Governor Pat Quinn used his amendatory veto power July 2 to rewrite a bipartisan measure that gives Illinois citizens the right to carry concealed firearms, and lawmakers immediately began to take the steps necessary to override the Governor’s changes.
The General Assembly will return to Springfield July 9 to act on the Governor’s changes to House Bill 183, a compromise measure that laid out clear and stringent guidelines and requirements for gun owners to qualify for concealed carry permits.
Illinois is under a federal court order to adopt legislation by July 9. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling December 11 to end Illinois’ status as the lone state in the nation to deny residents the right to carry a concealed firearm in public. The Court initially gave Illinois until June 9 to implement a concealed-carry plan, but extended the deadline for a month to allow the Governor more time to review the legislation.
On May 31, lawmakers of both parties overwhelmingly approved House Bill 183 after extensive negotiations. The legislation lets law-abiding Illinois citizens apply for and receive permits to carry a concealed firearm after undergoing extensive training.
It’s difficult to understand why the Governor waited to spell out his proposed changes to the concealed-carry legislation until after we had acted, even though Illinois has been under the court order since December and the legislation was a major topic throughout the spring legislative session. In choosing to wait until after the legislation had been approved, Governor Quinn left lawmakers with an “all or nothing” choice. The Legislature cannot approve some of the Governor’s changes and reject others, but must take a single vote on all his recommendations. However, after overriding the Governor’s changes, lawmakers are likely to review his recommendations and consider modifications to the legislation that could be added to another bill.
Pension Work Continues
Also during the week, a special Conference Committee of both Senate and House members continued to seek compromise on much-needed pension reforms, meeting July 3 in Chicago and scheduling a third meeting July 8 in Springfield.
As was the case with the first hearing, the bulk of the July 3 meeting was taken up with various interest groups promoting their own ideas for pension changes. Following the July 3 hearing, the Conference Committee split into two groups for closed-door caucuses.
Primary Voting for 17-Year-Olds
In other action, Governor Quinn signed into law a bill giving 17-year-olds the opportunity to vote in spring primaries, if they will be age 18 by the time of the general election. House Bill 226 seeks to give young voters a chance to help pick the nominees who will be on the general election ballot when they turn 18.
Grant Abuse Prompts Legislation
Another measure signed into law, House Bill 2, creates the Illinois Single Audit Commission. The Commission would be charged with making recommendations to adopt uniform standards of grant administration in the state. State grants have been a regular source of controversy throughout the Blagojevich and Quinn administrations. For example, a CNN investigative report revealed that millions in taxpayer dollars had been misused by Governor Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) grant program. The investigation revealed state grant funds were used to pay teens to march in a parade with the Governor, hand out flyers promoting inner peace, take field trips to museums, and attend a yoga class.
School Shooting Drills
The Governor also signed a bill to better prepare school districts and law enforcement to react to the threat of school shootings. Senate Bill 1625 requires that school safety drills incorporate a possible shooting incident. It would require the on-site participation of local law enforcement during the drill and also adds “suspicious persons” to the reasons to have a school evacuation drill. Currently only “suspicious items” are specified as a reason to have a drill.