House GOP Seeks End to Lame Duck Sessions

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and members of the House Republican caucus today unveiled legislation asking voters to put an end to lame duck sessions of the Illinois General Assembly by moving up the date of inauguration. 

The proposal also requires the outgoing General Assembly to conclude their work by Election Day.

“You never know what shenanigans are going to be played in a lame duck session.  In 2011 under the veil of night, Democrats in the lame duck legislature voted to impose the largest income tax increase on families and employers in the history of our state.  Outgoing lawmakers, who are no longer accountable to the voters, should not be approving such controversial legislation,” said Durkin.

“History shows that these post-election lame duck sessions really only exist as venues to pass volatile, controversial legislation with the largest number of outgoing legislators – legislators who have technically already been replaced by the voters from their districts. These sessions are an insult to Illinois voters and need to be abolished,” said State Representative Kay Hatcher (R-Yorkville). 

Durkin’s proposal would put on the November general election ballot a constitutional amendment asking voters to move the date of inauguration to the second Wednesday in December, approximately one month following the election.  Currently, inauguration is held on the second Wednesday in January.     

House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 43 would also prohibit the outgoing General Assembly from convening or acting on legislation unless a special session is convened with the joint approval of the Governor, and each of the four legislative leaders (the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the House, and the Minority Leader of the Senate).  The purpose of the session must be specified in the proclamation and action limited to the topic identified.

“This would allow the legislature to convene if there was a true emergency such as an act of terrorism or natural disaster,” said Durkin.

“Many of these lame duck legislators, including my predecessor, promised the voters that they would oppose an income tax increase. After being defeated, they broke their promise and stuck taxpayers with a $7 billion tax hike. We need to ensure that this sort of political trick never happens again. Legislators should always be accountable to the voters,” said State Rep. Adam Brown (R-Champaign).

Durkin also filed a resolution to change the current House Rules that would limit the actions of a lame duck legislature during the period of time between the vote on a constitutional amendment at the 2014 general election and the date when the amendment’s adoption is certified and becomes effective. 

House Resolution 805 would require, beginning on the date of the general election, a three-fifths vote to move a bill from the Order of Second Reading, when amendments are considered, to the Order of Third Reading, when a bill is voted on for final passage.  This would also apply to bills on the Order of Concurrence or Conference Committee reports.

“Instead of using the lame-duck session as a loophole for passing far-reaching, controversial legislation, each bill should be thoroughly vetted through the legislative process,” said State Rep. Sandy Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn). “The General Assembly’s two-year legislative session was created to allow more than enough time to move legislation through the appropriate channels while also holding lawmakers responsible for their actions and inactions on Election Day. When elected officials are no longer held accountable to their constituents, mistakes could be made at the expense of the taxpayers.”

“Since the birth of the lame duck session, the voice of Illinois’ taxpayers has been ignored,” said Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon).  “Lame duck sessions produce laws which otherwise have no chance at becoming law.  In 2011, the legislature passed the 67% income tax hike just hours before I was sworn into office; the reason why the vote took place was because many of my colleagues including myself would have voted against the tax hike and it would have failed.  With that said, I am all in favor of restoring taxpayer accountability to the legislative process by eliminating lame duck sessions.”

 “If a legislator wants to vote for a tax increase or other controversial issues they need to be held accountable to their constituents.  In the past we have seen lawmakers take positions on bills during the lame duck that they might not have taken if they had to answer to the voters,” said Durkin.  “The bills we have filed will eliminate lame duck sessions and tough votes will have to be taken before an election – not afterwards.”