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Why Barickman Bolted From The Cannabis Bill

Barickman on the Senate floor
State Senator Jason Barickman said he still believes a marijuana legalization bill can pass, though he is not sure when.

State Sen. Jason Barickman said he went public against Gov. JB Pritzker's bill on legalizing recreational use of marijuana even though he knows it will make it more difficult to get a compromise bill.

The Bloomington Republican said in a GLT interview his declaration was pushback for the governor's decision to file a bill instead of continuing behind-the-scenes negotiation. Barickman said the governor's people described the filing as a strategic move.

"But, in doing so, they put on record legislation that includes very controversial issues which I ... and other Republicans and quite frankly some Democrats have said they don't support," said Barickman.

Barickman acknowledged his public opposition will make it harder for the governor to give ground. But he said he sat through months of hearings without any meaningful concessions to bring Republicans on board.

Last week top Pritzker aides pointed to a provision in the bill that would set aside 10% of the revenue from legalized marijuana to pay state debts, which they said was requested by Republicans.

Barickman responded by saying that was a bipartisan ask from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and really should be a much larger percentage.

Barickman acknowledged Pritzker does not need his vote or other Republican votes in the Senate. But he says Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan has also questioned the provisions on expungement of criminal convictions that Barickman opposes.

"My comments on this proposal in many ways mirror Speaker Madigan has made. The speaker has come out and said this proposal is very controversial," said Barickman.

Barickman said he does not think there are currently the 60 needed votes for passage in the House.

Infrastructure Bill

Barickman said he also sees momentum fading to pass an infrastructure bill in Springfield this spring. Things might change, but he said a gas tax increase is controversial.

Barickman said the prospect of a federal infrastructure bill might also be removing pressure on state lawmakers to do it now.

"That's not going to happen immediately. But if Washington were to do their own infrastructure program over the next year or two, I think there's lots of people who are watching this and saying that's the time," said Barickman. "Then you can lean on some of the benefits of the federal government."

Benefits such as matching federal dollars.

"And so if the state has the opportunity to then do infrastructure knowing that for every dollar out of the state's pocket comes additional revenue from the federal government, it may make the choice a little easier in Illinois," said Barickman.

Barickman said things often change rapidly in the state legislature during the month of May, and his take could soon be outdated.

Listen to the entire interview with GOP State Senator Jason Barickman.

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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.