An Illinois Senate committee on Wednesday voted down a bill designed to curb lawsuits, striking another blow against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to improve the state’s business climate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted down Senate Bill 884 by an 8-4 vote along party lines, with Democrats opposed. The metro-east’s sole senator on the committee is Alton Democrat Bill Haine, who voted against the measure.
The vote marked another defeat for Rauner’s “turnaround agenda,” a legislative package aimed at making Illinois more business-friendly. On Wednesday, the same committee turned down a bill designed to reduce the premiums that businesses pay for workers’ compensation insurance.
Rauner, a Republican, appears headed for a showdown with the Democrat-majority legislature. He wants his legislative package approved before he’ll consider signing a budget that Democrats have crafted.
During debate Thursday, Haine questioned whether representatives of businesses as well as plaintiffs were allowed to give input on the bill.
Richard Goldberg, a deputy chief of staff for Rauner, then got into a pointed exchange with Haine about lobbyists being involved in writing legislation.
Goldberg said the governor wants to take lobbyists “out of government.”
“Oh my, am I saying a pejorative? The lobbyists?” Haine said.
Haine said there’s nothing wrong with lawmakers getting input from representatives of constituents.
“Is that a better system or a worse system than putting $30 million in the bank to threaten anyone who’s going to vote ‘no’ on this bill?” Haine said.
The remark was a reference to a Rauner political fund that he plans to use to help lawmakers who support his legislation and oppose those who do not.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said putting curbs on lawsuits would help “grow our economy.” She said residents are leaving Illinois, but plaintiffs are “coming in droves” to file lawsuits. She said Madison County has 90 percent of the nation’s asbestos lawsuits.
The bill’s provisions included one which would limit where a lawsuit could be filed.
Meantime, Democrats on Thursday continued advancing pieces of a $36 billion budget that Republicans say is not balanced. They say spending tops revenue by as much as $4 billion.
Haine said the Democrats’ budget proposals are sensible. He said Rauner has proposed a budget that reduces state funding to cities and counties by 50 percent.
“Our communities rely on their funding from the state,” Haine said. “Cuts to this funding would lead to higher property taxes and put devastating constraints on local governments’ ability to provide important services.”
Haine said cuts of that magnitude “would likely lead to the layoff of police and firefighters, thereby weakening the safety of our communities.”