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Madigan cancels school funding override vote ‘in light of progress’

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan speaks at a news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 in Springfield. File Photo. (AP Photo/ John O'Connor)

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan canceled a Wednesday House session — and a planned override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a school funding measure — “in light of progress” made during lengthy leaders’ meetings about school funding reform.

Leaders met for more than five hours in Madigan’s office on Tuesday. The speaker last week said he’d call for an override of Rauner’s school funding reform veto. The Illinois Senate last week voted to override the veto.

“In light of the progress made today by the four leaders, I am canceling session previously scheduled for Wednesday, August 23,” Madigan said in a statement. “I am hopeful we can finish our negotiations shortly to ensure schools around the state can receive the money needed to operate schools throughout this school year.”

Madigan said the leaders will meet again in Chicago on Thursday.

But he warned that he’ll try again for an override without an agreement by the end of the week.

“If we don’t reach compromise later this week, the House will move to override the Governor’s veto of SB 1 in session next week,” the statement said.

School funding reform organizers had planned a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon to coincide with the override vote, to try to drum up pressure.

Rauner issued an amendatory veto of the bill on August 1, deriding it as a “Chicago bailout” because it contained money for Chicago teacher pensions. Democrats in July added language to a budget package that would block money for schools unless the governor signed an “evidence-based model” school formula — in their desire to see a Democratic-sponsored school-funding formula bill be signed.

Bipartisan negotiations have been underway for weeks — with Republicans pushing for a private school voucher program, among other requests. That program is being championed behind the scenes by Cardinal Blase Cupich and Rauner.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called the lengthy leaders’ meeting “productive.”

“We went through a lot of issues, down to the minutiae, and to me that is positive and shows that there is a willingness to bring this to a negotiated settlement,” said Durkin, R-Western Springs. “That, I would say, is the collective goal of each one of the leaders and including the governor. We want to make sure that we can get the best public education system through the state of Illinois that ensures that children in Chicago all the way down to southern Illinois are going to get the quality education, one that is going to be funded better than any time in the history of the state of Illinois.”

Illinois Senate Republican Leader Designee Bill Brady said the Republican leaders told the speaker that it would be a “gesture of good faith” to hold off on an override vote. Within an hour, the speaker announced the cancellation.

An override would require 71 votes, and there are 67 Democrats in the House. There are also no House Republicans publicly vouching support for the override — unlike a number of House Republicans who broke party line in voting for a budget and revenue package last month.

Last week, Madigan – on a day intended to celebrate Rauner at the Illinois State Fair — vowed to keep fighting for the measure and held a test vote of Rauner’s amendatory veto. That was intended to be a public showing of the lack of support for his changes.

The speaker last week urged “reasonable Republicans” to join Democrats in overriding the veto “as they did on the budget making.”