“Lame Duck” Session Leads to Passage of Pritzker Requests
Leading up to the inauguration of the new legislature, the members of the 100th General Assembly took final action during a “lame duck” session on two requests presented to them by Governor-elect JB Pritzker. The incoming Governor reached out to the four caucuses and requested that they pass two pieces of legislation raising the salary caps on agency directors and department executives and giving him the authority to establish a new board for the embattled Illinois Toll Highway Authority. In the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, the legislature approved both requests.
The House first introduced an amendment to SB 1298 that abolished the terms of all sitting members of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, thereby giving Governor-elect Pritzker the ability to establish a new board. The Toll Highway Authority has been in the spotlight in recent years for corruption and patronage, similar to the accusations that were placed on the Illinois Department of Transportation during the Blagojevich and Quinn years. The legislation, seen as a necessary request by most, easily passed both the House and Senate and is being held until Pritzker takes office and can sign the bill.
In similar fashion, but with less ease, an amendment was introduced to SB 3531, which raised the caps on the salaries of agency directors and top department executives by fifteen percent to allow for past cost-of-living increases that never occurred. Salaries for agency directors and top staff are set by statute and have not been increased for more than a decade. When compared to other states, many of Illinois directors and agency heads make below the national average. Several Republicans pointed out that Democrats chastised Governor Rauner when he attempted to pay his top administrative staff more than previous administrations and even threatened to block appointments over increased salaries. The legislation passed the House 68-37-2 and the Senate 33-21-0. The Governor-elect is expected to sign the bill once he takes office.
101st General Assembly is Sworn into Office
On Wednesday, members of the 101st General Assembly gathered in Springfield to be sworn into office. The incoming class of legislators is comprised of an unprecedented number of new members that represent over twenty percent of the entire General Assembly. The number of new members will only grow after the recent announcement by former House Democrat Deputy Majority Leader, Lou Lang, that he would retire immediately. This year’s class of first time legislators also follows the national trend that saw increasing number of women running for office and winning elections. Out of 177 members of the Illinois General Assembly, there are now 64 women legislators representing constituents across the state.
The new legislature also symbolizes the stronghold that the Democrats have on Illinois governance in the state. Democrats now have a 40-19 supermajority in the Senateand 74-44 supermajority in the House. With a supermajority, the Democrats have the power to pass legislation with a veto-proof margins; however, with an incoming Democrat Governor, there may be fewer vetoes than in previous years.
Governor and Constitutional Officers to be Sworn in Monday
With the 101st General Assembly officially established, Governor-elect Pritzker and his fellow constitutional officers will be sworn into office on Monday, January 14. Once the Executive branch is in place, the first official day of Session will begin on January 29. Governor-elect Pritzker will host an open house on Sunday, January 13 at the Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield to celebrate the next day’s inauguration.
Juliana Stratton, the incoming Lt. Governor, will be the first African-America to be elected to the second highest office in Illinois. New Attorney General Kwame Raoul will replace longtime incumbent Lisa Madigan who chose to retire. Jesse White, the longest serving Secretary of State in Illinois history will take the oath of office for a record 6th term.
Governor-Elect JB Pritzker Makes More Appointments to New Administration
Governor-elect Pritzker continued to build his administrative team this week with the announcement of several new hires.
- Emily Bittner, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications in the Office of the Governor. Bittner currently serves as Chief of Strategy for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
- Jordan Abudayyeh, Press Secretary in the Office of the Governor. Abudayyeh currently serves as press secretary of the transition and Governor-Elect Pritzker’s gubernatorial campaign.
- Tiffany Newbern-Johnson, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs in the Office of the Governor. Newbern-Johnson currently serves as the Deputy Director of Legislative Counsel and Government Affairs. For the City of Chicago.
- Alicia Tate-Nadeau, Director of Homeland Security and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Tate-Nadeau currently serves as the Executive Director of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
- Janel L. Forde, Director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services. Forde currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the City of Chicago.
- Theresa Eagleson, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Eagleson currently serves as the Executive Director of the Office of Medicaid Innovation at the University of Illinois.
- Heidi Mueller, Director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. Mueller will retain her position at the Department having previously been appointed by Governor Rauner in 2016.
- Matt Perez, Illinois State Fire Marshal. Perez will retain his position at the Office of the Fire Marshal having previously been appointed by Governor Rauner in 2015.
In naming members of his staff, Pritzker also made headlines in announcing his plans a create private company, 100 percent funded by himself, that will allow him to double the salary of his top twenty administration staffers. In the same manner as his request to increase the salary caps for state directors and agency-heads, the Governor-elect is seeking ways to recruit and maintain the best staff in a state that has little funding to go around.
Legislation Filed to Increase Minimum Wage
In just two days, nearly 400 pieces of legislation have been filed in what will be an extremely busy session. One of the first bills filed this year is HB 0020 (Flowers – D), which increases the minimum wage to $15 per hour on October 1, 2019. Unlike legislation filed in previous years, HB 0020 provides for an immediate one-time increase to the minimum wage instead of a gradual increase over several years. While there will still be many more minimum wage bills filed over the coming weeks, the issue itself will be one of JB Pritzker’s top priorities.