Illinois House adjourns for the year as the state Senate plans a vote on the minimum wage

Associated Press

Illinois lawmakers began wrapping up their annual fall veto session Wednesday, pushing off some of the state's business until Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner and a new General Assembly take office in January.

Without the votes in hand to pass minimum wage legislation, the House announced it was done for the year. But the Senate passed the measure that would raise the state's wage to $11 an hour by 2019, hours after House Speaker Michael Madigan gaveled his chamber out of session.

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Madigan said he does not plan to call the House back into a "lame duck" session before Rauner's inauguration, telling The Associated Press the chamber's lawmakers had "finished our work for this session." That would leave hanging what to do about the state's financial crises, among other issues.

But outgoing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn — who has made raising the wage a focus in recent months — has the power to call House lawmakers back himself in an attempt to force a vote, if he wishes. While the governor's office has declined to comment on that, Madigan acknowledged that it could happen.

Lawmakers on both sides of the House aisle said they had warmed to the idea of concluding business now rather than holding an early January session, a time when controversial legislation is often pushed through by outgoing lawmakers free from fear of political ramifications.

"It's a time of transition," Democratic state Rep. Elaine Nekritz said, noting that Rauner has been "very clear" about his request that lawmakers wait to take up substantive issues until he was in office. "We're doing some things, but we're trying to be respectful — which is not a word often used when describing the General Assembly," Nekritz said.

Republican state Rep. Dan Brady, of Bloomington, said he was "pleased" about the possibility of no January session. Brady said that big votes — including whether to extend the state's temporary income tax — "don't belong in the lame duck."

Madigan had said Tuesday evening that his Democratic caucus members came to a universal agreement that "complications" made it unlikely a wage hike could be passed this year. His comments followed the Chicago City Council voted to raise the city's minimum wage — currently at the statewide rate of $8.25 — to $13 an hour by 2019.

Some lawmakers and business groups opposed the higher rate for Chicago and wanted legislators to stop the city from acting. Others said any increase in Illinois would put the state at a disadvantage among its neighbors with lower rates and could lead to job losses.

The plan put forward by Democratic state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, approved by the Senate 39-18, would raise the wage incrementally to $11 for workers 18 and older by 2019, beginning at $9 an hour next July.

Her bill would not have prevented Chicago's wage hike, but would prevent the city from increasing the rate any further. Other communities around the state would have had to cap their minimum wage at the state rate once the legislation became effective, putting in place a dual state wage.

"The people have spoken, we had a referendum question on the ballot," Lightford said, referring to an advisory question on raising the state's wage that voters overwhelmingly supported in November. "There is no doubt in our minds whether voters want to see a minimum wage increase."

The current minimum wage legislation doesn't automatically carry over to the next session. Without a special session, supporters would have to introduce a new bill, which some lawmakers said Wednesday should include pro-business reforms Rauner would like to see accompany any wage hike.

Lawmakers also approved legislation making same-day voter registration permanent as well as a bill creating statewide regulations for drivers working for ridesharing services who use their personal vehicles to give rides.

The House adjourned without a vote on whether to establish a state-run health insurance marketplace, leaving the measure to be taken up next year.

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Online: http://www.ilga.gov