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Illinois lawmakers override Pritzker’s ambulance veto, fail to agree on ethics changes

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Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker addresses the media during a press briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield, Ill., Monday, March 16, 2020. The state announced 12 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across Illinois Monday. [Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register] Ted Schurter/AP

Illinois lawmakers override Pritzker’s ambulance veto, fail to agree on ethics changes

September 04, 11:00 AM September 04, 11:00 AM

Lawmakers went around Gov. J.B. Pritzker to enact a law about paying for ambulance services, delivering the first veto override of the governor’s term.

They also failed to agree on changes to an ethics bill the governor made.

All of Pritzker’s bill vetoes from this year and from the previous General Assembly have stuck, except for House Bill 684.

Illinois State Ambulance Association’s Chris Vandenberg said the bill ensures services are paid for, not by funds through managed care organizations, but through fee-for-service.

“We can’t continue to pay the EMTs and the paramedics the wages they need in order to do this,” Vandenberg told WMAY before Tuesday’s legislative session.

Without the bill, Vandenberg said some EMTs might find higher pay at fast food restaurants rather than being a frontline first responder, which he said is a real health crisis.

Pritzker vetoed the bill, saying it would diminish the quality of service.

Before overriding the governor nearly unanimously Tuesday night, state Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, and sponsor of the bill state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, debated.

“The MCOs just were simply not paying their bills,” Gabel said.

“Well, that’s a problem, the monies that we are giving them. That’s the problem,” Flowers said. “That is the problem.”

“That’s why we want to take the money away from them,” Gabel said.

“Let’s take the contracts away, thank you,” said Flowers, who was the only “no” vote on the override.

When lawmakers override a veto, the measure becomes law.

Later in the night, Democrats failed to put enough votes on the board to agree with technical changes to an ethics bill the governor sent.

Pritzker wanted to remove a component of Senate Bill 539 he said would hinder the work of the Executive Inspector General.

The Illinois Senate accepted the changes.

When it was called in the House, where it previously passed with 105 votes, it stalled.

State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, supported the measure in May, but noted Republicans sent the governor a letter asking that he use his ability to change bills by giving more freedom to the Legislative Inspector General.

The current watchdog announced their resignation saying the measure takes two steps back for an office they said is already a “paper tiger.”

Bourne said Republican requests were disregarded.

“Choosing to vote to uphold this weak amendatory veto is doubling down on the fact that the ethics reform that you passed takes away the ability to have a true and independent watchdog over this body,” Bourne said.

Republicans that supported the bill in May turned to opponents.

The bill was pulled for the record. Later in the evening, when the vote was eventually called, there weren’t enough Democrats in the chamber to get the three-fifths majority to concur with the governor’s changes.

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