SPRINGFIELD -- Snubbing Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois House Wednesday continued working on budget issues, not the gun-control bill he wants.
Snubbing Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois House Wednesday continued working on budget issues, not the gun-control bill he wants.
In fact, the House floor apparently was the only place where a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 was discussed. Blagojevich and the four legislative leaders did not meet.
The governor’s purpose in calling Wednesday’s special session was to ask the House to “consider” Senate Bill 1007, which would ban the sale or possession of ammunition clips containing 10 or more rounds.
The bill passed the Senate in May, but it has languished in the House. At a press conference in Chicago Monday, Blagojevich questioned why the bill hasn’t passed the House, a thinly veiled suggestion that Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was blocking it.
But given a chance to call the bill for a vote Wednesday, sponsoring Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago, declined. He offered a practical reason; he doesn’t have the supermajority of 71 votes he needs.
“This bill will not get 71 votes,” Osterman said. “It would be irresponsible of me as the sponsor of this legislation to call this bill for a vote knowing it is going to fail. If this bill fails, the measure will be completely lost.”
Blagojevich’s office immediately sent a letter to Madigan urging him to call a Committee of the Whole hearing of the entire House to get testimony on SB1007. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the speaker, who supports the bill, will work with Osterman about how to proceed.
Osterman said he talked about the gun bill with Blagojevich advisers over the weekend, before the governor called the special session.
“I suggested that I didn’t think a special session on this or a Committee of the Whole at this point in time, given that we’re in a budget impasse, would be the most productive thing to get the bill passed,” Osterman said.
He also insisted that Madigan has in no way blocked approval of the measure, noting, “He’s been supportive all the way through.”
The bill could be changed so that it does not take effect until next June, something Osterman said he plans to do. That way, it could pass the House with a simple majority of only 60 votes.
“Today, I don’t have 60,” Osterman acknowledged. “I’m going to continue to utilize my time to talk to members to gain their support.”
In the meantime, he said the General Assembly should focus on passing a new budget.
“Passing a budget that addresses the needs of the citizens of our state is our number one priority,” Osterman said. “Today, we stand in agreement we must resolve this budget impasse.”
Brown said the speaker’s office has been advised of a plan to have small groups of lawmakers meet to hash over various aspects of the budget. Panels of 12 legislators (three members each from the Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate) would each focus on one area, such as education, health care, pensions, revenue, construction projects and agency spending.
Blagojevich’s office did not return calls for comment.
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.