After two days of political rallies, state lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle were either basking in the glow of legislative victories or looking to battle a proposed income tax hike and looming policy ideas.
On Wednesday during Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair, state Rep. Monica Bristow, D-Alton, talked about the major legislative accomplishments the Democratic majority achieved.
“It was a record, a record year in Springfield and I was just talking with somebody else like ‘what else is there to accomplish?’ ” Bristow said. “I’m sure that we’ll come up with things to make the state better, but right now, I’m just proud of what we got accomplished.”
Bristow praised the budget and the $45 billion statewide infrastructure plan funded with tax and fee increases.
The budget and capital bill were passed with Democratic and Republican votes, despite Democrats having the majority in each legislative chamber and Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the governor's mansion.
Democratic majorities were also able to secure minimum wage increases, recreational cannabis for adults, abortion rights, prohibitions on local law enforcement cooperating with federal immigration officials, tuition assistance for undocumented residents and other laws many Republicans opposed.
Thursday during Republican Day, state Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said his focus won’t just be on vetting legislation from the majority party, but on defeating a proposed constitutional amendment Democrats put on the November 2020 ballot.
“Giving [House Speaker] Mike Madigan and [Gov.] J.B. Pritzker and the Democrat majorities the ability to arbitrarily raise taxes on anybody at any level is not a good idea,” Wihour said.
Wilhour noted the importance of the high threshold the amendment must get from voters.
State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said Wednesday at the fair that despite Democratic victories, there’s a lot of issues lawmakers have yet to tackle.
“Look, there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done, but I feel like we’re getting Illinois on the right track,” Bush said. “I’m just excited to be a part of it and we’re just going to keep working.”
One area Bush hopes to focus on will be to give the Legislative Inspector General more independence to investigate accusations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.
Right now, before any complaint filed to the LIG against a state lawmakers can be investigated the inspector must get permission from a panel of lawmakers. Lawmakers did give the Legislative Inspector General autonomy to investigate sexual harassment allegations, but any other claims must still go through the Legislative Ethics Commission.
State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said Thursday at Republican Day on the fairgrounds that he wants to pass legislation to change the minimum wage increase that starts next year to consider rural versus urban regions.
“We’ve been talking to some people in the ag industry and it’s a big issue for them,” Murphy said. “I’ve talked to the [school] superintendents, it’s a big issue for them for down state. So it’s a big issue. I’m not overly optimistic, but we need to readdress that.”
The state minimum wage increase to $15 an hour over several years was a major campaign pledge Gov. J.B. Pritzker made. Lawmakers passed the measure and it was signed into law in February. Pritzker took office in January. The law increases the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.25 beginning Jan. 1, with increases every year until 2025 when it reaches $15 an hour.
Lawmakers are back in Springfield for the fall session in October.