoods of Chicago and appeal to those people who want to live their whole lives through their smartphones and the apps they choose to download.

EXISTING TAXICAB SERVICES have complained those ridesharing services do not have to comply with the same regulations that your ordinary cab driver has to. That is why the Legislature this spring passed a pair of bills that called for things such as background checks on drivers, vehicle inspections and insurance requirements.

The ride-share people claim those rules are too strict. The business types who oppose any kind of government regulation also hated the bills.

Which makes it ironic that Quinn – the governor who supposedly was so hostile to business and the economy that voters dumped him from office two weeks ago – sided with them, although he said back in August his concern was that state regulations might interfere with municipalities that want to impose even tougher rules on ride-sharing services.

Will the General Assembly that managed to maintain its Democrat-leaning veto-proof majority despite an election that supposedly leaned so heavily Republican decide to use its power one more time on Quinn and tell him what he can symbolically do with his veto?


We’ll have to wait to see how the Illinois House reacts later this week, with the state Senate to follow up in early December if representatives do decide to override on ride-sharing.

Then, they can figure out how to fill the devastating gap in the state budget that will occur when the state income tax declines.

But that is a headache for another political day.


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