SPRINGFIELD — A Republican lawmaker filed a bill this week aimed at discouraging the use of lame-duck General Assembly sessions to quickly pass controversial measures by relying on votes from outgoing legislators.
The proposal, sponsored by state Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, would raise the number of votes necessary to approve certain measures in a narrow window that occurs every January in odd-numbered years.
Several legislators said they liked the proposal, but Durkin isn’t sure Democratic leaders will allow the measure to get to a committee or to a floor debate.
Under current Illinois law, members of the House and Senate who are retiring or who have lost their re-election bids can vote on legislation in January before a new General Assembly is sworn in.
With no reason to worry about the impact of their votes on the next election, these “lame ducks” are often relied upon to cast decisive votes on controversial measures.
In January 2011, three major provisions were approved in the lame-duck session — a 67 percent temporary increase in the state income tax, a repeal of Illinois’ death penalty, and the civil unions law.
This year, the lame duck session “was relatively relaxed,” Durkin said, “but there was a push to do a few things – same-sex marriage, pension reform and gun reform.”
“This is not just a criticism of the Democratic Party,” Durkin said, referring to times Republicans used the lame-duck session in a similar way. “Both parties share the blame.”
Durkin’s proposal would require legislation approved in the lame-duck session to have the support of three-fifths of the House and Senate, rather than just a simple majority.
Some legislators say they support Durkin’s proposal.
“In recent years, extremely controversial legislation has passed only with the support of these lame-duck legislators,” wrote state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, in an email Friday. “We have to do something to begin to regain the public’s trust in the accountability of those they elect to represent them in Springfield, and this is a good first step.”
State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said Friday that “in theory” he supported the proposal.
It could reduce the tendency for legislation on “major issues to be held to wait for a lame duck session where the voting may be quite different,” he said.
The proposal is House Bill 195.