After five months, you’d think that the warring parties at the Illinois Statehouse would have learned something about each other. Instead, last week’s bitter and divisive House overtime session showed that they still fundamentally misunderstand one another.
What follows are some questions I’m hearing and my own responses.
Republicans: Why would the House Democrats propose such a weak workers’ compensation reform plan last week when they knew Gov. Bruce Rauner wants so much more?
Workers’ comp insurance is essentially a no-fault system designed to keep disputes out of the courts. Republicans have for years attempted to insert “causation” into the system in order to weed out employees whose injuries are mostly not the fault of employers.
But House Speaker Michael Madigan’s bill used the term “causal” in relation to a certain kind of injury. This was a pretty good indication that after more than thirty years as Speaker, Madigan is moving away from his complete opposition to causation standards.
The Speaker appears willing to deal on this topic because he attached his language to a House bill which can now be amended by the Senate. If he’d used a Senate bill, it would’ve been “take it or leave it.”
So, build on the causation issue and ignore his other items that set the negotiations back. It’s not rocket science.
Democrats: Why won’t the Republicans accept the fact that we’re moving in their direction, but can only go so far? We’re not Republicans.
The governor believes that Republican legislators were far too content in the past to accept any crumbs the Democrats would offer. Those days are over. We now have a Republican governor who is demanding significant change. And with the session currently in overtime, he’s not going to want to look like he’s caving to Madigan, as so many of his predecessors did. The Democrats must keep moving toward the governor’s position or this thing ain’t ever gonna end.
Republicans: Madigan hasn’t moved an inch all spring. We’ve retreated on dozens of issues, so why won’t he give up a single priority?
He has. If you look at his floor actions as a negotiating process, Madigan has eliminated several of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposals from consideration by defeating them during floor votes. He did the very same thing to his millionaires’ tax proposal. The Republicans interpreted the floor vote as an insult to the wealthy governor. Well, yeah, but its defeat also effectively took the issue off the table. Ignore the show business and look for progress.
Democrats: Why did the Republicans go nuclear on Democrats in committee last week by claiming we were conducting a “sexist smear campaign” against one of their appointees who is drawing her $250,000 salary from a mostly unrelated state agency? We’ve held plenty of similar hearings about Democratic governors. It’s part of our budgetary oversight process.
Y’all were preparing to zing the governor with an over the top claim that he was stealing money from poor people in the Department of Human Services budget and giving it to his education czar. Other governors may have humbly prostrated themselves before you, but Rauner is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Have you forgotten the 2014 campaign already? These folks are stone cold killers. And they ain’t changing. Plus, it’s just show business. Don’t take it personally.
Republicans: Madigan negotiated privately and in good faith on the Fiscal Year 2015 budget problem without all these silly floor votes and side shows. Why won’t he just sit down with us now and hash out the new budget and the governor’s Turnaround Agenda?
There was some initial anger over the “Good Friday Massacre,” when the governor unilaterally cut programs that Madigan had inserted, including autism assistance funding. But Madigan got over that because he had unilaterally put that money into the appropriations bill, so he figured he should’ve cleared it with Rauner. The tide changed in April. Why? Well, one reason is that’s when local governments around the state began voting on the governor’s draft resolution in support of Rauner’s anti-union agenda. Eventually, I think, Madigan decided that Rauner was more interested in campaigning than governing and sided with his fired-up base.
Plus, Madigan is, um... odd. He ain’t changing, either. You gotta figure him out if you really want a deal. If you don’t want a deal, fine. Otherwise, start learning.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.