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Republicans to try to launch Rauner's 'Turnaround Agenda' Friday

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at a news conference in Chicago in March. (AP File Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

SPRINGFIELD — House and Senate Republicans on Friday are expected to begin their push for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. Republican leaders in each chamber will be sponsors of six individual bills that will be filed simultaneously in each chamber, sources said.

Among the measures:

  • A proposal for a property tax freeze that may include a proposal allowing local communities to decide whether they want to have a “prevailing wage.” Rauner has blasted current laws that require non-union construction firms doing work on governments or schools to pay the prevailing union wage in that community.
  • An attempt to overhaul how the state’s legislative districts are drawn
  • A reform of worker’s compensation costs
  • A term limits bill
  • A proposal making it easier for municipalities to file for bankruptcy.
  • A proposal to limit awards granted in lawsuits.

Sources say the move by Rauner’s administration is to respond to complaints by Democrats that the governor has failed to give them specific language he wants included in reform measures he’s pushing.

“Democrats have all but abandoned his working groups,” one source with knowledge of the proposals told the Sun-Times. “This is his response to the Democrats’ failure to cooperate and meaningfully find common ground on his agenda items.”

In recent weeks, the Democrats have called votes on an anti-union right-to-work to work bill and a series of social service cuts — measures they have patterned after Rauner’s proposals and watched go down in flames with Democrats opposing and Republicans basically ignoring.

The new Republican proposals do not include a push for right to work, which failed to win one yes vote following a heated House debate last week.

One Republican said the six so-called “vehicle bills” to be filed Friday should at least get an airing on the committee level.

“I welcome that opportunity. Look, from a minority perspective in the House, we’re fighting off bad bills and fighting off bad bills brought ostensibly in the name of the governor. They were examples of political theater only,” said state Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove. “I’d like to have a real debate. I think the issues are important enough to have a serious discussion.”

Rauner has spent much of the last several months trying to sell his Turnaround Agenda around the state. It was largely viewed as an attack on unions, but Rauner has said he is looking to create a more business-friendly climate in Illinois. Rauner’s remarks on the anti-union, right-to-work proposal have gained the most publicity, drawing a strong rebuke from unions statewide. A majority of communities have rejected the agenda or adopted their own versions.

Still, Rauner has held up his agenda as a condition in budget negotiations — something that has rubbed Democrats the wrong way.

“It’s very unusual for a governor to wait to the very end of session to file bills for ideas that he supports. That’s exceedingly rare,” said state Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge. “It’s [usually] a pretty intense and comprehensive process.”

Democrats have pounded the governor for not putting his ideas into legislative form earlier in the session.

“There is still time to work with the governor on some of his initiatives,” said state Sen. John Cullerton’s spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon. “But the budget process should not be held hostage to an agenda to maximize profits for corporations at the expense of the middle class.”

It’s unclear what kind of reception the new filings will find in the Illinois House. House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, has called votes on components of Rauner’s plan for weeks — sending the bills to their graves.

“We voted on much of that stuff already. We’ve been asking for the administration’s language on bills for weeks, maybe longer than weeks,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said late Thursday. “We’ve been working in a professional, cooperative manner with the administration. We’ve asked for language, they weren’t working. We’ll look at what they proposed. If it’s something that the House has already voted on, what changes? All I see is town after town, county after county voting down [Rauner’s plan].”