We could find out pretty quickly whether Illinois Republicans believe their path back to relevance lies with Latino voters.
Fresh off winning supermajorities in the House and Senate, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly are planning to introduce legislation that would give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Consider it an early indicator of how the 2014 election might play out.
Under the plan, drivers would get three-year licenses. They would have to take driver’s education classes and have insurance.
Some Republicans are already on board.
“It is a piece of legislation that is morally fair, economically sound and politically smart,” said former Gov. Jim Edgar, who attended a news conference in Chicago last week with the state’s top Democrats to outline the proposal.
Edgar, however, doesn’t have a vote on the matter.
In 2007, a similar proposal in the Illinois House drew many Republican “no” votes.
Among those against the idea were state Reps. Mike Bost of Murphysboro, Bill Mitchell of Forsyth, David Reis of Willow Hill, Chapin Rose of Mahomet and Keith Sommer of Morton.
It wasn’t a slam dunk for all Democrats. Many downstate Dems pushed their red buttons, too.
Among them were state Reps. John Bradley of Marion, Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg and Pat Verschoore of Milan.
The measure ended up passing the House 60-56. It was not taken up in the Senate.
PENSION TALK: Gov. Pat Quinn’s new website dedicated to informing the public about the need for pension reform received harsh criticism in the days after he unveiled it last week.
Of particular scorn was an orange cartoon snake named “Squeezy the Pension Python” used to illustrate how rising pension costs are suffocating other parts of state government.
Members of the state’s largest employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, said it was offensive to have a cartoon be used to illustrate efforts to take benefits away from the elderly.
Among the better lines overhead in the wake of the unveiling was that AFSCME would soon unveil its own mascot: “Flippy the Bird.”
RETIREMENT NEWS: Republican state Sen. John Jones last week refuted rumors that he’s planning a run for mayor of Mount Vernon.
Jones, who did not seek re-election after the Democrat-drawn map put him in the same district as Okawville Republican Dave Luechtefeld, said his wife heard the same gossip and quickly put the kibosh on any such idea.
“She asked me where I would be living if I did that,” he quipped.
BIG-BUCK DONORS: It was curious to see the name of an Illinois State University trustee among the big-dollar donors to Karl Rove’s conservative super PAC.
According to reports, Illinois State Trustee Jay Bergman, who owns Hinsdale-based Petco Petroleum Corp., gave Rove’s American Crossroads PAC $1 million during the most recent election cycle.
Although American Crossroads spent the 2012 election cycle pumping massive amounts of cash into efforts to elect Mitt Romney and other Republicans, Bergman also has contributed money to Democrats.
In 2002, for example, he gave Rod Blagojevich $20,000.
In 2003, the now-imprisoned governor named Bergman to the Illinois State Board of Trustees, sparking a mini-revolt on the campus in Normal because of environmental concerns associated with Bergman’s oil companies.
Bergman then contributed $33,000 more to Blagojevich over the next five years.
He also has continued the tradition by giving Gov. Pat Quinn, also a Democrat, $22,000 since 2010.
Given the success of groups such as American Crossroads on Election Day, you wonder if Bergman would have been better off setting up a scholarship fund for students at the university he serves.
POT LOBBY: Look for headlines later this week about a new push to legalize medical marijuana in Illinois.
Terminally ill patients are expected to renew their lobbying push Tuesday, asking lawmakers to take action on a bill that would make Illinois the 19th state to allow medical cannabis.
RELIGION IN THE CAPITOL: For the fifth year in a row, a Christian activist group will set up a Nativity scene in the Rotunda of the Illinois Statehouse.
No word yet on whether a Festivus Pole will be making its return to the Capitol.