FILE - Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

(The Center Square) – Illinois state lawmakers may not come back to the capitol until Groundhog Day after canceling session days next week.

The Senate President and House Speaker announced last week that this week’s session days are canceled because of increased COVID-19 cases statewide. That makes eight of the nine scheduled session days so far this year have been canceled.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, acknowledged the COVID-19 situation.

“I understand that, but it’s unfortunate,” Butler told The Center Square. “This is the schedule that the Democrats put together. The Democrats were the ones that changed the primary date which caused our days to be front-loaded.”

With only being in session until April 8, state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, gave his prediction.

“Because of the pandemic and because of the amount of work we got done last year it may be a lighter load this spring,” Zalewski told The Center Square.

Zalewski said the budget will be top of mind, and maybe a few other issues. He expects something to be done with the $4.5 billion unemployment trust fund debt taxpayers are paying tens of millions in interest on.

“It’s a huge issue,” Zalewski said. “It has the potential to be both a reduction in benefits and a fee increase on businesses, so it’s top of mind, for sure.”

Butler said addressing key issues may be difficult if session days continue to be canceled.

“It seems to be going toward we’re probably not going to be session possibly until after the month is over, maybe into February,” Butler said. “I’ve heard rumors of not coming back until March as well.”

The Senate calendar shows the governor’s State of the State and Budget Addresses will be on the same day Feb. 2.

The House Speaker and Senate President said while lawmakers stay away from Springfield, they will have remote committee hearings. But, a review of scheduled committee hearings has shown a bevy of cancellations.

Of 18 virtual House committee hearings scheduled so far this year, 14 have been canceled. Of nine Senate committee hearings scheduled so far this year, three have been canceled.

The Senate President's office says some committees that did not convene may have only one or two measures assigned at this time and with proposals still coming in, dockets will fill up with a more routine committee process. 

The House has 22 virtual committee hearings scheduled in the week ahead. In the Senate, nine virtual committee hearings are scheduled for the week ahead.

Associate Editor

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.