As this year’s legislative session ground to an end last week, it appeared Republicans have decided the best way to reelect Governor Bruce Rauner is to temporarily abandon their war on unions, vote with Democrats to pass a budget, and aid victims of sexual harassment.
So long as the harassers are Democrats. If they’re Republicans—like a certain “pussy-grabbing” president Trump—sorry, women, but you’re on your own.
OK, let’s take it point by point, starting with the budget.
Republican legislators joined Democrats to pass a “balanced” budget. Hooray for the basics!
Only it’s not really balanced, as it depends on the sale of a building—the Thompson Center—that’s not been sold and pension payments savings that have yet to be realized.
Also, it depends on the continuation of the 4.95 percent tax rate that Rauner’s vowed to cut back.
So the governor’s patting himself on the back for a budget while hammering Democrats for the tax hike that enabled him to pat himself on the back for the budget. Nimble fella.
As for the war on unions that has consumed too much of his last three years, well, apparently, Rauner folded on that fight while pretending he never made it.
Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to give him a major victory in the Janus case. In that case the Supremes seem determined to declare that union members have a constitutional right not to pay union fees for services that unions provide—like representing members at discipline hearings.
That’s like the Supreme Court ruling that Rauner’s old venture capital firm can’t compel investors to pay it fees. Keep that up and pretty soon Rauner’s firm would go out of business—which is exactly what Rauner wants to happen to unions.
Amidst all the talk of budget bipartisanship, the Republicans took another swipe at house speaker Michael Madigan.
State rep Jeanne Ives—among the most conservative Republicans in the legislature—joined Maryann Loncar, a medical marijuana activist, at a press conference. Loncar charged she’d been sexually harassed by state rep Lou Lang, one of Madigan’s most trusted legislative lieutenants.
It’s a serious charge that warrants investigation. Men from both parties have long treated the statehouse as their own pleasure palace—pawing, kissing or coming on to women with lame pickup lines, like the ones Lang allegedly uttered to Loncar.
So I applaud any effort to clean up the Springfield frat house. And if Madigan loses his power because he can’t keep his boys in line, so be it.
Having said that, let me say this. If you think Jeanne Ives, or any other Republican for that matter, gives a damn about women’s issues—well, let’s just run down a few recent legislative matters to set you straight.
There’s House Bill 274, sponsored by Democratic state rep Michelle Mussman. That would allow women to obtain birth control from their pharmacist without seeing a doctor.
It fell four votes short of passage in the house after all but one Republican voted against it—partly on the grounds that it would encourage promiscuity. Jeanne Ives was one of those no votes.
Then there’s state rep Litesa Wallace’s bill that requires public schools provide a free lunch to any student who requests one. (I realize this is a bill fathers should care about, too, but it took Wallace, a single mom, to champion its passage.)
It passed despite 44 no votes from Republicans—including from Ives.
Also, there’s Wallace’s bill to extend child-care benefits for working parents. Happy to say that most Republicans voted for it—except . . .
In addition, there’s state rep Anna Moeller’s equal pay bill. It attempts to end the salary gap between men and women by preventing employers from asking prospective employees how much they made at their previous jobs. The idea is that the less employees made in the past—and women tend to make less than men—the less prospective employers feel compelled to pay them in the future.
Moeller’s bill passed last year, but Rauner vetoed it. This time around 24 Republicans voted no, including Ives.
And let’s not forget HB 40, the reproductive rights bill that passed last year, despite overwhelming opposition from the GOP. Afraid that he might lose North Shore independent voters, Rauner signed it. Ives got so upset, she ran against him in the Republican primary.
In short, the message Republicans seem to be sending to women goes like this . . .
You can have sex, so long as it’s for procreation. If you get pregnant, you must have the baby. And you better have a rich husband—otherwise, good luck paying for child care. Also, don’t expect your child to get a free school lunch—because there’s no such thing as a free lunch—except for billionaires, as I may have written a few times already.