The just-concluded Veto Session ended substantive work on bills that were passed by the legislature but vetoed by the governor. The session presented a teachable moment on the use and misuse of amendatory vetoes.
Among the bills returned to the legislature were four dealing with the Election Code: HB 723, HB 4842, HB 5206, and SB 1662. Each of these were amendatorily vetoed by Gov. Quinn. Two of the vetoes were overridden, while the other two bills died. None of the AVs were enacted.
All four amendatory vetoes added new language without changing what was already in the bill. The two bills enacted over the veto were HB 723, which addressed the filling of ballot vacancies after a primary, and HB 5206, dealing with the removal of dead people from voter rolls. Gov. Quinn added language to both of them to put advisory questions on the ballot. The two bills that died in Veto Session were HB 4842, which directed the State Board of Elections to produce an on-line voters guide during primary elections and which Gov. Quinn amended to create open primaries; and SB1662, changing the timeframe in which a new political committee must file a statement of organization during the 30 days before an election, to which Gov. Quinn added language dealing with local ethics ordinances.
Illinois is unusual among the 50 states in giving the governor the power to recommend changes to bills, in addition to vetoing a measure outright. But the power is limited, and should be used sparingly. As it is, the legislature plays enough games that short circuit the deliberative process. The governor should take the high road and find sponsors for his bills in January, just like everybody else.
We hope that Gov. Quinn will work with the legislature in the next session, both to enact the bills that failed as a result of his intervention and, separately if necessary, to move bills to address the new areas of his concern. The deliberative process should be allowed to work, especially when the amendatory veto merely adds new sections that have not previously been deliberated by the legislature.