Despite meetings with suburban lawmakers, are more headaches to come for Rauner?

  • Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, looks on as state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, talks to reporters in January.

    Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, looks on as state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, talks to reporters in January. Associated Press File Photo

 
 
Updated 5/28/2015 5:18 PM

Back in January, state Rep. Jack Franks described a meeting he had with Gov. Bruce Rauner as the new Illinois CEO tried to get to know lots of lawmakers.

The Marengo Democrat said he took Rauner a large bottle of Excedrin to help cope with the inevitable headaches to come.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now, lawmakers are scheduled to leave Springfield Sunday night, and much of Rauner's agenda has either been rejected or ignored by Democrats who control the Capitol.

There are a few days left, and things can happen quickly. But the governor is running short on time if he wants to avoid leaving his first regular legislative session largely empty-handed.

"I should probably send him another bottle," Franks said this week.

Those meetings with lawmakers were a sign of bipartisanship by the incoming governor, and a lot of suburban lawmakers got their turn to talk to Rauner. This week, Rauner said Democrats abandoned bargaining, and he adopted an "us vs. them" posture on his policy plans, which include freezing property taxes and adopting new anti-union laws.

"Now is the time for all members of the General Assembly to make clear whether they stand with taxpayers and for reform or will continue to be controlled by Speaker Madigan," spokesman Lance Trover said in a statement released in response to a Daily Herald story.

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Yes and no

Thursday morning, Rauner released the prepared remarks of top aide Rich Goldberg to be given before a committee of lawmakers.

"In short, while Gov. Rauner says yes to reform and yes to compromise, the legislators in control of the General Assembly say no to reform, no to compromise, yes to unbalanced budgets and yes to higher taxes without reform," he said.

Franks carried a property tax freeze proposal that Republicans decried as a stunt, but the Democrat says he agrees with the governor on the idea in general, and he had some advice for Rauner to advance his big first-year agenda.

"Do it incrementally. That's what happens here in Springfield. I'd like to move things quicker, too," Franks said. "It doesn't happen overnight, because some people just aren't ready for it. So you have to chip away."

"Long-term vision"

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, an Aurora Democrat, had one of those winter meetings, too.

She said at the time: "I hope we just don't have our meeting and we're done."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now: "He's been in office a couple months. It's a big job," Kifowit said this week. "I think long-term vision is good, but it also takes a while to get to those solutions."

Don't bet on it?

I asked state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat hoping to expand gambling options in Illinois, whether a proposal to put slots at tracks and new casinos in Lake County and Chicago were coming.

I'll transcribe the whole interview here: "Soon."

The next day, reporter Erin Hegarty asked the same question.

"You'll be seeing it very quickly," he said.

A state budget that isn't complete by Sunday's deadline means negotiations on a gambling plan could be extended, too.

The ground up

Schaumburg dad Mike Baker had a rough experience last year. His 16-year-old son, Bryan, had to go to the dentist for some work that otherwise might be considered routine.

Bryan has autism, and because he can't communicate well with a dentist, he had to be sedated. Insurance doesn't typically cover sedation for routine dental work for people over age 6, so Baker was stuck with a big bill.

So he called his local lawmakers.

This year, legislation that calls for insurance companies to cover dental sedation for people with developmental disabilities is headed to Rauner's desk after not a single person in the House and Senate voted against it. Baker is grateful for the team of interest groups and lawmakers that helped him.

"Everyone talked about obstacles," Baker said. "But I said, 'The heck with it.'"

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