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State Senate Republican Floor Leader Barickman Looks Ahead To Budget Planning, Redistricting

Jason Barickman
Jason Barickman
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, says he is prepared to work with his colleagues across the aisle on the state's budget and redistricting process.

The Republican floor leader says the state Senate has "got to get back to work" after Senate leaders announced Thursday the session the following week would not take place as scheduled.

Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said he knew the cancellation was coming, but added the Legislature needs to have a role in the state's COVID-19 response.

"Our constitution affords a process for making laws," said Barickman. "For almost a year, that process has really broken down, and that's a disservice to the public."

The lame duck session that ended on Jan. 13 marked the first time the General Assembly was in session since May of last year. Barickman called it "one of the craziest experiences" in his legislative career.

"The process doesn't need to be like that," said Barickman. "There was a year's worth of work tried to be rammed through in a couple of days."

That included multiple Black Caucus pillar bills, with topics ranging from criminal justice to education. Barickman said legislators were given about an hour to review the criminal justice bill in the early morning of Jan. 13.

"We were debating that bill at, like, 4:30 a.m.," said Barickman. "I think the public's suspicious when they see things like that."

Madigan's exit

He said the most significant development of the lame duck session was the end of Michael Madigan's tenure as speaker of the House.

"He's been in office longer than I've been alive," said Barickman. "The fact that Democrats did not elect him, I think, is historical, in and of itself."

Barickman said he hopes new House Speaker Chris Welch will be more willing to work with Republicans on legislation.

"I'm hopeful that with a change, with the turnover there, we will see a less political minded speaker," said Barickman.

Barickman said he already works regularly with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, adding he sees his role as delivering solutions to the state's problems.

"I recognize that my constituents expect me to do that," Barickman said. "They don't want the whole world to be all about politics, they want it to be about solutions."

Barickman, who has been a state senator since 2013, became caucus chair and floor leader for the Senate Republicans earlier this month.

"More responsibility means just like before, you've got to do your homework," said Barickman. "That's a significant responsibility."

Budget and redistricting

Looking ahead, Barickman said budgeting and redistricting will be particularly difficult processes this year.

Barickman criticized Gov. JB Pritzker for "(spending) money as if the federal government was going to bail out the state." Barickman also criticized Pritzker for spending in anticipation of approval of the graduated income tax that failed on last November's ballot.

"While the state's been spending money as if everything was rosy, the reality is something far different from that," said Barickman, who said he plans to work with his Democratic colleagues on the budgeting process.

"Our charge is to come up with a balanced budget," he said. "I'm gonna do my best to be an active and positive participant in that process."

As for redistricting, Barickman said the process has been disrupted by a delay in the delivery of Census data.

"This is a once-a-decade process," said Barickman. "It is wildly important that the state get it right."

Beyond those processes, Barickman said he wants to "get our state working again."

"I think there simply needs to be a balance between how we function and how we wrestle with the issues of COVID," he said.

One of Barickman's other priorities is empowering voters "in ways that are helpful to a Democratic process."

"I'd like to see some of that put in place so that voters can have an ability to effectuate change and help fix the many issues that are plaguing our state," said Barickman.

Senate President Don Harmon and Minority Leader Dan McConchie said they hoped to have procedures in place for a return to Springfield for the Senate by Feb. 9, when the session is scheduled to continue.

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Christine Hatfield, a graduate student in University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program, is WGLT and WCBU's PAR intern for the first half of 2021.