Erin Allen: Good afternoon. I'm Erin Allen, and this is The Rundown. The Illinois legislature's veto session is currently underway. We never see the major issues come up the first day, but they could flesh out some things over the next couple of weeks. This year, we're talking about expected changes to the SAFE-T Act, possible expansion of abortion rights, gun control and a few other things. Republicans in both the House and Senate did, however, select new leaders. But let's rewind a little bit. Because if you're like how I was basically before this week, you were already lost. When I said the words veto session, you may be wondering what exactly is a veto session? And what are people doing during the session? Thankfully, I work at a news organization. And we have folks here whose job it is to know the answers. Alex Degman is the State House reporter at WBEZ Chicago, and he's here to help us out. Alex. Hello,
Alex Degman: You give me a lot of credit. Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me.
Erin Allen: Thanks for being here. So let's start with question number one. What is the veto session?
Alex Degman: So a veto session is one of several instances throughout the course of the year when lawmakers meet in Springfield to do things. It starts in spring where they do their normal session that usually runs from January through May, this past year was April because of election season. And then they come back in the fall in either in late October, sometimes a mid through late November to do two weeks of veto session. And that's when they can get things done that they didn't get done during the legislative session. That's really what it's going to be for this time around, I think but the term veto session comes from the idea that lawmakers would be coming back to address vetoes that were made by the governor, because in the way the government works, if enough lawmakers override the veto, it becomes law. So that's what it was traditionally for. But I don't think there's going to be a whole lot of that specifically this time around
Erin Allen: Why's that?
Alex Degman: Well, because the governor didn't really take action on anything like that he didn't veto much that lawmakers would have to come back and override. But I think the reason that that is happening is because I think a lot of lawmakers with the Democratic supermajority are largely in line with what the governor wants and what the governor wants to accomplish. So there's not really a whole lot of consternation on many fronts.
Erin Allen: So speaking of lawmakers, who's going to be showing up at this veto session, or at these sessions, who has been there this year?
Alex Degman: these will be state lawmakers. So it's pretty much required to be there. It's a session, it's a scheduled session of the Illinois legislature. So depending on what happens, you may see the governor, you may see you may see some constitutional officers, but it's usually just a time for lawmakers to come back.
Erin Allen: So no vetoes actually happened for them to kind of discuss during the session. So what will they actually be talking about?
Alex Degman: Well, there are a lot of hot button issues that lawmakers all over the country are talking about. These are big issues, like, you know, abortion rights and assault weapon bans and things like that, they need a lot of work, they need a lot of agreement. So it's very possible that some of these big ticket items, these hot button social issues, they save for later, because veto session is not the end of it this year, because we also have what's known as the lame duck session coming up in January, where there's also an opportunity.
Erin Allen: So you mentioned a few issues that not just lawmakers are thinking about, right? Like we're a lot of us, just as lay people are thinking about this stuff. Are these sessions only for lawmakers and and people whose job it is to think about this? Or could I, or my cousin like, show up to this?
Alex Degman: Yeah, you can if you want, especially now because most if not all of the proceedings down in Springfield are in person again. Up until this recent spring session, there were a lot of committees that were still being held remotely through zoom and things like that. And then people participated in floor sessions remotely, pretty much the entire time, but I think we're gonna - we're really getting back to in person things. So that means that it's all open to the public, if you want to go and watch, you don't have to sign up or anything like that. You just have to, you know, go on the website, which is the General Assembly's website is ilga.gov. And you can look at committee schedules and you can look at, you know, are there bills that I care about? Is there an issue that I care about, you can find out where that's going to be and how that's moving and things like that. So, yeah, you can get involved and if you feel that strongly about it, citizens do testify. Obviously not everybody has the time for that. Springfield is you know, three hours away from most areas of Chicago. So, but it is an option. And they do listen, citizens have actually influenced policy in the past.
Erin Allen: All right, well, you heard it you can influence policy if you have the time. So is there anything else we should be thinking about for these sessions?
Alex Degman: Yeah so, while traditionally, the veto session is for things that have already happened, and you know, the governor's vetoing something, lawmakers are coming back, or they're taking care of things that they haven't already done. There's also a possibility that entirely new things could pop up because they don't have to introduce things only during the spring session. Now, the rules have changed a little bit in veto session, but there still could be entirely new initiatives that pop up that we haven't seen before.
Erin Allen: Interesting. Okay, so but these these sessions are only two weeks, like realistically, what could they even do with a new topic that comes up?
Alex Degman: It really depends on what the issue is, who is behind it, and how badly they want to get it done. Illinois government, from what I've seen, has a couple of different speeds. It's methodical, molasses, and just really slow and it takes them the entire session to do this one thing. Or if they're on a deadline, and they need to get something done, like if you don't get this done x will happen, they can move fast. They can waive posting requirements, they can move things through committee as fast as they want. And if both chambers are in which they will be. If they want to get stuff done, they can.
Erin Allen: Alright Alex Degman is the State House reporter at WBEZ Chicago. Alex, thank you.
Alex Degman: Thank you for having me.
Erin Allen: And that's it today for the rundown. I'm Erin Allen. See you back tomorrow morning.
WBEZ transcripts are generated by an automatic speech recognition service. We do our best to edit for misspellings and typos, but mistakes do come through.