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Editorial: Why retire lame duck?


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Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2013, 10:49 am
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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
Rep. Jim Durkin has introduced a bill that would make it tough for lame ducks to ram through controversial legislation.

The fact that the Republican's HB195 is almost assuredly dead on arrival in the Democrat-dominated General Assembly demonstrates why it is desperately needed.

Lame duck sessions -- the period after an election but before a new legislature is seated -- are yet another weapon in the already well-stocked arsenal of legislative despots who rule the Illinois Statehouse. They allow leaders to pass controversial issues with the will of voters in the rear view mirror of outgoing members. Sen. Durkin's bill requiring a three-fifth majority for bills passed during those sessions rather than simple majorities would all but eliminate such undemocratic action.

Of course, lame duck abuse isn't limited to either Illinois or to Democrats. In pro-union Michigan, for example, outgoing Republicans shoved through right-to-work legislation before going home -- many of them permanently -- in December. And lame luck legislating in Washington is all too common.
But the fact that such unrepresentative lawmaking has become routine doesn't make it right. Nor is the fact that Illinois' lame duck General Assembly in January failed to take a vote on pension reform proof that Rep. Durkin's super-majority isn't needed. The lack of action on pensions is a better illustration of the complexity of the state's $96 billion pension mess than of Springfield's reluctance to act after voters had their say. We doubt, for example, that legislation to grant some illegal immigrants driver's licenses would so easily have been passed by before the November election.

Of course, for evidence of the abuse of lame duck voting, you can't beat the very busy 2011 lame duck General Assembly which passed a host of landmark legislation including the largest state income tax hike in history, legalized civil unions and narrowly approved killing the death penalty.

In keeping a promise to file the lame duck bill, Rep. Durkin, said in a statement, "The legislative calendar was intended to provide plenty of time to move legitimate legislative initiatives through the process. The lame duck loophole must be closed." Besides ensuring that bills which never would be approved could be, lame duck voting reduces accountability because retiring or defeated lawmakers don't have to worry about voter backlash. Worse, the votes they take may be the reason some outgoing lawmakers lost their seat in the first place.

"These two factors, a lower standard and decreased constituent accountability, play into the appeal of using the lame duck session as a way to move otherwise highly controversial legislation," Rep. Durkin. R-Western Springs, said. "Are there things I would like to see pass? Of course; however, I feel strongly that these proposals should be properly vetted through the legislative process. Think of the Illinois Democratic Party tax increase and it might all make sense." That massive tax increase, much of which is supposed to be temporary, is likely to become permanent. If it does, it could be thanks to lame ducks in 2015, if something isn't done to prevent it.

That's why legislative leaders should call the measure for a vote -- and, sadly, why they won't.



















 



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  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.






(More History)