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When Keeping It Real Goes Raun: IL House Speaker Forcing Gov’s Hand With May 14 “Turnaround Agenda” Vote



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Illinois House speaker Mike Madigan has scheduled a May 14th vote on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed “Right-to-Work” legislation, even though the governor has yet to send a bill to the general assembly.  

For months Rauner has been touting local “Right-to-Work” zones as part of his so-called “turnaround agenda.”  Yet, as Madigan notes, Rauner has yet to submit a bill.  With only 24 scheduled days remaining in the legislative session and politicians seeking ways to close a projected $6 billion shortfall, Madigan’s move is being viewed as an attempt to take “Right-to-Work” off of the table so that politicians can find real answers for the problems the state faces.  Republicans who support Rauner argue that Madigan is pushing the “Right-to-Work” issue to “create chaos.”  

Madigan’s office issued a statement, saying:

“With 24 scheduled days left in the Legislature’s spring session, Madigan encouraged the governor to introduce legislative language for the plan he has campaigned for at stops across the state.  The governor’s proposal will have a significant impact on middle-class families across Illinois.  By putting the governor’s proposal to a vote, legislators will have the opportunity to ensure the voices of the middle-class families in their districts are heard.”

The move is similar to one Madigan used last week when he effectively put Rauner’s budget up for a vote by bringing the governor’s proposed $2 billion in social services cuts to the floor.  Republicans voted “present” and all Democrats voted “no,” leaving the proposal with zero “yes” votes.  Gov. Rauner has been attempting to use a different style than his predecessors and has been negotiating his agenda in totality.  Many political experts believe this shows a lack of understanding as to how to accomplish things in the legislative system.

Mike Lawrence, retired director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, explained the improbability of right-wing success to Illinois News Network:

“The message may well be that if they want to accomplish anything this session, then Rauner had better get off a couple of things that have almost no chance of passing.  I think it will be clear after this vote that right-to-work has virtually no chance of passing. I have a difficult time seeing where anything on the union front is going to happen.”

INN went on to explain the rationale behind Madigan’s moves:

One by one, Madigan is addressing issues that Rauner has raised, Lawrence said. And by showing the governor where he seriously lacks votes, Madigan might be saying it’s time to shift focus.
Political scientist Chris Mooney said the message from Madigan to Rauner may be one of “who’s for what and who’s not.”

Although enormously accomplished in business, Rauner might also be getting a lesson from the speaker on the legislative process, said Mooney, director of the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Political Affairs.

“Illinois state government is not a hierarchical, top-down structure,” Mooney said. “You have to do certain things. There are timelines, deadlines, schedules, processes — hoops to jump through.”

At the very least, Madigan will be able to force the Governor’s hand in providing specific language for his “Right-to-Work” proposal.  It may also force many Republicans with large union constituencies to pick a side. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told The Chicago Sun Times that Democrats would continue to attend working group sessions, but limited time they believe it is imperative to get the biggest, most controversial issues out in public.  According to Brown:

“The governor has spoken about this topic for as long as he’s been in the seat.  They believe that these things have to be accomplished right now. There’s only one way to gauge if this is possible or not. A meeting, a PowerPoint, those things don’t accomplish anything under state law.”


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