11/22/2006 3:24:00 PM Guest Column Lots of history, not much action in first week
By Rep. ROGER EDDY For the Daily News
As expected, Week 1 of the fall veto session was more notable because of the location than the legislative action. Because of a major remodeling job being performed in the State Capitol, the House of Representatives met in the historic Old State Capitol building. As members strolled into the chamber, it was evident that there was a certain awe of the surroundings. We were being given the privilege of meeting at the location where Abe Lincoln served. It was here that he delivered his famous "House Divided" speech.
The velvet ropes that restrain people from entering the chamber were down so that representatives could take their places, and some minor retrofits were made. Although there were only a few laptop computers available for members to use (usually there is one at every desk), we managed to once again use the chamber for its intended purpose. The roll call votes were by voice rather than an electronic tally board, there was a wireless microphone passed among those desiring to speak on an issue, and while lobbyists had access to legislators, it was very limited. A few other changes were also necessary. No food was allowed to be taken onto the House floor, and the only drink available was room-temperature bottled water. Protecting the desks from water stains due to condensation on the outside of cold water bottles was just one more detail that was addressed. Really, the staff that prepared the room thought of just about everything.
From the standpoint of someone who had the opportunity to be on that floor and experience the thrill of being in that chamber, I will tell you that it was incredible. I truly felt that I had been provided a special privilege just to be there. Then, something even more incredible happened. A staff member of the Old State Capitol informed me that the chair that I was assigned for the veto session - second row on the right side of the aisle, third seat in - was the seat actually occupied by Lincoln when he was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. Talk about chills! My seat for the veto session is the seat in which Lincoln's famous hat sits when the chamber is visited by tourists. Unbelievable!
We return to the Old State Capitol for week two of the veto session Nov. 28, and I cannot wait to get back to that chair.
As far as legislation, there really was not a lot of action. Some of that was because of the fact that it does take more time to conduct business. The roll call vote for attendance takes about 20 minutes instead of two. Each of the bills that we debated takes longer because there are not very many computers available with bill analysis, which leads to a few more questions. Plus, the roll call vote on a bill takes about 30 minutes instead of just a couple of minutes when recorded electronically.
We did sustain the governor's veto of HB 2067. This legislation narrowly passed the House 62-52 last spring. Basically, the effect of the bill when passed was that juvenile sex offenders could avoid registering as adults for sex crimes committed as juveniles if a court agreed they would not have to register. Without this legislation, a court did not have the authority to allow a juvenile offender not to register. Many believed this legislation would provide courts too much authority to decide whether or not juvenile sex offenders would be required to register as sex offenders when they reached the legal age of "adulthood." In fact, most legislators who voted in favor of this were concerned that there might be the perception that they could be seen as being a little soft on sex offenders.
The bill sponsor tried to override the veto which would have, if successful, allowed these teen offenders the possibility of not registering. The attempt failed with only 57 "yes" votes during the veto session. There is a possibility that the sponsor will try again to override the veto. I will continue to oppose this measure.
We did not vote on the continuation of the electric rate freeze. There was a lot of speculation that there would be an attempt to pass a bill that would continue the freeze on electric rates. I have worked along with other legislators on a compromise bill that would allow for a phased-in increase which would allow for reliable electric service, no loss of jobs and stop the projected 50 percent-plus rate increases forecasted by Ameren. It is likely that we will vote on some measure related to this issue during the second week of the veto session. Whether or not the House passes the rate freeze extension, Senate President Emil Jones has indicated that he is not in favor of the freeze. Any freeze legislation must pass both houses and be signed by the governor.
There has also not yet been a bill advanced in the House to raise the minimum wage. A bill did pass the Senate during the first week of the veto session and many people think the House will vote on the legislation during the second week of veto session. But there is growing concern that it would be prudent to wait until the new Congress convenes to see what the federal government does with an increase in the minimum wage before Illinois acts. An increase in Illinois only could cause loss of jobs to neighboring states that do not raise the minimum wage. In addition, many people believe there should be some exceptions to the higher minimum for first-time, part-time and perhaps high-school-age workers.
Finally, there has been no indication that a bill which would shield homeowners from a proposed IEPA rule that would impose an expensive new mandate on homeowners in rural areas requiring a fee and testing for rural septic tanks will be called for a vote. HB 5822 would exempt most existing systems as well as those with discharge confined within the homeowner's property. In fact, the IEPA has published notice of public hearings on the new rules. If you are a rural resident and want to comment on the proposed new rules, the times and locations of the public hearings are as follows: Monday, Jan. 8, 2007 in Mt. Vernon at the Roland W. Lewis Community Center, 800 S. 27th St.; Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007 at the Joliet Public Library Black Road Branch, 3395 Black Road in Joliet; and Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007 at the Illinois Department of Transportation Auditorium, 2300 S. Dirksen Parkway in Springfield. All hearings begin at 3:30 p.m.
I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and please keep me informed as to your thoughts as the second week of the veto session approaches! You can write me at: P.O. Box 125, Hutsonville, IL 62433 or e-mail me at email@example.com. You can also read more on my web site: www.peopleforeddy.com.
Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville) represents the 109th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.