As Illinois government lurches into the sixth month since the start of its new fiscal year, still without a budget having been adopted, the most prominent and frustrating question being raised by taxpayers isn't about spending, taxes, or jobs.
Paraphrasing, it's this: "If the General Assembly hasn't finished its work, then why aren't House and Senate members in Springfield every day until the work is done?"
Great question. Many legislators, myself included, are not only asking the same question, but are becoming exceedingly frustrated that we're not in Springfield – every day – working to resolve this crisis.
According to the Illinois Constitution, there are three people who can bring the Legislature into session: the Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the President of the Senate. The Governor's authority is limited to calling "Special Sessions" only, and even then, the House Speaker and Senate President decide how long the Special Session lasts. In the case of a Special Session, legislators receive their "per diem" to pay for meals and overnight accommodations, at well over $100 per day.
However, Democrat leaders House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton can call us back into session without taxpayers being tagged for those daily per-diem costs.
That's the way it should be. Lawmakers should be in Springfield every day of the work week, just as millions of Illinoisans go to work every day. The General Assembly hasn't finished its work – a balanced budget and other badly-needed fundamental reforms – so why shouldn't the Democrat leaders insist that we be in the Capitol full-time?
I am filing a Resolution in the Senate, calling on Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton to schedule regular session days Monday through Friday, every week until we've completed our work. For us to do anything less is a betrayal to taxpayers statewide.
Simply being there every day of the workweek will not guarantee that solutions come forth quickly, but it will demonstrate to the people of the state we are working, just as they are, to complete the task set before us.
- State Senator Dale Righter