FILE - Don Harmon

Illinois Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, ask questions during the Senate Executive Committee hearing at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday May 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Some major laws signed by Illinois’ governor will soon go through the rules process.

The cartoon classic "Schoolhouse Rock" explained how a bill becomes a law in the U.S. Congress. The process is similar in the Illinois state legislature. But how laws are ultimately enacted in Illinois is another story.

State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, is on the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules, or JCAR. That’s a body with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans from both chambers who hammer out details on how some laws will be implemented by the various state agencies.

“Years ago I proposed changing our official name to the Obscure But Powerful Joint Committee on Administrative Rules because it seemed like any time we were mentioned in the newspaper, that phrase was attached to us,” Harmon said. “Rulemaking is critically important.”

“The general assembly cannot develop laws with the specificity necessary that people understand exactly how this will apply to them in a particular circumstance,” Harmon said, explaining that the body is really a check on how state agencies will enforce the laws.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, also is on JCAR.

“Not every single law that passes has to go through rule-making afterward,” Demmer said. “But quite a few do and they can range from very important, high-profile laws all the way down to things that are very technical and procedural in nature and really don’t have any opposition at all.”

Demmer said after a bill becomes a law, the process starts with affected state agencies crafting rules based on new laws. Then there’s typically a public comment period. JCAR then reviews the rules.

“Either we don’t take action because we think the rules are appropriate and in keeping with the statutory authority of the department or we have the ability to come in and do a sort of veto and block rules from being implemented if they go beyond that statutory authority,” Demmer said.

He said he expects JCAR to tackle rule changes for several major laws the governor recently enacted.

“We’re going to see quite a few rules related to the implementation of recreational cannabis,” Demmer said.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan said earlier this month the department is piecing together all the rules to administer adult-use cannabis. Other departments said they’re also putting their rules together.

“I trust that [the agencies] are talking with one another and we’ll certainly be on the lookout for incompatibility between or among the rules,” Harmon said of pending rules for adult-use cannabis.

“There will likely be rules related to the expansion of gaming and gambling across the state in various forms,” Demmer said.

For the Firearm Dealer Licensing Certification Act, rules have yet to go through JCAR. That measure requires federally licensed gun dealers to get a state permit on top of the federal permit with additional state regulations.

More than 1,200 of the state’s 2,351 federally licensed dealers had not applied for the state license as of Monday. The Illinois State Rifle Association sued to stop the law from being implemented, saying gun dealers don’t know the rules or how much it will cost them to comply. Illinois State Police officials said they’re in the process of finalizing their rules.

It’s unclear when rules for adult-use cannabis, gambling expansion, or the gun dealer licensing will go before JCAR, but Demmer said to keep an eye on the commission’s website.

JCAR typically meets the third week of the month, every month.

Staff Writer

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.