• Maybe the optimistic way of looking at last week in the Senate is that things have gotten so bad, the only way to go now is up.
It started with Senate President John Cullerton’s decision to vote on the “grand bargain” bills no matter what. Republicans said the vote was premature because negotiations were getting ever-closer to producing an agreement and more time was needed. Cullerton countered that it was the same refrain that’s been heard for months with no results and time is running out. The votes were taken and provided more fodder for finger-pointing.
That was followed by some Senate Democrats accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of planting false information about a school funding reform plan with a publication whose owner is a Rauner ally. The administration flatly denied the allegation, showed that the information was publicly available and demanded an apology.
With that in mind, there are 10 scheduled session days left this spring.
* Everything is topsy-turvy this year, Part CCCXXI.
Gambling expansion was approved in the Senate last week. It was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan, although a couple of Republicans support it.
A provision in the bill cuts taxes on casinos. Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said the reduction will cost the state $280 million. Not so, replied Link, who said the cut will give casinos an incentive to expand their operations, which will actually generate more casino taxes.
So ponder for a moment: A Republican is expressing opposition to a tax cut, and a Democrat is touting a tax cut as a way to actually generate more taxes.
“I love the supply-side rhetoric,” Righter said.
* “Because it stinks.” Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, when questioned why the current school funding formula should be changed before a compromise alternative is reached.
* “That sovereignty of the people is going to cause the people to be insolvent.” Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, after being reminded that voters approved the pension protection clause in the state Constitution.
* “I’m not tweeting. I wouldn’t know how to tweet if my life depended on it. I’m just telling you, don’t listen to the tweet.” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, responding to a Democrat who found erroneous information in a GOP tweet about a pension reform bill Durkin is sponsoring.
* It was an altogether rough week for the Senate, and some of it had nothing to do with the grand bargain.
It had to do with the Senate’s lack of athleticism compared to the House.
It started Monday with a House-Senate basketball game for charity. And since it involved the General Assembly, it was natural it included a creative rules interpretation. Earlier in the day, Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, announced on the floor that the game would be using the “once a senator, always a senator” rule. That means if you ever served in the Senate, you can play in the game.
Raoul said this would enable the Senate team to use Treasurer Mike Frerichs. And to show that it wasn’t a one-sided rule, Raoul said the House could then use Secretary of State Jesse White and Comptroller Susana Mendoza. A fair deal until you consider that Frerichs is 6-8 and neither Mendoza nor White is close to that.
It didn’t matter. The Senate still lost the game, ringer and all. A couple of days later, the Senate showed its baseball prowess by scoring seven big runs. Unfortunately, the House scored 15 bigger runs and won the game.
Just thinking aloud, but since the whole focus has been on the Senate to lead the way on ending the budget stalemate, it might have put them in a better mood if the House had let them win.