Recently seated members of the 102nd General Assembly had introduced 6,950 bills as of March 22. That is correct, it is not a typo and you did not misread. Almost 7,000 proposals of some variety have been introduced. In addition, 180 Senate resolutions, 162 House resolutions, 10 Senate joint resolutions, 26 House joint resolutions, 10 Senate joint resolution constitutional amendments, and 32 House resolutions constitutional amendments have been filed. If you add in these 335 various types of resolutions to the 6,950 bills filed, you have a grand total of 7,285 initiatives filed by 177 elected officials (118 House and 59 Senate members). That is an average of just more than 41 proposals per member of the General Assembly. Your senator or representative might have filed an above or below average number of proposals. For the record, that does not make them above average or below average lawmakers.
If these numbers seem astounding, stop to consider the fact that this year is only the first year of a two-year General Assembly cycle. There will be many more proposals brought forward before the 102nd G.A. adjourns in January 2023. This also does not take into consideration the number of Amendments that will be filed to alter these original proposals.
There will likely be thousands of amendments filed. Some of these bills are known as “shell” bills, which are simply pieces of filed legislation that have no real content and will be amended, filled later with some type of content that is still being developed. In some cases, the content might be ready, but the sponsor wants to wait as long as possible to reveal the contents in order to avoid controversy or opposition.
One example of a “shell” bill is Senate Bill 12. This one amends something called the Medical Patient Rights Act. The synopsis of the legislative proposal simply states that it, “Makes a technical change in a Section concerning the purpose of the Act.” Nothing specific at all about what that change might be is included. The proposal as filed simply strikes one word and does not replace that word with anything specific at all. Thus, the term “shell”. It appears that the first 39 bills filed in the Senate this session are these type of shell bills.
This same is true in the House, where there are tons of these shell bills. House Bills 501 through 544 all appear to be shells. There are literally hundreds of these shell bills available in the House and Senate which still need to be amended with specifics. You can easily see this for yourself if you go to the General Assembly website and do some investigating. Go to www.ilga.gov and click on the link for Bills & Resolutions in the top left corner. It is easy to identify shell bills from the lists of the hundreds of bills filed in both the Senate and House. Just look for a bill that contains the word “TECH” at the end. Click on that bill number link, then click on “full text”, and read the text of the bill. HB514 is another good example. In the synopsis of this proposal, it is stated that this bill, “Amends the Illinois Income Tax Act.” However, there is absolutely no description of how the Illinois Income Tax Act would be amended. You might be surprised at how fun this shell game can be.
There are two important deadlines when a bill must pass from one House to the other, House bills to Senate or vice versa, to meet constitutional requirements. No worries, though, hundreds of shell bills are passed from one House of the General Assembly to the other routinely, without any additional details, to meet these deadlines.
The Illinois budget is always attached to one of these “shells” much later in the session. It is almost impossible to identify which shell bills will eventually contain the state budget and the budget implementation bills that accompany the budget. It could be a Senate shell or a House shell. The actual language of the enacted budget, along with the appropriation amounts to fund the budget, are added much later in the process. These details about how your tax dollars are to be spent are not revealed to those asked to vote on passage until the final days of session. Even then, very few, if any, really know everything that is in the final version.
Things should not work this way. We need to demand better.
Let the shell games begin!