State Legislative Update
Electronic Winter 2021 | Issue 49
State Legislative Update
By: Mark Peysakhovich
IPS Legislative Consultant
COVID-Caused Delays Lead to Another Abridged Legislative Session in Springfield.
A legislative session in Springfield generally has a certain familiar rhythm and cadence to it. The General Assembly goes into session in January and adjourns at the end of May. Session days are relatively light at the beginning, mostly because it takes a while for bills to be introduced and assigned to committees. It’s also nice to skip a couple of weekly winter drives to Springfield (200 miles each way for me). Things pick up in February as committees begin deliberations, get frenzied as procedural deadlines come up and build to a dramatic crescendo in May as the legislature sprints toward the midnight deadline on May 31st. And since nothing much in Springfield ever gets done without the threat of an impending deadline, lobbyists know never to make Memorial Day plans.
Since COVID hit, this routine has been upended. For the first time ever, the Illinois General Assembly has conducted some business online while physical access was restricted. But the “hybrid” session was a lot less productive. Instead of sitting in the building and interacting with people in the halls of the Capitol, we were stuck in front of Zoom for hours at a time. (Like everyone else!) With the switch to Zoom, more people could engage with the legislative process. Ironically, at the same time, without the opportunity to connect in person, the engagement was more superficial. In other words, more quantity but less quality.
COVID also caused delays in the 2020 US Census, which in turn caused delays in the post-census redrawing of legislative districts, which in turn caused a delay of the Primary Election, which was ultimately moved by law from mid-March to late-June of 2022. So, with an election coming up next June, legislators want to be home in their districts next April and May, rather than being stuck in Springfield. And that’s why we are going to have another highly unusual session starting January 2022, that will end in March, a full two months earlier than usual!
Rather than starting slow and sprinting towards the finish, the 2022 state legislative session will start with a sprint and continue marathon-style through the end of March. A legislative log jam is likely as sponsors jockey for position to pass their bills on an expedited timeline. So, if you are playing offense (trying to pass a bill), the upcoming session will present a very challenging environment. On the other hand, if you’re playing defense (trying to stop a bill from passing), the short timeline is your friend. Now, with the uncertainty of a new COVID strain on the way, all bets could be off…
I look forward to updating you in the next issue!