It's the final week of May so it's no wonder that the last-minute shenanigans that are commonplace at the Illinois Capitol this time of year are well underway.

Four months into the 2019 legislative session and with the May 31 deadline to pass legislation with a simple majority looming, the pace has picked up considerably under the dome and lawmakers are being caught off guard with last-minute overhauls to bills.

The annual ritual flies in the face of government transparency and is an insult to constituents back home.

Of course, the pace and the last-minute changes are deliberate. What better way to avoid scrutiny than to rush amended bills to floor votes when no one's had time to read them?

Former state Rep. Mike Bost infamously condemned the practice during a tirade on the House floor in 2012  – 2012! – when lawmakers received a lengthy pension reform bill with no time to examine it.

"These damn bills that come out here all the damn time, come out here at the last second," Bost screamed, angrily throwing a printed version of the bill to no one in particular. "And I've got to try to figure out how to vote for my people. ... You should be ashamed of yourselves. I'm sick of it. Every year."

Every year is spot on. It's 2019 and it's still happening.

Bost correctly blamed Michael Madigan and the Democratic lawmakers who have voted him speaker of the house for all but two years since 1983.

Also the chairman of the state Democratic Party, Madigan controls the campaign money and the rules that determine how bills move through the House. He has more power than any other state lawmaker in the U.S. and more than any single person should have. 

Madigan purposefully delays action until the waning moments of session to create chaos and avoid scrutiny. He does it his way, transparency and consequences be damned.

The past few days have highlighted a number of examples of the tactic.

A bill to expand abortions in Illinois was filed, assigned to a committee and voted on in just two hours Sunday.

“No one from my district could have made it here to testify on this bill with one hour’s notice,” Republican state Rep. Tom Demmer said.

Lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, also were told there was no time to get answers to all of their questions about the proposed legislation they had just received.

“We are talking about over 100 pages of a bill that we saw less than three hours ago,” state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, said.

Sounds a lot like Bost's complaint from seven years ago.

The News-Gazette on Wednesday reported on an amendment to a shell bill that would remove Champaign County from its six-county judicial circuit and make it one of its own, all so Madigan can get more Democratic judges elected.

The circuit's judges weren't even aware the legislation was being filed by state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana.

"These are political hacks trying to get their people on the bench," Circuit Judge Thomas Difanis told The News-Gazette.

With proposals to double the state's gas tax, nearly double vehicle registration fees, increase taxes on beer, liquor, wine and cigarettes, and create a new tax on streaming services still on the table with just hours to go until the midnight Friday deadline, who knows what else is in store.

Come Saturday morning, one thing is certainly clear: We're all going to wake up to higher taxes.

​Dan McCaleb is the executive editor of The Center Square. He welcomes your comments. Contact Dan at dmccaleb@thecentersquare.com.

Executive Editor

Dan McCaleb is a veteran editor and has worked in journalism for more than 25 years. Most recently, McCaleb served as editorial director of Shaw Media and the top editor of the award-winning Northwest Herald in suburban Chicago.