I've detected an uptick in the undercurrent of unhappiness by legislators about the lack of a bold Democratic agenda in 2005 for the Illinois General Assembly.
In 2003, there were some big bills. A rise in the minimum wage. A huge upswing in FamilyCare (making us one of the best states in the Union). Civil rights for homosexuals. Ethics reform. The state's first housing policy. Polluter pays for water dumpers. Covering birth control for all insurance.
What's the big bill in 2005? Medical malpractice? Mass transit. . . kind of. Finally giving kids from poor areas a decent education? Nope.
Republicans in D.C. don't act this way. They use their political capital.
Some legislators are grumbling that the agenda is getting more cautious and less visionary. And that's not why they took the job.
That's probably the role of the movement -- to push the party to get bigger, get bolder and help deliver a higher standard of living for people.
What should we do? More and better teachers, from K through college. Renewable energy everywhere to get energy jobs in Illinois, not Houston or Saudi Arabia. Force the coal power plants to install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment so they can burn Illinois coal and help bring back Southern Illinois from the brink. (Why Southern Illinois electeds oppose the most stringent clean air requirements in Illinois plants is beyond me. With the best equipment, the plants can burn high-sulfur Illinois coal. Am I missing something?) Change economic development from tax credits for corporations to buying health insurance for employees. Tax relief for people making less than 40 grand. Tax the wealthy more because they can afford it -- and because those taxes are subsidized by the feds. Build another college. Expand the number of students at our existing colleges by 10% -- at least. Get the extra students from overseas if we have to. Let the non-violent drug offenders out of prison and use the money for financial aid for colleges. Quit locking people up for drug possession in the first place. Move from an institution-based system of care for the disabled and the old to a community-based system which is cheaper and better.
Big ideas are exciting. We need more of them.