HAPPY Labor Day! As we pause today to recognize the contributions of the American worker, I sincerely hope you and your enjoyed some time this Labor Day to reflect on the blessings we enjoy.
Last week’s return of the legislature in Springfield for a Special Session led to another new legislative map passing both chambers. I’ve got an update on the status of the newest map version and where the court case currently stands. There was also news that broke late Friday evening that means a deal on sweeping climate change and energy production reform could be happening soon.
My fellow Southern Illinois legislators and I have made the difficult decision to postpone senior citizens health fairs scheduled for later this month as well. As news breaks, I will continue to keep you updated. As always, thank you for reading this edition of the Windhorst Weekly!
LEGISLATORS HONOR FALLEN US SOLDIERS FOLLOWING TERRORIST ATTACK IN AFGHANISTAN
It was my honor to join with House and Senate colleagues in the Capitol rotunda during the Special Session last week to honor the service and sacrifice of the 13 brave members of the United States military that lost their lives in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. May God Bless the Gold Star Families and loved ones and friends they leave behind and may God Bless all American service members stationed around the world.
SPECIAL SESSION RECAP
Legislators Return to Springfield – Democrats Pass Second Set of Gerrymandered Partisan District Maps – Democrats ram through revised partisan maps during special session.
Following the release of the 2020 Census numbers in early August, the Illinois General Assembly met in special session on Tuesday, August 31 to vote on revised legislative redistricting maps.
What we have witnessed over the past week has been the continuation of a grand farce that began in the spring, when a partisan map-making process played out in a backroom behind a locked door using inaccurate and incomplete data that produced flawed maps drawn by politicians.
House Republicans warned that those maps would be inaccurate and unlawful – and that warning was proven true when official decennial census counts were released earlier last month. These official counts proved the Democrats’ maps violates the U.S. Constitution, federal law, and comparable provisions of the Illinois Constitution.
No lawful redistricting plan was effective on June 30, 2021 and in this situation. Illinois’ Constitution is clear – the bipartisan commission is responsible for drawing the maps. Instead of shifting responsibility to that bipartisan commission, Democrats fell back on the same disingenuous process that produced these flawed maps that needed to be re-done this week.
Over the last week, we saw Democrats hold hastily called redistricting hearings – some of which were thrown together so quickly that witnesses didn’t attend because they didn’t have time to prepare. Many community groups lack the resources to quickly analyze such a large amount of data, and they couldn’t possibly have been prepared to offer testimony. Not only that, but these hearings were held without actual maps for community groups to even comment on.
These hearings were a sham – a disingenuous effort that was intended to merely check a box, not to collect any real input from community groups. The legislators chairing these committees, the people we are supposed to entrust this process to, still couldn’t even say who is actually drawing the maps during these hearings.
The Democrats once again dropped two new versions of legislative maps in less than 24 hours, giving advocacy groupsalmost no time to review or give feedback. The final map was dropped just a few hours before the House voted on it.
We know that while these groups were testifying in front of the redistricting committees, the Democrats were once again drawing the new maps behind closed doors taking in no input from anyone other than fellow legislators.
This is not a genuine process. It’s a cynical power grab that has systematically ignored and discouraged input from the public and community groups to push through another map that violates the public’s trust.
This partisan process in which politicians draw maps will not result in the fair maps our state so desperately needs. Politicians should not be drawing maps. Period.
The Democrats’ new legislative map was introduced on Tuesday, August 31, as Floor Amendment #2 (Hernandez) to SB 927. On the same day, the House Democrats’ supermajority approved the new map by a vote of 73-43-0. Passage of the new map by partisan votes in both houses cleared the way for Governor Pritzker to sign the new map into law. This is expected to be followed by a new round of redistricting litigation.
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin released the following statement on the Illinois Democrats’ passage of partisan maps Tuesday:
“Today’s vote confirms that the Illinois Democrats have no interest in honest government. Contrary to their campaign promises, the House Democrats passed a legislative map that lacks any transparency or public input. After lying to taxpayers once, the Governor now has the opportunity to live up to his campaign promises and veto this politician-drawn map.”
At an unrelated news conference on Thursday, Governor Pritzker said he hasn’t yet reviewed the details of the maps, and they haven’t yet been sent to him.
Pritzker said his principles around maps are focused on “diversity of representation for the diverse state we have.”
In June, the governor signed the initial maps into law three days after saying he still had not had a chance to review them.
ETHICS – Democrats sabotage push for real ethics reform
In January 2021, facing a federal bribery and corruption investigation, longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan abruptly stepped down from the speakership. Soon afterward, as questions continued to swirl about his actions and leadership, he left the Illinois House and relinquished his position as head of the Illinois Democratic Party.
Madigan’s departure created what briefly seemed like an opportunity for comprehensive ethics reform to end the culture of corruption in Illinois politics. However, this pathway closed quickly. Facing substantial pressure from advocates, the press, and ordinary citizens in favor of comprehensive ethics reform, Madigan’s successors chose to draft “ethics reform” legislation that made minor changes to the way the General Assembly operates and disciplines its members and top staff. The Democrats’ paltry “ethics reforms” were contained in SB 539, which was approved at the end of the spring session.
Soon after it passed, Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope announced that she would resign, effective Dec. 15, calling the job a “paper tiger” and saying it showed that “true ethics reform is not a priority” for the General Assembly. She specifically alleged the provision limiting her ability to investigate non-governmental ethics violations, and the fact that a complaint would be required for an investigation, tied her hands.
Following that announcement, some legislative Republicans called on Pritzker to use his amendatory veto power to send the bill back for revisions, “striking the provisions that would disempower the legislative inspector general.”
In his message, however, Pritzker did not mention the office of legislative inspector general, but rather its counterpart in the executive branch, the executive inspector general.
Specifically, he pointed to a change made in the bill that says the executive inspector general may receive and investigate complaints of wrongful behavior “without advance approval of the executive ethics commission.”
On Tuesday during floor debate, Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, evoked Pope’s resignation and noted Pritzker didn’t take any proposed GOP changes into account.
“Choosing to vote to uphold this weak amendatory veto is doubling down on the fact that the ethics reform that you passed takes away the ability to have a true and independent watchdog over this body,” Bourne, who initially voted for the bill, said in floor debate. “Choosing to side with this weak amendatory veto is choosing to side to give cover to politicians, rather than having an opportunity for the public to have faith in our government.”
House Republicans were united in our opposition to the Governor’s weak amendatory veto, and House Democrats were unable to muster the votes to accept the amendatory veto after many of their members had left for the night, resulting in an impasse. SB 539 was held up on the House floor, with no final action on ethics reform taking place during the August 31 session.
ENERGY – Amendment Filed to Legislation that would Close Coal Plants by 2035 and Natural Gas Power Plants by 2045
Environmentalist advocates and Governor JB Pritzker are working together to shut down coal fired power plants and natural gas power plants within the next 20 years. House and Senate Democrats are working with environmentalists and labor union groups in an attempt to appease Governor Pritzker’s desire to completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels for energy production while at the same time trying to save jobs that would be lost by the power plant closures.
On Friday, Governor Pritzker announced he is supporting SB 1751, House Amendment 1.
This is a difficult needle for the Democrats to thread, as the reality of what happens when arbitrary dates for closing power plants would mean thousands of good paying union jobs lost in Illinois. Now that the Governor is on board with a legislative vehicle that seemingly meets his demands the likelihood of the General Assembly returning to Springfield before Veto Session scheduled for October has increased significantly. Nothing is certain in Illinois politics – stay tuned for updates!
Southern Illinois Legislators Postpone Carbondale and Marion Senior Fairs
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS – State Senator Dale Fowler and State Senator Terri Bryant, and State Representatives Dave Severin, Patrick Windhorst, and Paul Jacobs released the following joint statement on Thursday regarding the postponement of two upcoming senior citizens health fairs.
“Out of an abundance of caution and care for the health and well-being of our constituents throughout Southern Illinois, we have made the decision to postpone upcoming senior citizens health fairs scheduled in Marion and Carbondale later this month. We regret that we must take this step, but our number one priority must be ensuring the health and safety of the hundreds of senior citizens and dozens of healthcare and senior services providers that would be in attendance at these events.”
State Senator Dale Fowler and State Rep. Dave Severin’s senior citizen health and wellness fair scheduled for Tuesday, September 14, 2021 at The Hub in Marion has been postponed until a date still to be determined.
Senator Fowler and Senator Bryant and Rep. Patrick Windhorst and Rep. Paul Jacobs’ citizens health and wellness fair scheduled for Wednesday, September 15, 2021 at the Carbondale Civic Center has also been postponed until a date still to be determined.
My office in Harrisburg is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM by appointment, phone, and email. You may also reach my by calling 618-294-8703. You may also reach me using the contact form on my website at RepWindhorst.com/contact.