Greg Harris was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 2006 and is Assistant Majority Leader of the House...
In this edition, our hosts Jon Amarilio and Nykoel Kahn talk with Illinois State Representative Greg Harris about the Illinois budget crisis that spiraled out of control and dominated headlines for Illinoisans throughout much of 2017. Representative Harris, who served on the Illinois Budget Committee, shares his firsthand knowledge of how Illinois (like many other states) reached a point of such financial turmoil, shares his insights on where the state stands financially and how Illinois and states like it can avoid falling into financial distress in the future.
The Illinois Budget Crisis Edition How the @#$^! Did This Happen
Jon Amarilio: Hello everyone, and welcome to CBA’s @theBar, a podcast where young and youngish lawyers discuss legal news, events, topics, stories, and well, whatever else strikes their fancy really. I’m your host, Jon Amarilio of Taft Stettinius & Hollister, and co-hosting the pod today with me is Nykoel Kahn of the Froum Law Group.
Say hello Nick.
Nykoel Kahn: Hello.
Jon Amarilio This is The Illinois Budget Crisis How the expletive Did We Get Here edition.
The question we’ll be answering today, how did Illinois almost become a failed State and will we be back here in this place again sometime soon?
So, Nick, this is an issue that many states and municipalities have grappled with, especially since the financial crisis, and Illinois, I think really presents one of the biggest and most interesting case studies, not only because we’re taping this in Chicago, but also because I think we can say reasonably that Illinois’ situation is comparable to the situation in Washington.
So, we’re going to review some of those issues today and then we’re going to be joined by Illinois representative, Greg Harris, to discuss it in more depth and to get some perspective, and then we’re going to have a little fun and play the stranger and legal fiction game.
Nykoel Kahn: Sound good to me.
Jon Amarilio: All right. So let’s tee it up. The Illinois budget crisis became national news in 2016 when Illinois became the first State in America to operate for more than a year without a budget.
While the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the Republican Governor Bruce Rauner went round and round trying to create a budget that both sides could agree on, the Illinois deficit grew by almost $16 billion, and that’s the deficit not the debt. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Medicaid bills among others went unpaid. Lottery tickets weren’t being sold because the State couldn’t guarantee the payment. S&P and Moody’s threatened to lower State’s bond rating to junk status which really would have devastated our long-term financial status.
Pets heads were falling off, the sky was falling in, how in the world did we get here?
Nykoel Kahn: Well, so the budget crisis actually started decades ago. The underlying problem is really the Illinois pension system and its lack of funding. Illinois has about $250 billion in pension liability, and to give you some idea, the four largest companies in Illinois are Boeing, Caterpillar, United Continental, and Allstate. Our pension liability is more than the value of all four of those companies combined.
Yeah, so — but the real problem is that over the last several decades the General Assembly has made decision after decision that left the pension system underfunded.
Jon Amarilio: Right, and for years the pension system was essentially neglected right? It created a growing liability for the State, but two important things to my mind happened, and the first one in January 2015, that’s when some important tax increases expired under former Governor Quinn.
Illinois, as I understand it, had temporarily increased income taxes from 3.25% to 5% and that expired in January 2015. And then second Bruce Rauner was sworn in as the new Illinois Governor, he defeated Quinn and when the budget came across his desk in 2015, Rauner reviewed it and refused to sign it on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. What was his argument there?
Nykoel Kahn: Well, so the Illinois Constitution says that the Governor and the General Assembly have to work together to create and implement a budget. And specifically, so what the Illinois Constitution says, it has a clause that says, proposed expenditures shall not exceed funds estimated to be available for the fiscal year as shown in the budget.
There’s a similar clause under the Appropriations, and Rauner was saying is that because the budget was — didn’t, the numbers may or may not balance out that the budget was unconstitutional and that he wasn’t going to sign it unless it met those requirements.
Jon Amarilio: Okay, and so he may have a constitutional point there, a legal point even though we were passing unbalanced budgets for a number of years, you can’t exactly waive a constitutional requirement, right? But there were also some policy reasons for him doing that, we try not to take sides here, but I think it was fairly clear, the Governor was fairly open that he was tying the passing of a budget to some other policy issues that he wanted to, to take care of, Workers’ Compensation reform comes to mind.
What was his argument there?
Nykoel Kahn: Well, so the Governor ran on — one of his major points in his campaign was that he would not implement new tax increases and so when that 2015 tax increase expired, he made a huge point that that was not going to be in the new budget, that as long as those tax increases were in the budget, he wasn’t going to sign it.
Jon Amarilio: Okay, and that obviously makes it difficult to pay any bills if he’s not going to do that.
Nykoel Kahn: Exactly.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, okay, so this essentially just became a gigantic game of chicken, with both sides saying who is going to swerve first, and there was a lot of pain in the State, universities were going unfunded. As we mentioned, Medicaid payments weren’t being made, dentist bills weren’t being paid. I saw an article about that this morning actually I think it was The Washington Post. So, we went several years without a budget, right?
Nykoel Kahn: Right, 2016 passed and 2017, the initial budget deadline passed without a new budget implemented.
Jon Amarilio: And there were, as I recall, a number of lawsuits that were being filed against the State and the Comptroller to try to force funding in the federal courts on things, and I think some of those are still going on, but eventually budget did get passed, correct?
Nykoel Kahn: Right, the General Assembly passed a budget through the legislative override process.
Jon Amarilio: Meaning?
Nykoel Kahn: And so what essentially that — what essentially happened is they passed a budget in the house and the Senate, sent it to the Governor who refused to sign it and then it went back, and they were able to get enough votes by having ten Republican House members and our General Assembly members sign on to overriding the veto, that allowed this budget to pass without the Governor.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, we know how much the Republican Party likes the factors on those kinds of votes, right? So, I imagine those guys are running into some trouble now.
All right, so that’s a situation, a nutshell depressing as it may be, and that’s probably a good time to take our first break and when we come back, we’ll be joined by representative, Harris.
Advertiser: This episode of @theBar is brought to you by National Title Center, Inc. National Title Center has a great attorney agent program. As a National Title Center, Inc. agent, say that five times fast, you’ll enjoy a wide range of fantastic benefits, including access to their vast resources and services with zero fees and no minimum order requirements. Interested? Go to their website at HYPERLINK “http://www.ntic.us” www.ntic.us and learn more about what they have to offer.
Nykoel Kahn: Welcome back. We are pleased to welcome representative Greg Harris to give us a little bit more insight into how the Illinois budget crisis and how this happened, how we can fix it, and whether it’s going to happen again?
Representative Greg Harris has served in the Illinois General Assembly since 2006 as a representative for the Illinois 13th District, includes an area on the north side of Chicago. He is a member of the House Leadership and serves as Chairman of the House Majority Conference.
He’s also a Chairman of the Appropriations-Human Services Committee, so we might have to grill him on Medicaid, and he serves on the Executive Insurance and Aging Committees. He is a member of the Joint Committee on Administrative Roles, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council and the Joint Legislative Health Insurance Exchange Committee.
Welcome representative Harris.
Greg Harris: Thanks for having me.
Jon Amarilio: It sounds like you are a busy guy.
Greg Harris: More than I want to be sometimes.
Jon Amarilio: So, as one of the first openly gay representatives in Illinois and the first openly gay representative to be elected to Illinois legislative leadership, I don’t think anyone would disagree if we called you a trailblazer. Tell us about your path to becoming an elected official, what made you want to get involved?
Greg Harris: Well, I think I like a lot of people saw within our own communities, some real challenges and trials happen that just called us to action. For me, as a gay man in Chicago, when the AIDS epidemic swept the city and there was no responses from government or corporations, there was no medical treatment.
A lot of us who had never been involved politically before, so this is our friends’ lives who are at stake and we got to get involved and try to make a difference. You see this whether it’s an issue like this, whether it’s the issue of organizing to prevent violence in our streets, saving a local hospital, improving education.
I think a lot of us who are elected first got in because there was something we had a passion for and wanted to be able to fight to make it into reality.
Jon Amarilio: And how’s your experience been?
Greg Harris: It’s been pretty good, passed gay marriage, passed some laws —
Jon Amarilio: You were the bill sponsor.
Greg Harris: I was the sponsor of gay marriage bill, the last State who was able to pass it. There were only six states ever passed this legislatively.
Jon Amarilio: Really? Before Obergefell?
Greg Harris: Well, other states have tried, they just could not do it. It was very difficult political vote. You remember that was just two or three years ago and now you look back and gay marriage seems sort of quaint like, oh, when didn’t we have that.
And it’s like, well, three years ago and when we had the vote in the General Assembly people were saying the sky would be falling, there’d be plagues across the land when the gays got married, oh my god, it’s going to be horrible. Here we are, a couple years later, and haven’t seen one plague of frogs yet.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, at least not because of that, anyway, right, we’ll see what — I see what our EPA Secretary has in store for us over the next few years.
Greg Harris: Yeah, I think the EPA Secretary probably would be okay with frogs.
Jon Amarilio: So, tell us a little bit about your role in the Legislature now, and Nick just went through that long list but what do you enjoy most about it?
Greg Harris: Well, this year the thing I like most is, I’m also the chief budget negotiator for the House Democrats and we were finally able to bring some sanity back to the fiscal operations of this State in a bipartisan way where Democrats and Republicans just looked at the mess that Governor Rauner has dragged us into over the last couple of years and said, we’ve got to put party aside and politics aside and do the right thing to stabilize our finances, make sure our schools open, make sure our hospitals don’t shut down, make sure Public Safety is upheld, there’s mental health treatment and addiction treatment available. All the things government supposed to do but could not do because we had no appropriation authority and we did that, and yeah, I just want to point out.
Illinois was founded in 1818 so next year Illinois will be 200-years-old and for 198 of those 200 years Illinois has passed budgets through Republican General Assemblies, Democrat General Assemblies, Republican Governors, Democrat Governors. I think there was even a wig back in the old days. Everyone always was able to get together and work it out and compromise. So, you said, well, Illinois is gone for two years without budget — for the first time in two centuries of history. We went the last two years without budget. There’s just one thing that changed and that is, you now have Bruce Rauner who ran on the fact that he could run the State without income tax revenue and demanded that the income tax increase sunset and he was just going to fix this stuff.
Well, he came in and he just broke it more. I mean, our debt as you mentioned in the setup piece has gone from $4 billion before he took office to $15 billion. Now we’re spending far more until we pass this budget than we could afford and it’s been tough. They are making some cuts, but cuts and new revenue are what we have to do to fix this situation.
Jon Amarilio: So, the State is up and running again but I think it would be fair and nonpartisan to say that the budget isn’t exactly balanced, right?
Greg Harris: Oh, show me where it’s out of balance? We have a $355 million surplus after paying all of our expenses, increasing education funding by $350 million, allocating enough money for fully implementing child care and senior services. All of this is taken care of in the budget. Now we did cut $3 billion. We had to make some very painful cuts. We cut $3 billion out of last year’s spending levels. We provided for $8 billion in funding to begin to pay down the backlog of old bills. We passed a billion in pension savings through different pension reforms that were actually suggested by the Governor.
Jon Amarilio: Those are only perspective, that doesn’t pay off the backlog of pension — unfunded pension liability.
Greg Harris: Well, the pension liability as Nykoel said built up over a number of years and it dates back really about 30-35 years and it began with Governor Thompson, another Republican Governor and continued through Republican Governors and Democratic Governors and Legislators where as the State — as the cost of buying things escalated and people wanted more and better funding for their schools, for senior programs, for autism; well, you can’t keep spending more without bringing a new revenue and what both Democrats and Republicans said since the ’70s is, gosh, we don’t want to vote to raise taxes. People will hate us if we do that, so where can we find billions of dollars a year and they all agreed as Nykoel said to take what they called Pension Holidays.
So, instead of making the pension payment they just took that $6 or $7 billion and spent it on these new items, and you can only do that for so long, and we’ve got to stop doing that, and that’s why in this budget and hopefully every budget we have gone forward, we’re going to fully pay our pension obligation and begin to pay down that unfunded liability.
Nykoel Kahn: The plan is to a certain extent to transition on new like employees that would be entitled to a pension into the new like transition half pension half 401(k) style plan as well, am I right?
Greg Harris: Yeah. There would be a Tier Three created under the budget that passed. We had two tiers already trying to decrease the liability particularly going forward. The existing liability is for employees who have been on the payroll and retired.
Jon Amarilio: Okay. You can’t do anything about that.
Greg Harris: Yeah, you can’t retroactively take away benefits that people have been promised under our Constitution. We are trying to find ways to manage stuff going forward, but more importantly this State as the employer has got to pay its share. That was the biggest problem Nykoel got it right in her intro that when we didn’t pay our share, when we didn’t put billions of dollars a year in/end 15:57, not only did we not have enough assets when the stock market crash came in the Great Recession, it wiped out a lot of the asset value you had, and then we had a double whammy of having to make up for what we lost plus paying what we actually owed.
Jon Amarilio: So what — I mean, you were finally able to do something about that this year, congratulations and thank you. What guarantees do we have we being the people of Illinois have that, those kind of pension holidays won’t be taken in the future.
It seems to me that most of the incentives in politics are in the short term.
Greg Harris: And we have to look long term, and this is why, again, I congratulate my colleagues who stepped up to vote on this and I think the Governor shown on this and now he is showing again on the issue of education funding that there’s always — oh, and one more thing and that’s not how you negotiate with somebody.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah.
Greg Harris: Eventually you’ve got to come in and say here’s what we want, here’s what you need, we’re going to find a way to reach happy medium, that’s what we did on the budget, that’s what we are trying to do on school funding and we should do the same on pensions.
Jon Amarilio: So just for those of our listeners who may not be keep their finger on the pulse of Illinois politics, you mentioned the problems with education funding, can you explain that a little bit?
Greg Harris: Education funding, a large part comes from the State of Illinois, through our public schools and it has been probably 20 years since the funding formula has been changed.
So the way money is parceled out to each individual School District and there are over 500 school districts in the State, are based on factors like attendance, the property wealth of the district itself, the amount of poverty that existed in schools, how many kids live in poverty, how many maybe English language learners, how many may have developmental disabilities or special education needs.
So, there are all these factors, and as the demographics of the State have changed and population have changed, we’re still relying on data from decades ago to apportion out how much each school district gets.
So, there are currently two proposals on the table. One which the Democrats passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis and has not yet had action in the House support, would have a hold harmless so that no School District would get cut from where they are now, but we put $350 million more toward education in the budget we just passed to begin to focus on sending money to schools where the need is the greatest.
Now if it’s a wealthy School District, if they are already spending more than the State per pupil average, it doesn’t make sense for the State to just send them more money, we should channel that to the schools that have the greatest need.
The Governor has his own proposal that creates, distributes money in a different way, and essentially it takes money away from the Chicago Public Schools and distributed it to other districts in the State, which is just wrong. You don’t penalize the largest School District in the State just for political reasons and then we need to treat each of our students in each of our school district equally.
Jon Amarilio: And that’s the problem that we see happening across the country, essentially money leaving wealthier urban areas but which may have poorer educational systems going toward rural areas, which may actually have stronger rural and suburban areas which may actually have stronger educational systems.
Greg Harris: Well, and this is where the evidence-based model, which is the new model that — it’s been worked on for two years under a task force led by the Governor’s Education Secretary Dr. Beth Purvis.
So, they presented this model which had as the Governor said a 90% of what he wanted in it before he said he wouldn’t vote for it and proposed his own bill, so it’s hard to negotiate with a moving target. When a guy gets 90% in a negotiation and then says, okay, I’m walking away because I didn’t get the other 10%, it’s sort of a head scratcher. You figure, well, how do you ever come to a conclusion on this stuff?
Nykoel Kahn: I think that that’s actually I remember reading in the media that even Governor Rauner’s wife, who is involved with the Ounce was on the education aspect that she had some pretty negative things to say about her husband’s stance on the budget crisis because of the way that it was affecting schools.
Greg Harris: Well, everyone had something negative to say, but I mean, it’s just an amazing process. You have all the education advocates from the different interest groups in the State, you had every school superintendent involved in these massive negotiations for two years where they hammered out every detail, came to a consensus product they could support, the education community behind it, the school districts behind it, the Republicans and the Democrats participating in drafting it. And then just as they finish and everyone says we’ve got a good product, the Governor picks up his ball and goes home.
Nykoel Kahn: Well, so I have a question. I actually just earlier today I read something that was a quote from speaker Madigan saying how his — he didn’t think that no matter what the — without the override system that Governor Rauner was ever going to agree that something with the Legislature had come to.
How do we prevent this same thing from happening next time the budget comes around if Rauner is going to take the stance of no matter what the Legislature comes up with, he’s not going to agree to it, what do we do?
Greg Harris: If you look at what’s going on nationally right now, we have a president who is out there — we can’t even call a terrorist, the terrorist, he is —
Jon Amarilio: But he has so many legislative accomplishments. He reminds us of that constantly. I think he is the best President since Lincoln, right?
Greg Harris: Well, and this is where our Governor is too. Yeah, he is also the best Governor since Lincoln. He may not know Lincoln wasn’t the Governor, but he is the best Governor since then. He’s probably been to Lincoln’s house which is down the street from one of his that we gave him.
You sort of wonder what the ultimate goal is if somebody want to become the Chief Executive Officer of a government and then obstruct or dismantle every function of government that we traditionally come to know and expect in this country, that we count on our schools opening, that we count on hospitals being in our neighborhoods and emergency rooms being open and that we count on if people are elderly or disabled that there is assistance for them.
It’s just been taken for granted and now you’ve got people who figure what starved this system. If it disappears, if it falls apart, that’s less to pay for. And that’s just — as somebody was brought up in my family and in our community, in our church, everyone said you help the other guy. Those who are fortunate enough to be doing well in life should pay their fair share to help those who are struggling. And —
Jon Amarilio: You’re not going to raise my taxes again, are you?
Greg Harris: We have raised our taxes this year, we have raised them to the level the Governor said he wanted and we matched the tax increase that was in the Republican budget, 4.95%, it was exactly that which the Governor wanted. We spent less than he wanted in his introduced budget, and he still vetoed it.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah.
Greg Harris: And with this phony line that it’s out of balance.
Jon Amarilio: That was a beautifully measured response by the way. I don’t think you’ve practiced that at all before.
Greg Harris: Well, we’re doing a podcast so my natural instincts would probably not sound as good. It is my —
Jon Amarilio: No, I mean, you’re right, you’re right.
Nykoel Kahn: With the new budget, with the path that we’re moving forward, I mean we talked about — a little bit about the debt that we built up, not having an appropriations ability for two years, what do we do to be able to move forward on that, like how do we break?
Greg Harris: So, we have provided for $8 billion of debt repayment in the budget that we passed. Several billion has already gone out the door, over half a billion dollars was sent out about a month ago to our universities who have not gotten a payment in two years because the Governor refused to appropriate money for them.
So, $500 million has gone out to them, about three-quarters of a billion dollars went out a couple weeks ago to our Medicaid providers. There is authority for $300 million of fund sweeps and $1.2 billion of Interfund Borrowing that Comptroller Mendoza is going through right now to pay down that amount of backlog of bills.
But the biggest chunk, which would be basically borrowing through issuing bonds of six billion is stalled because the Governor refuses to sign the authorization that would allow the bonds to be sold to pay down the backlog of bills.
Now, while this goes on while he refuses to do this, we’re paying $800 million a year as taxpayers in interest to whoever holds this debt right now. We’re paying $800 million a year that could be going to public safety or violence prevention or schools or autism or you name it.
I mean we might as well every year have a ceremony on the Capitol lawn, where we take three quarters of a billion dollars in a dump truck, pour it on the front lawn, douse it with gasoline and set it on fire, well everyone cheers.
Nykoel Kahn: I mean that’s how government works in Springfield, right?
Greg Harris: Well, this is — but it doesn’t have to be this way, if the Governor would just sign the bill that would allow us to borrow the money instead of it, 12% which we’re paying now but at 4% which is the offer, we’ve made, we would cut that $800 million down to about $200 million.
Jon Amarilio: Do you think we’d be able to sell it at that rate? I know I’ve read some articles that were skeptical about market interest at the 4% rate.
Greg Harris: Well, again, the markets go up and down every day, the advisors we’ve talked to at the time they did the calculation, set for 4.25% was something that they thought could be reasonable. When we get around to selling it, if there have been other adverse reactions out of the Governor’s office, maybe the rate will be higher, maybe people will want a premium, I just don’t know.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, but it’s better on 12?
Greg Harris: Yeah, if you have to go to 4.75 a year, it is way better than paying 12% a year and just burning it up on the front lawn.
Nykoel Kahn: So, if our listeners want to get more involved with this issue or anything else they care about, what can they do, who do they contact?
Greg Harris: I think they should contact their own State rep and Senator, I mean, this is where the action is in the General Assembly either passing a budget not passing a budget, how we deal with the pension issues and how we fund education. So, you can go on to HYPERLINK “http://www.illinois.gov” illinois.gov, look for the State Board of Elections. If you don’t know who your elected officials are, you can put your address in, it will tell you who’s your Congressman, your Senator, your State rep, your State Senator, and people often say, oh, why should I write or call you, you probably get so many calls.
Jon Amarilio: It probably matters, doesn’t it?
Greg Harris: You’d be surprised sometimes on what I would think of 27:42 as important issues you — if we get 10 or 12 actual phone calls or handwritten letters, it’s pretty amazing.
Jon Amarilio: 27:49That few.
Greg Harris: That few can make a huge difference. People right now tend to go to like HYPERLINK “http://www.change.org” change.org petitions or whatever and that’s an expression of feeling, but the number of people who will stop you in the store, who will write you a letter, who’ll call you and say, look, I think you should vote ‘yes’ on this because here’s how it affects my family, that makes a world of difference, other than just an automated email.
Nykoel Kahn: What about social media? Is social media a good or a bad way to get in touch with someone like you or other representatives?
Greg Harris: I think a lot of us treating, for me it’s really good, I follow my social media. But please be light on the obscenities and threats, I mean, I don’t think that help.
Jon Amarilio: And you’re very obscenity friendly here, though so.
Greg Harris: I think unfortunately people are getting more obscenity and threat-friendly especially on social media, where they can try to be anonymous and not say it to your face then they should be. And that’s why politics has gotten so cheap. I mean, you can say, look, I think you’re totally wrong on where you stand on taxes because X, Y & Z, that’s fine or vote ‘no’ on SB-1, that’s fine.
But the threats, the bad words which then just — you get the trolls who come in and it just escalates from there, it doesn’t help.
Nykoel Kahn: So, next time I have issues with your education policy, I shouldn’t just troll your Twitter page.
Greg Harris: You may troll it but with just fewer obscenities, please.
Nykoel Kahn: All right.
Jon Amarilio: So, what’s your cell phone number so our callers can dial you and give it to you what they really think?
Greg Harris: 1-800.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah. All right, that’s probably a good place to wrap up substantively today but before we go, representative, we’re going to play a game that we like to call Stranger than Legal Fiction.
Advertiser: This episode of @theBar is brought to you by National Title Center, Inc. National Title Center has a great attorney agent program. As a National Title Center, Inc., agent, say that five times fast, you’ll enjoy a wide range of fantastic benefits, including access to their vast resources and services with zero fees and no minimum order requirements. Interested? Go to their website at HYPERLINK “http://www.ntic.us” www.ntic.us and learn more about what they have to offer.
Jon Amarilio: So, just so you know how it goes, each of us has done a little bit of poking around the Internet and found some of the strangest laws that we could find in this fair country of ours. I’m going to summarize one of those laws, I made another one up completely, and then you and Nyk will guess which one is strange legal fact and which one is fiction, and then Nyk is going to do the same thing.
And if you bet, just 500, just 500, just get one of them right, you can get this nifty little 30:37 YLS Pen that I’ve been writing with today as a go home prize.
Greg Harris: That’s very cool. I could also get legislative ideas for next session.
Jon Amarilio: There you go. There you go. All right, so, Nyk, do you want to lead us off?
Nykoel Kahn: Sure, so we have two laws and which one is real? Number one, in Wyoming, it is illegal to take a picture of a rabbit between January and April unless you have a permit? Or in Louisiana —
Jon Amarilio: All right, just to take a picture?
Nykoel Kahn: Just to take a picture.
Jon Amarilio: Any kind of picture?
Nykoel Kahn: Any kind of picture, you have to have a permit to take pictures of rabbits between January and April in Wyoming. Or in Louisiana, if you go to University, you cannot have a sorority house because anymore than six unrelated women living in the same house is considered a brothel.
Jon Amarilio: What do you think, sir?
Greg Harris: See, I go with the rabbit because in Illinois, we have a law that you can collect roadkill and take it home to eat but only if the thing you’ve run over is actually in season at the time you run over it, and you’re in the possession of a firearm identification card at the time.
Jon Amarilio: So wait, wait, wait.
Nykoel Kahn: So you’re telling me that.
Jon Amarilio: Wait, wait. There’s so many questions. Okay, so you need a FOID card to run something over?
Greg Harris: Only if you intend to scrape it up and take it with you.
Jon Amarilio: Oh, so if you do it intentionally.
Greg Harris: Or accidently, but no eating it unless you have a FOID card and whatever that thing is, was in season.
Jon Amarilio: Okay, second question, how would anyone find out if you ate it?
Greg Harris: I’m not on the enforcement side, I’m on the legislative side, I just remember that law.
Jon Amarilio: Fair enough. Fair enough, okay. So you’re going with number one.
Greg Harris: I’m going with the rabbit.
Jon Amarilio: All right, I’ll go with number two, just because I feel like I’ve heard laws like that exist on the books elsewhere. Nyk?
Nykoel Kahn: All right, so the fake law is actually number two.
Jon Amarilio: Oh come on.
Nykoel Kahn: While Tulane University and Loyola University in New Orleans, actually neither University has sorority houses, and that’s what they tell the students or that’s the rumor on-campus as to why they don’t have sorority houses.
But, in 1998, a group of eight students at Tulane University searched the city and state laws and they could not find anything. They finally concluded that it was a myth.
Jon Amarilio: Wow. So, did they start a sorority after that?
Nykoel Kahn: They have sororities, they just don’t have houses.
Jon Amarilio: Oh well, did they move into a house together?
Nykoel Kahn: I don’t know. Seems a good question, we should — maybe for the next episode I’ll look that up if that’s a —
Jon Amarilio: All right, I think we should, we don’t want to leave anything undone here.
All right, round two. One, it is illegal in Collinsville, Illinois to wear saggy pants and they defined saggy as three or more inches below the hip and causing exposure to one’s undergarments. If you’re wearing saggy pants, it’s punishable by up to a $100 fine, that’s option number one.
Option number two, in Crockett County, Texas, you are within your rights to shoot anyone that you catch slant drilling for oil on your property in violation of your mineral rights. This would be an extension of the infamous Castle Laws that have been much in the news lately.
So, representative, your guess, what do you think?
Greg Harris: The sagging pants law is the real law.
Jon Amarilio: Oh, you seem very, very certain about that. Nyk?
Nykoel Kahn: I will go with the mineral rights. People in Texas are really –
Jon Amarilio: They like shooting things.
Nykoel Kahn: Yeah and they’re really big on like protecting their homelands.
Jon Amarilio: They are very big on that. Actually, unsurprisingly, the representative knows the laws in his own State, the saggy pants law is the real one. It is almost certainly unconstitutional, but it’s still on the books. So, representative, here’s your pen, sir, congratulations. Use it with pride.
Greg Harris: It’s majestic.
Jon Amarilio: All right, and that’s a good place to end the episode today. I want to thank our guest representative, Greg Harris, for joining us today. It was a lot of fun, I hope you’ll consider coming on the pod again sometime. I also want to thank everyone who makes this machine run, including my co-host, Nykoel Kahn, and our exec Jen Byrne, and of course our sound crew, Steve Weirich and Ricardo Islas.
Remember, you can follow us and send us comments, questions, episode ideas or just troll us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, like our representative, Harris said @CBAattheBar.
Please also rate us and leave us your feedback on iTunes or wherever you download your podcast. It helps us get the word out.
Until next time from all of us here at the CBA this is Jon Amarilio and we’ll see you soon @theBar.
Young and young-ish lawyers have interesting and unscripted conversations with their guests about legal news, events, topics, stories and whatever else strikes our fancy.
Guests Amy Thompson and Max Kapustin discuss the severity and root causes of Chicago’s gun violence problem, whether recent discourse in the national media...
Miles Beermann and Kimberly Cook talk about the state of marriage and divorce in the U.S., and their experiences on the front lines representing...
Attorney Brian Cuban, discusses his latest book, The Addicted Lawyer, Tales of The Bar, Booze, Blow, & Redemption, which details his struggles with substance...
Illinois State Representative Greg Harris talks about the Illinois budget crisis that spiraled out of control and dominated headlines for Illinoisans throughout much of...
In this edition, hosts Jon Amarilio and Carl Newman interview Retired Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals –...
Welcome to The Chicago Bar Association’s @theBar, a podcast where young and young-ish lawyers have interesting and unscripted conversations with their guests about legal...