The Illinois House of Representatives began its 2010 session last week. The Senate started this week.
The beginning of any session is mostly about filing bills, reconnecting with other lawmakers, lobbyists and anyone else who can help the legislators get back into the business of making laws. It goes without saying that this process can move slowly, but when we visited the capitol in Springfield, I was a little surprised to see how many committee meetings were cancelled, and why those meetings were called off.
In all, eight meetings werel cancelled for Wednesday and Thursday, including committees dealing with important issues like human services and public education. The general rule is if there's nothing to talk about, or not enough legislators in attendance, there will be no need for a meeting. And, that's what happened.
Rep. Jay Hoffman (D) of Collinsville put part of the blame on the lack of attendance of some Chicago area representatives who were up for election last Tuesday. Other meetings were called off because lawmakers withdrew a bill from consideration. This seemed like a tremendous waste of time and money to me. Why even be there, if you aren't going to keep cancelling meetings? Several lawmakers agreed with me.
Rep. Tom Holbrook (D) of Belleville told me there was still plenty of work to do. He said the first few days of the session allow him to focus on meeting with concerned residents, government leaders and lobbyists who can help him better understand the issues facing the legislature. Holbrook insisted he was very busy last week.
The state of Illinois is facing a $12 billion dollar hole in its budget. The legislature needs to make many tough decisions about cuts or raising fees and taxes to solve the financial crisis.
The least some of these lawmakers can do is show up for a meeting.