Sunday, 28 May 2017 17:32

Update and alert regarding House Bill 40

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The statement below was released within minutes after the May 10 Illinois Senate passage of House Bill 40 on behalf of the five Illinois Catholic bishops by the Catholic Conference of Illinois.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

We are dismayed the Illinois Senate followed the House in passing House Bill 40, which allows taxpayer monies to pay for elective abortions in the Medicaid program and state employees’ health insurance plans. Public opinion polls regularly show little support for this public policy move. We thank Gov. Bruce Rauner for his promise to veto House Bill 40, and we will continue to make our voices heard in the coming days about this troubling legislation.

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The measure passed easily, as expected, by a 33-22 vote — three more votes than needed. The vote tally can be viewed at http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/votehistory/100/senate/10000HB0040_05102017_001000T.pdf. It should be noted that Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) was absent the day of the vote.

As Bishop Thomas John Paprocki noted in his column this issue, Gov. Bruce Rauner has said that he will veto the legislation as passed by the General Assembly. But in a not-to-subtle parliamentary procedure to avoid the expected veto, the Senate is holding on to the legislation to see if the governor will wither under the onslaught of phone calls supporters believe he will receive to sign the legislation.

Although the state constitution requires that legislation be presented to the governor within 30 days of its passage, Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, filed a motion to reconsider the vote on the bill. A motion to reconsider is action to retake a vote and must be offered only by a legislator who voted on the prevailing side. After that action, Senate Democrats issued a press release of their own:

Senate gives Rauner more time to ponder choice

SPRINGFIELD — Saying the governor needs time to reconsider his pledge to veto House Bill 40, legislation that protects women’s reproductive rights in Illinois, Sen. Don Harmon Wednesday night slowed the bill’s trek to the governor’s desk.

“This measure is too important to immediately put it in the hands of a governor whose public opinions about women’s access to safe, affordable reproductive health care have been inconsistent at best,” said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate.

Harmon is the chief co-sponsor of House Bill 40. Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, is the lead sponsor. Gov. Bruce Rauner has threatened to veto the measure, even though he pledged to support it when he was a candidate for governor.

“Wednesday night [May 10], in consultation with Senator Steans and the advocates, I filed a motion to reconsider the Senate’s vote to pass House Bill 40, which means we will temporarily hold the bill in the Senate,” Harmon said. “This motion merely allows the Senate to protect the bill from Gov. Rauner’s threatened veto until he comes to his senses. It does not jeopardize the bill’s ability to become law.”

Earlier Wednesday, the Senate voted along party lines to approve the measure, which would protect women’s rights in Illinois in the event the U.S. Supreme Court should strike down or alter the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. House Bill 40 also bars insurers from refusing to cover reproductive health care for women on Medicaid and state workers on the state’s health insurance plan.

Steans said she supports Harmon’s move to hold the bill and encourages Rauner to rethink his position.

“I want to give this legislation the best possible chance of becoming law. I know the governor has reservations and is feeling pressure from opponents to veto it,” she said. “But signing this bill into law is the right thing to do, and I urge Gov. Rauner to remain true to himself on this matter. Sen. Harmon’s motion generously gives the governor time to remember all the reasons why he originally supported it.”

Terry Cosgrove, president and CEO of Personal PAC, a reproductive rights advocacy group, said holding the legislation for now is preferable to an immediate veto, as promised by the governor.

“Illinois lawmakers sent a strong message of support for women’s reproductive rights by approving HB40. It would be careless to waste their votes by sending the bill to Gov. Rauner’s desk today only to watch him veto it,” Cosgrove said.

“In the meantime, I urge the men and women of Illinois to contact the governor to let him know why it’s important that he sign this bill into law and remind him that it will help to ensure generations of women have access to reproductive health care free of government interference.”

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So, in the words of Mary Massingale, communications director for the Catholic Conference of Illinois, “This will go on for a while.”

Stay tuned.

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