Austin legislator says getting laws passed to help the West Side may prove difficult

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Austin’s state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-8) said the Illinois General Assembly’s continuing Democratic majority, elected Tuesday, may not necessarily help him push certain policies for his Chicago constituents during his next two years in office.

Ford, who ran unopposed like many other Illinois House and Senate members (including fellow state Rep. Camille Lilly and state Sen. Kimberly Lightford), will sponsor legislation creating a task force to study if Chicago needs an elected school board instead of an appointed one.

He said Tuesday he will also be supporting a bill to remove from state job applications the question that asks applicants if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime. Many people who were formerly incarcerated are unfairly turned away from jobs but have “paid their debt to society,” Ford said.

But even though his party will reign in the Illinois General Assembly, Ford said it will still be difficult to get support for his policies from Democrats who represent suburban and Downstate communities.

“I have had trouble with Democrats from Bolingbrook,” said Ford, giving an example. “I have a difficult time getting support from representatives in rural communities. I can pick up votes with Republicans when I can’t with Democrats.”

Ford said many people in these areas are traditionally more conservative and would not agree with his policies, and their representatives vote to reflect those views.

On a statewide level, one of the main issues that will be debated in Springfield will be pension reform, Ford said. State employees’ pensions are underfunded by billions,and lawmakers are under heavy pressure to find a solution.

“If you don’t do something to fix the pension problem, it’s going to continue to cost taxpayers more money every day,” Ford said. “It could be a matter that we deal with in the veto session” (later this month).

Legislators may try to push quick fixes for pension reform or the state’s budget problems during the period before legislators elected Tuesday begin their terms, popularly known as the lame-duck session, said Christopher Z. Mooney, an expert in Illinois politics and political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

“(Lawmakers) did that two years ago with civil unions and a tax hike, but I’d be surprised if they did that this time,” Mooney said. “People don’t like that kind of behavior.”

U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th), who was reelected Tuesday, said Illinois should now concentrate on implementing the provisions of the the federal Affordable Care Act, something he said will obviously not be repealed with President Barack Obama’s victory.

With a majority of Republicans controlling the U.S. House of Representatives, Davis said Obama will face similar difficulties as his did over the past four years in pushing legislation.

“Everything the president would come up with would get watered down,” Davis said.

As opposed to the House, the U.S. Senate will maintain a Democratic majority.

Mooney said Obama might get some leeway from the U.S. House because he won’t be up for re-election in 2016, swaying Republicans from making him “look bad.”

But he added other prospects for the next election may continue to keep the parties divided in Washington.

“(Republicans have) got every incentive in the world to make the Democrats look bad because they’re going to want to run their person in 2016 and take the Senate in 2014,” Mooney said. “It’s like a never-ending campaign these days.”


One thought on “Austin legislator says getting laws passed to help the West Side may prove difficult

  1. I agree that the new Democratic veto-proof majority in the Legislature may prove to be a greater challenge for getting an elected school board. Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Senate President Cullerton are not supportive. However, there is growing support for an elected school board all around the City of Chicago, and I believe a strong case can be made in favor of an elected school board. I sincerely hope we don’t have another situation where politics trumps the will of the people.

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