Illinois Legislature’s Veto Session Canceled Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, leaves Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's office during veto session at the Illinois State Capitol Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Springfield, Ill. This November's veto session was canceled amid COVID-19 concerns. Seth Perlman / Associated Press
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, leaves Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's office during veto session at the Illinois State Capitol Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Springfield, Ill. This November's veto session was canceled amid COVID-19 concerns. Seth Perlman / Associated Press

Illinois Legislature’s Veto Session Canceled Amid COVID-19 Concerns

The Illinois House and Senate Tuesday postponed the six-day legislative session that was due to begin next week, citing skyrocketing COVID-19 transmission rates across the state.

The move means an indefinite delay to potential criminal justice reforms being pushed by members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and budgetary steps necessitated by the collapse of Gov. JB Pritzker’s graduated income tax amendment last week.

Lawmakers had been set to return to Springfield on Tuesday for three days next week, then return for another three-day session beginning Dec. 1.

But in a memo from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office, legislators were said to be balking at coming back to the Capitol with coronavirus numbers continuing to spike across the state, including in Springfield.

“There is a strong majority of members who would prefer the House delay convening to a later date,” said Jessica Basham, Madigan’s chief of staff, in a note to House members. “This is primarily motivated by concerns about the rising COVID-19 rates and proximity to upcoming holidays.”

Before her note was made public, Pritzker voiced disappointment at the possibility of lawmakers punting on a fall session.

“We have so much work to do in Springfield. There’s no doubt. I guess I know why people are concerned about gathering. I’ve been discouraging gathering across the state. But I must say it would be disappointing,” he told reporters at a briefing Tuesday afternoon on the coronavirus.

The governor said he needs legislative input into a series of steps necessary to close a multibillion-dollar budget gap that he had hoped to fill from proceeds from the failed tax amendment.

“With regard to the budget in particular, we have major efforts underway that will require the legislators’ engagement,” he said.

The region of the state that includes Springfield has marked eight straight days of rising COVID-19 positivity rates, which reached 15.2 percent. That is the third highest regional rate level in the state currently, according to state public health data.

Basham left open the possibility of future session dates, though she did not commit to anything ahead of the scheduled final adjournment of the 101st General Assembly on Jan. 13, 2021.

Dave McKinney covers Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @davemckinney.