Jack Franks, wary of lame-duck ‘shenanigans,’ not stepping down early from state rep seat

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McHenry County Board Chairman-elect Jack Franks will not be stepping down early from his Illinois House seat, in the event that he has to oppose any effort to raise taxes in the upcoming lame-duck session.

Franks, D-Marengo, will be sworn in next month as the first popularly-elected County Board chairman, but his term as a state lawmaker does not expire until the new General Assembly is sworn in on Jan. 11. He decided to run for board chairman rather than a 10th two-year term representing the 63rd Illinois House District.

Only one session day currently is scheduled in Springfield between Dec. 1 and the end of the current 99th General Assembly.

“But in case there is, I want to be there to protect the taxpayers to make sure we don’t get a lame-duck tax increase,” Franks said.

Legislative leaders have been talking in recent weeks in the hope, which Springfield watchers say is unlikely, of a grand compromise on a budget that would end a budget impasse between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic leaders who control large majorities in the House and Senate. A six-month stopgap budget passed last June expires at the end of the year.

The number of votes needed to pass a budget decreases at the end of the calendar year from a three-fifths supermajority to simple majority. It’s this loophole that state lawmakers exploited in the last days of session in January 2011 to pass the unpopular 67-percent income tax increase on individuals, and 46 percent on businesses.

That four-year increase, which expired for the most part last year, passed with the bare minimum in both houses, and was quickly signed into law by former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, without a single Republican vote. Twelve of the “yes” votes were from lawmakers who were leaving office after the 2012 election – six of them ended up with government jobs, raising allegations of quid pro quo.

It’s these kind of “last-minute shenanigans” that Franks said are compelling him to stick around until his term officially ends. State law allows a person to hold the office of state representative and county board chairman simultaneously.

“I was elected by the citizens to serve as a state representative, and I’m going to finish my term. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a lame-duck session,” Franks said.

Voters in the 63rd District, which covers northern and western McHenry County, elected Republican Steve Reick to succeed Franks. He will be sworn in on Jan. 11 with the rest of the new 100th General Assembly.