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Sen. Barickman predicts light legislative load for spring session

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State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, thinks Illinois legislators will avoid highly controversial issues during the upcoming election year to protect members of General Assembly.

Election years traditionally mean lawmakers in Springfield do less than usual to avoid giving an opponent something to target in November. But the change from a winter to a June 28 primary may change that dynamic in one way.

Illinois legislators may be more active than usual this election year, though fewer bills could make it over the finish line and on to the governor's desk.

Lawmakers typically avoid controversial votes on hard issues leading up to an election.

Republican State Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington said he expects the General Assembly to avoid dealing with the state budget deficit in 2022. For now, Barickman said the federal pandemic aid is making the Illinois budget look better than it will in one to two years.

“How do you reposition your policies, both state and local, to recognize that two years from now, maybe not next year, but two years from now, our budgets are going to look more similar to the 2019 budget than they are the 2021 budget. I think that’s going to cause a lot of pain,” Barickman said on WGLT's Sound Ideas.

That leaves an open question about how to pay for many programs begun with federal pandemic money that will eventually dry up, he said, adding behavioral health, access and broadband programs in school systems are examples of programs created out of the federal relief.

Conversely, Barickman said the change to a June primary election might encourage lawmakers in both major parties to introduce bills that play to the party base. That allows the incumbent to embrace a party orthodoxy that may be to the left or to the right of many general election voters, but in the sweet spot for primary voters who are generally more progressive or conservative, depending on the party. He said whether those bills go anywhere is a different question.

“You’re going to have an incumbent might have a primary back home, and they may want to put forward legislation that plays to their base. You certainly will see some bills being filed that are designed to appease someone’s base. It might happen on both sides of the aisle, right,” Barickman said.

Barickman said legislative leaders in both parties usually try to avoid giving the opposition red meat for a campaign in the November general election.

“We’ve really addressed some very controversial issues both this year and over the last year or two. Whether it be the Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, changes to the abortion laws, some of the police issues, even dating back to the minimum wage hike when (Gov. JB) Pritzker first took office. I think as we look to ’22, those big controversial issues are unlikely to move,” he said.

Barickman said most pundits think the November election will favor Republicans across the U.S., and Illinois Democrats will actively consider this as they attempt to protect their members from the controversial votes at the end of the election cycle.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021.
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