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Democrats replace child welfare bill with changes to election law

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(The Center Square) – A child welfare bill was gutted just moments before going to the Illinois House floor and replaced with an omnibus election bill.

House sponsor of Senate Bill 2412, State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, said the bill does three things.

“It places three non-binding referendums on the General Election ballot, eliminates the slating process to place candidates on the ballot in certain circumstances and moves up petition deadlines by 28 days,” said Hoffman. “With regard to the slating process, currently a party can slate an individual 75 days after the primary, even if that candidate didn’t file for the petitions for the primary election or did not conduct a write-in campaign at the primary election. This [bill] would remove this ability of a legislative or representative committee to nominate candidates for state representative or for state Senate.”

The referendums concern election worker protection and candidate accountability, property tax relief and assisted reproductive health.

House Republicans walked off the floor in protest after voting present and held a news conference. State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said the Democrats are wanting to take choices away from voters.

“To me it’s subverting democracy and since when are the Democrats limiting ballot access?” Wilhour told The Center Square. “My question is, ‘who thinks we need a referendum to lower property taxes?’ If you think we need a referendum on that, you’re an idiot.”

Wilhour said the state is crushing citizens under oppressive property taxes. Illinoisans pay the second highest property taxes in the nation.

There are a slew of bills out there that would bring down property taxes, but Wilhour said the Democrats won’t come to the table.

The slating process in Illinois currently allows political parties to slate candidates to fill the races where no candidate ran in the primary election. This process extends to local candidates as well, like county board members. The bill doesn’t address slating at county or municipal levels.

House Minority leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, called out the House Democrats on their “lack of transparency,” after the child welfare bill was gutted and replaced with an omnibus election bill.

Senate Bill 2412 was originally about placing children in adequate homes, but an amendment turned it into an election bill that seeks to eliminate the slating process state House and state Senate candidates take advantage of. McCombie and the House Republicans staged a walkout in protest of the change as the bill dropped on the Republicans last minute.

“We’re used to seeing this kind of maneuvering on May 31, but we don’t understand the sense of urgency right now,” McCombie said. “Unless the end goal is to stifle the democratic process through the changes on slating candidates.”

Hoffman said the bill, along with removing the slating process, moves petition deadlines up by 28 days, which was requested by the Illinois County Clerks and Recorders Association. Wilhour said the Democrats are wanting to take away the slating process just for the General Assembly.

“They want the Republican or Democrat party to not be able to slate candidates for open seats,” said Wilhour. “It leads you to believe ’what are they afraid of?’ I don’t understand what they’re trying to do with this bill.”

The General Election is Nov. 5, 2024. State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said the Democrats are doing anything they can to preserve and protect their supermajority.

“The losers in all of this are the voters and the people of Illinois who deserve checks and balances and they deserve elections that are actually competitive,” said Spain.

Illinois Democrats hold the majority in both the state House and Senate. There are a total of 78 House Democrats and 40 Republicans. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, calls the Democrats “The Great 78.”

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