Pat Quinn, our reforming Lieutenant Governor, got a lot of press yesterday and today on his call for a bottle bill. (Check out www.bottlebill.org for details). I think it's a great idea (as did the anchors on CBS last night . . .. after the segment on Quinn's initiative, they chatted 'great idea. . .about time we stepped it up'). Check out Quinn's site on the newly-christened I-Can legislation here, and a nice factsheet here.
This is an example of how a crusading elected official can help to set the agenda and move policy without any formal authority to do so. It's not like the Office of the Lt. Governor is in charge of environmental policy. This is one of Pat Quinn's greatest strengths.
His weakness is that there is very little follow-through. There is no bill introduced, just a promise from Quinn to work on it and calling on the General Assembly to make it happen. Well, it is a bit late in the game to push for a new idea. My guess is that no sponsor has agreed to work on this bill. It's still very possible to try to amend a shell, but it is getting tough.
Lots of Quinn's ideas are excellent. But few of them get the sustained attention (at least, publicly) to implement them. He had a great idea last session to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot setting up a 6% income tax for income earned above 100 grand, with the money split between education and property tax relief. Senator Maggie Crotty introduced the amendment (it's here, as SJRCA 21), but no co-sponsors and it hasn't been assigned out of Rules.
I do believe that Quinn has a lot more influence shaping decisions inside the Blagojevich Administration that it appears, but that's just a hunch.
If Quinn focused on a few of his top legislative priorities (like his very good idea to close a landfill gas loophole to fund conservation programs, which did make it into the submitted budget), I think he and his staff would find a receptive audience in the General Assembly. But it isn't enough to pronounce a good idea and expect someone in the General Assembly to do all the hard work at forging a consensus and passing a bill. As I have learned, even little bills take a *ton* of work to get through the legislative process. I tried to follow up on one of Quinn's good ideas on ATM fees (thanks to Senator Ira Silverstein for giving it a shot) and basically got spanked by the banks. The bill was SB 156 (read it here, especially Amendment 1), and it did not get out of committee. With more work, we might have reached a consensus with among the Democratic senators, but it takes a lot of time to find that consensus and figure out what policy improvements make sense. Quinn has a great staff, but I just hope that they can have a focused enough agenda so that someone can do that work on the bottle bill.