Is it really going to happen this time? Is the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago really going to be sold?
Gov. JB Pritzker's office said last week that it had taken a “major step” toward the sale of the building that the state’s been trying to unload for years. (Not sure why, but that phrase triggered thoughts of the major award in the “A Christmas Story” movie. That one didn’t end well).
The major step is initiate a process to secure “technical and project management expertise for the disposition of the JRTC at the best value to the state of Illinois.” In other words, get someone to help the state unload that white elephant without the state taking a bath in the process. Any proceeds will be applied to the state’s pension debt, which won’t notice the difference.
The release from the governor’s office detailed the things wrong with the building, including that it is too big for what is needed, costs too much to operate and has been neglected to the point that it would take $300 million to make all of the necessary repairs.
That’s all to say we’re not supposed to miss it if it’s gone. But we will. Because revenue from the pending sale of the building has been used to help balance so many state budgets, it’s just not going to be the same anymore.
If Pritzker doesn’t shake many hands for a while, it could be because he has a first class case of writer’s cramp.
The governor wrapped up work on the nearly 600 bills that lawmakers thoughtfully passed this year and sent on to Pritzker. He signed pretty much all of them, which should make those people cringe who used to complain when Illinois’ Compiled Statutes grew into four volumes. That was a lot of laws ago.
Pritzker outright vetoed only seven bills. Of those, only three were vetoed for substantive reasons. Three others were vetoed because they duplicated bills Pritzker already signed into law and one other was vetoed because it was nearly the same as something signed into law that Pritzker felt was a better version.
It’s further evidence of the difference one-party control of everything can have on the political process. Everyone’s more or less on the same page which means the bills that get passed will end up becoming law.
Tinkering and fixing
The next time lawmakers are scheduled to meet again in Springfield is the last week of October for the start of the veto session. (That’s also Halloween week, which seems appropriate for legislative activity.)
Of course, with only three substantive vetoes, override activity is going to be pretty scarce. That will leave plenty of time for lawmakers to dream up wonderful new things to legislate. Or this year, fix a bunch of the things that were passed last year.
One thing that will likely get attention is the massive gaming expansion bill that will bring a casino to Chicago. Except that a study concluded the taxes on that proposed Chicago casino — which are unique to that casino — will make the project financially unfeasible. So the expectation now is that some attempt will be made to change that tax structure to make the project more attractive to potential casino owners. It is far from certain how successful that will be.
The recreational marijuana bill also needs some fine tuning given the frequency of news reports that some part of the law conflicts with existing practice for medical marijuana. And some attempt may be made to permanently close the controversial Sterigenics plant in Willowbrook, which is accused of releasing cancer-causing ethylene oxide into the air.
So, vetoes? Yawn. But a bunch of other stuff could make the veto session very interesting.
Contact Doug Finke: email@example.com, (217) 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.