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Our View: Lead like eagles, not lame ducks

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Birds of a feather flock together, so the saying goes.

One of the problems that happens when dozens of birds flock together is that, oftentimes, they leave behind a big, stinky mess.

That goes for the geese and ducks that flock along the banks of the Fox River.

And it goes for lame-duck legislators who flock together after even-year November elections.

Put 118 state representatives and 59 state senators in their respective chambers, with lame-duck members totally free of the worry of voter retribution, and they might just leave a big mess behind, too.

The most infamous lame-duck session of the Illinois Legislature in recent years happened in January 2011. That’s when outgoing lawmakers joined forces with the powers that be to enact a big income tax increase on individuals and businesses.

Last week, House Republicans introduced proposals to greatly limit the ability of the Legislature to approve controversial legislation, such as tax increases, after an election.

The Republicans want to shoo lame ducks out of any post-election decision-making processes. They would do that by requiring the outgoing General Assembly to wrap up its work by Election Day. They also would advance Inauguration Day from the second Wednesday in January to the second Wednesday in December, thus narrowing the window for legislative mischief.

The only time a lame-duck legislative session could be called would be when all legislative leaders and the governor agree to it, and then only for limited purposes.

At this point, we note that Republicans number only 48 in the 118-member House. Because Democrats are in the majority with 70 members, the Republicans’ chances of getting their proposals approved are limited, to say the least.

In addition, Republicans have not been immune to using lame-duck sessions to approve controversial legislation in the past. One infamous bill that granted lawmakers hefty pay increases won approval after the 1978 election.

Now that the shoe has been on the other foot for a while, Republicans say they are ready for reform.

Whatever their motivations, their measures could help to change Illinois’ crooked political culture by removing an underhanded, chicken-hearted method used by the Legislature to do its business.

Then, rather than acting like lame ducks or timid chickens, our legislators might begin taking their leadership cues from another bird – the majestic eagle that graces the Illinois state seal and flag.

We can only hope.

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