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Shell bills, or why pro-gun groups suddenly care about cathode ray tubes

Thomas Clatterbuck

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As introduced, House Bill (HB) 0772 describes new rules about recycling cathode ray tubes. These tubes were commonly used in old TVs. Discounting the possibility this was a way to preemptively ban ray guns, why would pro-Second Amendment groups care about HB 0772?

Despite how it was initially introduced, the bill is not really about ray tubes or recycling at all. Instead, it was a shell bill, designed to create an opportunity to get other legislation to the house floor more easily. The real text under 0772 creates “lethal violence order of protections,” or a way for the state to seize someone’s guns without convicting them of a crime or even notifying them before hand. You can compare the original bill to its amended version to see just how different they are.

How did a recycling bill become a gun control bill? The process is very simple. Bills can be amended on the floor of either chamber to make changes to what the bill says. Theoretically, this is to facilitate compromise and new information that may not have been available in the initial committee hearing where the bill was discussed. However, there is a common phrase that can totally change what a bill does:

Amend House bill/Senate Bill # by replacing everything after the enacting clause with the following:

That phrase allows an otherwise mundane bill, like cathode ray tube recycling, to instantly become a controversial gun control bill. Amendments do not change a bill’s number or its sponsorship. That is why a bill’s sponsors, or supporters, are often changed after an amendment.

Why would anyone want to do that?

Normally, getting a bill onto the floor of either the House or Senate is a long and involved process. The bill has to pass through a committee hearing, where it will be discussed by a group of legislators who focus on that particular topic. This step allows bad bills to be weeded out, and good bills to be improved.  It also gives interest groups time to organize lobbying efforts either for or against the bill. Finally, committee members have to vote on the bill.

By using a shell bill, the real bill can skip that process. And there are legitimate reasons this might be necessary. Committees only have so long to pass bills to the full chamber for further discussion. If there was a catastrophe that needed additional funding, or a dangerous legal loophole was discovered late in the session, it would be too late to submit a new bill to address the topic. Having a shell bill on hand to address an emergency is valuable even if it skirts the normal rules.

But that is not what is happening here. The new bill creates a mechanism for depriving individuals of their rights and property without being charged with a crime, much less having a trial. It is up to the accused to prove they are innocent and should have their rights restored. There is a certain symmetry to using a shell bill, which circumvents the normal legislative process, to pass a law which would circumvent the normal judicial process.

Other outlets will talk more about the specifics of HB 0772, but the mechanics that allowed the new 0772 are a separate issue. Shell bills undermine the legislative process and defeat the purpose of having committees. If bills supported by the majority party get to skip the committee phase, then all committees get to do is copyedit the easy bills and kill bills proposed by the minority party. If committees were free, this would matter a lot less; but committee chairs get an extra $10,000 stipend for their trouble. That is a very expensive process to not use.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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LIVE | Springfield City Council committee of the whole February 13th, 2019

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Follow along live with the Springfield City Council committee of the whole. This meeting was moved from the 12th for Lincoln’s birthday. Brian McFadden from Sangamon County spoke about the animal control situation and the county’s policies.

UIS baseball coach Chris Ramirez was recognized for his team’s achievements. Ramirez was awarded coach of the year.

This meeting was preceded by a special City Council meeting, where $1.2 million in TIF funding was approved for the Poplar Place Redevelopment Project. This money will go towards road infrastructure for the area. The council was unanimous in their support for the project, and looks forward to the multi-million dollar development.

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New Obama exhibit opens and African American History Museum

Thomas Clatterbuck

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President Barack Obama was the first African American president of the United States, and the fourth to have strong ties to Illinois. His two terms as president usually draw the most attention, but a new exhibit at the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum focuses on the start of his political career. Before rising to national prominence as a US Senator and later as President, Obama served in the General Assembly right here in Springfield.

Obama worked with many people in the Springfield area, many of whom are still active in the community. At the exhibit opening, two of his former staffers and mentors, Beverly Helm-Renfro and Nia Odeoti-Hassan, shared their experiences working with the then Senator Obama. From the first time they met the future president, to Michelle Obama’s reaction to Obama getting his first bill passed, to his eventual move to DC, these two women spoke about a side of him most outsiders never got to see. You can watch their full talk in the player.

The Obama exhibit showcases memorabilia and other artifacts from Obama’s time in the General Assembly all the way through his time as president. Community members from Springfield provided their own items to share their link with the president.

The museum is located at 1440 Monument Avenue, near the entrance to Oak Ridge Cemetery, and is open from 12 PM – 4 PM Tuesday through Friday, and 10 AM – 5:00 PM on Saturday. You can also check out their website at spiaahm.org.

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Boy Scout day at Jacksonville City Council showcases parliamentary procedure

Staff Contributor

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City council meetings can be a intimidating event for the first time visitor. The procedures that help the meetings run smoothly can be difficult to understand or track if you don’t know what’s going on. But at last night’s city council meeting in Jacksonville, local Boy Scouts got a hands-on look at why the council does things this way. This chance for the scouts to take part in the council meeting is an annual event.

The meeting’s agenda was routine. Claims were paid, and the liquor ordinance was amended. But the lack of action was a chance for Mayor Ezard and the aldermen to explain the procedure for the meeting.

During the workshop, the parks and lakes department also discussed a grant they are trying for to expand the trails at Lake Jacksonville. You can watch that discussion in the player below.

 

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