Monday, April 25, 2005

The bottle bill: showing Lt. Governor Pat Quinn's strength and weakness simultaneously

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.

3 comments:

FightforJustice said...

Maybe Rep. Mike Boland will pick up the bottle bill. He's close to Pat.

Since we don't have bottle deposit now, let's figure out who the powerful interests are who have blocked it so far. How about grocers who don't want to allocate the space and labor to empty bottles? Who else will oppose Pat's latest brainstorm?

Jeff Wegerson said...

Dan,are you the DJW that Josh Marshall quotes here:

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http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2005_04_24.php#005521
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Straight outta Springfield!

Sen. Durbin serves up the counter-bamboozle smackdown to Sen. Kyl on the Newshour (emphasis added) ...

GWEN IFILL: Does Sen. Frist have the votes in order to force this nuclear option?

SEN. JOHN KYL: Well, I'm not going to characterize it as a nuclear option. That's what the opponent....

GWEN IFILL: Or a constitutional option. Whatever term we're using today.

SEN. JOHN KYL: It is a constitutional option because the Senate has the right to provide its own precedents. That's what would be done. I won't predict vote, but I don't think we'd go forward unless we thought we had the votes.

GWEN IFILL: How about that. Sen. Durbin, what's your nose count these days?

SEN. DICK DURBIN: Well, I can tell you it's very close; it's down to one or two Republican senators. And they understand the basics. First, this term nuclear option was coined by Trent Lott, a Republican. It's not a Democratic way to try to color this debate.

No wonder we like that guy so much!

(ed.note: Thanks to TPM Reader DJW for the tip.)
-- Josh Marshall

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jeff, but I can't take credit for that one. There is some other DJW out there. . .