Local legislators update chamber members
There really is no place like home.
State Reps. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, and Pam Roth, R-Morris, agree. And calls to and from constituents at home provide the best information, they said.
The two spoke to a small, but attentive, group of about 25 local businesspeople during the Plano Chamber of Commerce annual legislative lunch on Wednesday, July 11. Hatcher represents the 50th Legislative District; the freshman Roth was appointed to represent the 75th. Because of redistricting, the 75th will include a portion of Plano after the November election.
Roth, the only certified public accountant serving in the state House of Representatives, is campaigning to be retained in November.
The women were responding to a question from the audience about lobbyists when they talked about their “lobbyists” in their own districts.
“About 6,000 new bills come across our desks every year. We have staff on every committee that provide us with a middle-of-the-road analysis,” Roth said.
“We can’t be experts on every subject.”
She said lobbyists will request time to speak with them, and the good ones will provide the name of a person able to speak on the other side of the issue in question.
“I seek out both sides and read the staff analysis. I should be able to make a decision based on that. There are lobbyists that are snakes; I try to avoid them,” Roth said.
“That’s a pretty good synopsis of how lobbying works,” Hatcher agreed. “But the best lobbyist is a call from home. They will be our decision makers.”
Lobbying information has been added to the list of “transparency” items touted by Hatcher.
“You can search online who has bought me a drink or who bought me dinner. I’m not going say it has completely curtailed unethical behavior, but there is some transparency there,” Roth said.
“The Legislature is working to change the ethical and transparent nature of the state,” Hatcher said.
She noted that Gov. Pat Quinn was scheduled, the day they spoke in Plano, to sign legislation abolishing legislative scholarships.
“For many, those scholarships were misused. They were used as political gifts at a cost of about $12 million per year. And that cost everyone because it also took a seat from someone else truly deserving of the opportunity,” Hatcher said.
Calling herself the “elder statesman” of the pair, with just a little more than three years of experience in Springfield, Hatcher described how things work.
“The House and Senate are very different. The Senate is very polite. A Senator turns on their microphone to speak and turns it off allowing the next person to speak.
“The House is like karaoke on a Saturday night and you wonder how anything gets done,” Hatcher said.
She said the House is comprised of 64 Democrats and 58 Republicans, and 60 votes are required to pass a piece of legislation.
“The minority party has to be particularly creative in passing legislation. It makes you better to have to work harder at what you’re doing,” Hatcher said.
Roth said there is a particular camp that believes their job is to introduce and pass new legislation.
“It’s frustrating because there are so many laws we should just get rid of. For every law we pass, we should take three off the books,” Roth said.
Both legislators agree that 95 percent of the time, they work well with their colleagues across the aisle, with little dissension. Hatcher said it’s the other 5 percent, when they disagree, that the public hears the most about.
“Our differences really come to the forefront with those issues. Good legislators should be able to find the middle ground,” Hatcher said.
She said a lot has been accomplished in the time she’s spent representing her district, including impeaching the governor, approving a new capital plan, defining Freedom of Information Act issues, strengthening laws dealing with drunken drivers, establishing drug courts, defining how cemeteries are dealt with, modifying payday loan legislation and establishing a transparency and accountability portal making information available online in a clear and searchable way.
They agree the big issues requiring a lot more work are taxes, pensions and Medicaid.
“These issues didn’t arise overnight,” Hatcher said.
“It’s been a tough three years.”
Hatcher said there was a lot of bipartisan work on the budget. Roth agreed it’s a long way from being perfect, adding that she believes a two-year budget cycle is preferable to an annual budget.
“A two-year process provides a little more certainty for businesses, the schools, teachers … a lot of good things could come from two-year budgeting cycles,” Roth said.
She said the state needs to continue to tighten its belt. “I’m not a proponent of tax increases. Before we ask for more money, we need to spend what we have in the right places.”
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