Illinois state government, as seen through the eyes of a Hollywood scriptwriter.
If you were a Hollywood scriptwriter, could you even make up the sitcom that Illinois state government has become?
Dysfunction is funny, of course, until it just becomes pathetic. We'd suggest Springfield is approaching that latter threshold at breakneck speed, what with the governor slicing and dicing parts of the budget and suing the speaker of the House and precipitating a constitutional showdown following the longest foray into fiscal folly in the state's
First, the governor left his own little mark of Zorro on the budget, taking his veto pen -- the Blade of Blago -- to $463 million in legislative largesse, not to tame the overspending but to make room for his own. Did the governor's alter ego wear a mask in exacting his
revenge? It is a masterwork of bipolarity.
Indeed, House Democrats and Senate Republicans alike endured his wrath. If the purchase of a handicapped-accessible van in one legislative district was pork, in another it was just perfect. If the governor needs half a billion bucks for his own health-care initiative, he'd get partway there by chopping away at other health care initiatives -- specifically $90 million in Medicaid funding for hospitals and nursing homes. Military veterans and social service providers found their requests trumped by Illinois' overriding need for a volleyball court and larger folk music center, among other playthings.
Naturally the governor protected his sidekick and squire Sancho Panza -- er, Senate President Emil Jones -- because he “shares our priorities” and has pledged to block any attempts in his chamber to override his knight's vetoes. The story line here could be spiced up considerably, of course, if the serfs revolted, deposing Jones in favor of someone who is cognizant that Illinois has a constitution. Alas, we fear Democrats --
downstate Democrats could lead the charge - don't have it in them. We'll see if they're sorry someday.
Meanwhile, as if the tax dollars already wasted on the overtime sessions weren't enough, now Illinois taxpayers get to spend even more on a court battle over whether the governor can call even more special sessions -- the Legislature has “in no way completed all the business necessary” -- to squander even more of their money.
This is one of those delicious separation of powers disputes, guaranteed to draw viewers by the boatload -- it's a canoe -- as the governor asks the judicial branch to side with his executive branch over the legislative branch in determining who has the power to set the date and time of special meetings of the General Assembly. Sadly for suspense fans, both sides have taken the attorney general's office off the hook as to any involvement in this lawsuit, foiling another fascinating plot twist that could have had top lawyer Lisa Madigan standing between the plaintiff -- the governor -- and the defendant, Mike Madigan, House speaker and her father.
The participants will forgive Illinoisans who view this as little more than an exercise in chest-bumping, generally regarded as unbecoming in adults of middle age and beyond. Recall that old “Cheers” episode in which Norm gets into a wrestling match in the bar with an old high school adversary? Now you get the picture.
Maybe the Isle of Illinois Politics is such an insular place that its residents don't appreciate the perceptions of them beyond their little beach. Maybe some are so up to their eyeballs in hubris they don't care. Maybe they haven't caught on yet that the laugh track has been substituted for the real thing, that viewers are tuning out.
This sitcom has run its course, or in Hollywood parlance, “jumped the shark.” Cancellation time?
Peoria Journal Star