I’d been hearing since the end of May, when the General Assembly adjourned for the summer, that there were some problems with the state budget legislation which needed to be fixed. Some effective dates apparently weren’t drafted right. But, silly me, I failed to follow my own rules and didn’t read the bill (SB2800) for myself. The scope of the problem was worse than I thought, but the most pressing issue was the House did not have nearly enough votes to correct its massive mistakes when the chamber returned to Springfield on June 16. It became a major test of rookie House Speaker Chris Welch’s influence.

On November 19, 2020, the number of Illinois House Democrats who had publicly stated they would not vote to re-elect Speaker Michael Madigan grew from 12 to 17, meaning that Madigan at that point did not have enough votes to win. By December 1, two more House Democrats, including a member of Madigan’s own leadership team, had turned against him. “The 19” became a real force in Illinois politics.

I interviewed both House Speaker Chris Welch and Governor JB Pritzker last week, so I thought I’d tell you about one of the overlaps. Speaker Welch followed a man who had been in office for decades, so comparisons are unavoidable. When former House Speaker Michael Madigan was around, we were always playing endless guessing games. What is he really up to? What does he really want? What’s he really trying to say?

When reading last week’s indictment of Tim Mapes, it’s important to remember that federal prosecutors have been trying to prove that his old boss, former House Speaker Michael Madigan, was directing the effort to allegedly “bribe” him with favors. Madigan’s long-time chief of staff was indicted May 26 for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury and attempting to obstruct the grand jury’s corruption investigation.

If I had told you during the brief legislative session last May, while the state was still under a stay-at-home order and everything appeared to be collapsing, that Illinois would have an extra $2 billion laying around to pay off the remainder of a $3.2-billion federal loan, you might have thought I was insane. But here we are.

Governor JB Pritzker has vetoed only a tiny handful of bills since assuming office in 2019 and has taken a mostly hands-off approach to this year’s spring legislative session. But that may soon change.

The state legislators negotiating the new, massive energy-reform bill were said to have made real progress at their Tuesday working group-meeting last week.

The inspector general’s report on the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs LaSalle Veterans’ Home is a maddening story of incompetence and chaos at every level.

The state’s fiscal news of late has been a whole lot better than just about anyone expected. March’s base general-funds revenue grew by $422 million versus a year ago, mainly because of stronger-than-expected receipts of personal and corporate income taxes and sales taxes. That follows a growth of $330 million in February’s receipts. The revenue surge has been so rosy that some have openly wondered whether Governor JB Pritzker was telling the truth last year when he warned voters that failing to approve a graduated-income tax, which would’ve eventually produced $3+ billion a year in new revenues, would result in budget-cuts or higher taxes.

Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford really has her work cut out for her if she wants to forge a compromise on an elected Chicago school board.

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