Monday, July 02, 2007

London Calling

Having spent the last six days in London, I figure that it’s time to share my thoughts on a few random different topics, the first of which being to preemptively answer why I didn’t postpone my trip in order to remain in Springfield, as well as my thoughts on the upcoming special sessions (which experience has shown me are never that special).

Had I thought that anything substantive was going to occur requiring me to postpone my trip, I would have done so. But the last couple of months of (in)activity in Springfield left me relatively confident that nothing of consequence was on the verge of happening. For better or worse, it appears I was right.

I was able to monitor the happenings in the capitol via reading the newspapers online, and by reading Rich’s blog, which I learned is even more useful when you’re out of town. Somebody had e-mailed me to get my thoughts on the Governor’s calling of a special session, and the only response I could manage was that it seemed to be par for the course.

If true negotiations were going to take place that involved the full Legislature, I am confident that members would be extremely eager to be involved with a goal of doing the people’s work and adjourning to our districts.

But it strikes me as a waste of time and money to hold special sessions when the only progress that has been occurring has been in alienating rank and file lawmakers. (See my previous post about the property tax ‘meeting’ that a number of us were invited to attend.)

In my opinion, to sequester legislators as nothing more than aimless captives serves no purpose other than to fuel discord and frustration with the whole process.

Last time we went through this exercise, there were meetings with our caucus and the administration to go over various topics and options. I don’t think that anybody can point to any correlation between those meetings and the final budget that was ultimately passed.

Through sheer happenstance, while at the Tower of London, I ran into somebody from home who also happens to be relatively familiar with the goings on in Springfield. The mutual opinion that we shared is that we simply cannot figure out the exit strategy in play here.

If I understood the Governor’s plan, but disagreed with it, I would at least respect that he had a direction in mind. I simply don’t understand where he is going.

If the Governor wants to implement his programs, it is axiomatic that he must demonstrate the following: their generic value (easy enough when it comes to healthcare); the merit of his specific plans (still very much at issue); and how they are going to be funded (with GRT still deader than Jimmy Hoffa, I just don’t see where he is going or how he plans to get there).

If any leg of this programmatic tripod is missing, the whole thing topples.

Alternatively, if the point of the special sessions is to splinter the House and/or Senate Dems, I just don’t see it happening. Not because of some blind allegiance to leadership, but because right now, the strongest bond that I sense among my colleagues is around the belief that this overtime was avoidable and that the blame does not rest with the chambers or their respective leaders.

But if the point was to empower the Republican caucuses so that any ultimate budget would be less likely to meet traditional Democratic goals, then success has been achieved.

I think that it is safe to say that neither chamber was willing or able to pass the Governor’s budget, and that the Governor declared everything else off the table for so long that impasse was unavoidable.

And when budget negotiations involve more posturing than negotiation, we find ourselves right where we are now. No closer to a budget than we were in January, and arguably further from one.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how the remainder of ‘session’ plays out. If it results in a budget and plans that legislators and the public can embrace, then it will have been worthwhile. If not, then the next few years will be very interesting indeed.

On second thought, I think that they are going to be very interesting in any event.


(I just read the Speaker's letter to the Governor regarding this week's special session, as well as the Tribune's editorial excoriating the Governor - wow)


At July 2, 2007 at 6:49 PM, Anonymous Lainer said...

Any comments, observations, thoughts on the thwarted terrorist attacks over there? Sounds like a really close call...

At July 2, 2007 at 6:54 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

Read my most recent post - it was.

At July 2, 2007 at 10:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope all the house democrats stay close to the speaker. I know he and Franks don't always get along, but look how he empowered his member-Franks-by heeding his advice and scheduling a committee of the whole. With such a diverse caucus, they need to help Madigan with the strategy on how to deal with the lunatic known as the governor. Work together guys and stand by your man!

At July 3, 2007 at 11:47 AM, Anonymous lake county democrat said...

I disagree with the last commenter: I hope the house democrats abandon the speaker, who clearly has his own agenda with his daughter, even if they don't race to the governor. I always feel like I'm defending the governor here, but it's as-if the days of the Ryan-Madigan show have been forgotten.

Representative Brady has called for ousting BOTH Madigan and Jones from leadership positions. How about it John? And what of the June 20th letter protesting Madigan's cram-down-your-throats budget shenanigans of his own?


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