Illinois General Assembly

llinois state legislators opened a new two-year session of the Illinois General Assembly Wednesday. Amid the ceremonies and celebrations, the focus remains on the political stalemate that's left Illinois without a budget for more than 18 months.

Democrats remain in firm control of the General Assembly, so it's not surprising Michael Madigan was re-elected speaker of the House for a 17th time. That's despite a Republican Party campaign to pressure Democrats into dropping him.

CREDIT "COURTROOM ONE GAVEL" BY FLICKR USER BETH CORTEZ-NEAVEL / (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois General Assembly voted Tuesday to expand sick leave rights.

Under the change, people would be entitled to paid time off to care for stepchildren and domestic partners.

State Representative Peter Breen, a Republican from Lombard, has opposed same-sex marriage, but says adding domestic partners was simply about keeping Illinois consistent with federal law.

“I don’t believe we were making a great statement on some social issue of the day, really doing anything other than trying to make sure the people of Illinois can use their Sick Leave Act,” Breen said.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says the tone in Springfield is deteriorating - and has been since the election.

He blames this on Democrats upset with his party picking up seats in the recent election.  

"For many years, Republicans have been pushed around," he says.  "We’ve been defeated, outspent - grossly outspent - for many, many years. Republicans gave them, them - the Democrats, a taste of their own medicine last November and I think that they’re still reeling over it."

Illinois legislators will only get a brief post-election respite from politics. They are scheduled to be back in Springfield next Tuesday to begin the veto session. The current makeup of the General Assembly will remain in place for that but, come the new year, the Capitol welcomes a new set of lawmakers elected Tuesday night and the balance of power will shift -- slightly.

Election Day is like the Super Bowl of politics.

"Courtroom One Gavel" by Flickr User Beth Cortez-Neavel / (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois is more than a year behind on payments to people who've been wronged by state government.

These individuals can seek compensation through the Court of Claims.  Its caseload ranges from injuries caused by state workers, to the pleas of people unjustly imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

Claims Court Chief Justice Peter Birnbaum says the court hasn't let the budget impasse interfere with its work.

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