“Grand Bargain” interconnected bills could be unconstitutional

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

An attorney who argued to the state’s high court that legislation must address one issue at a time said from what he’s gathered from the ‘grand bargain’ package working through the state Senate, it could violate the state Constitution’s single subject rule.

Chicago-area attorney Sam Vinson from Hanlon Vinson said the single subject rule is clear: You can’t mix different issues into a single bill. They have to be separate bills.

Article IV, Section 8, paragraph (d) of the Illinois Constitution says “Bills, except bills for appropriations and for the codification, revision or rearrangement of laws, shall be confined to one subject.”

The package considered under construction by leaders in the Senate are separate bills but they require each measure to pass for the package to pass. Vinson said he believes that violates the single subject rule “in the same way as if they were combined as a single bill.”

“This kind of practice is a dangerous thing that can get the state into trouble, and every citizen should be concerned with his pocketbook,” Vinson said.

Vinson argued the single subject rule in front of the state Supreme Court in 2011 but lost. That case dealt with four bills considered a capital projects plan. The package of 12 bills in the Senate deals with taxes, workers comp, a minimum wage increase, pension reform, a budget and more.

Senators began taking votes on that package last week. They passed three measures that were parts of the package: local government consolidation, low interest loans for municipalities and procurement reform. A fourth measure brought for a vote–pension reform–failed. Senators stopped taking votes and leaders said they are regrouping.

Vinson said when lawmakers start combining all of these things “and buying every lobby in the state and in essence trying to buy every legislator in the state, you’re violating the single subject rule.”

“It creates the atmosphere where you’re buying votes rather than reasoning together and the most important part of the legislative process–the reason we separate power in a governor, and the legislature and a judicial system–is that it requires people to think and reason together,” Vinson said.

Vinson said political leaders in both chambers should let each bill stand on its own merits.

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