Republicans changed General Assembly leadership this week, electing state Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, as Senate minority leader and state Rep. Tony McCombie, of Savanna, to lead the House caucus.
Although the changes might be seen as strictly political, especially on the heels of an election for all 118 legislative districts, leadership posts have governmental implications in terms of committee assignments and which members get to speak on what issues. There are other posts to fill – deputy and assistant leaders, a conference chairs, floor leaders and whips.
While the minority can’t exert control over Democrats, and legislative districts contain roughly equivalent constituent populations, Republican legislators can be the eyes and ears of all the party’s voters statewide. If and how the tone changes in Springfield is definitely worth watching even before the new session begins in January.
VETO SESSION: I’ve written twice this year about an Illinois Supreme Court decision, Holm v. Kodat, concerning two landowners disputing Mazon River access, an issue that’s raised the larger question of pubic access to different types of waterways statewide.
In June, a unanimous court said people who own land along the river can indeed prevent others from kayaking or canoeing across their property. Justice P. Scott Neville wrote a special concurrence, joined by then-Chief Justice Anne Burke.
Neville directly encouraged lawmakers “to promulgate legislation so that the state’s non-navigable lakes, rivers and streams are not limited to use by riparian landowners but are available to the public for recreational use.”
Enter House Bill 5844, which state Rep. Janet Yang Rohr, D-Naperville, filed Wednesday. The bill would amend the Rivers, Lake and Streams Act “to maximize the full and free enjoyment of state waters by the public.”
The Illinois Environment Council supports the bill and set up a website to encourage lawmakers to vote yes to “protect our right to recreate.” For more, visit tinyurl.com/IECboating.
MAILBAG: Regarding one reader’s Oct. 27 suggestion to let doctors notify the state when a patient is incapable of safe driving, R.K responds: “This proposal highlights a longtime clash of using data, as formally called, collected for one purpose but used for another. Classic and oldest is using Census records to compile a list of draft aged persons or more recently citizenship of the respondents. The importance of privacy is not just a will-o’-the-wisp worn for convenience or its absence to frighten the naive. Concern for another’s physical ability to drive, regardless of age, could be extended to vision such that after an eye examination the results are shared with the Secretary of State to notify compliance or noncompliance with licensure standards, followed by timed notification of administrative forfeiture. As has been said, the road to perdition is paved with good intentions.”