Tasked Out? UIS Political Scientist Discusses Legislative Panels

About two-dozen special panels have been proposed this session of the Illinois legislature.

Lawmakers say task forces help them learn more on a particular topic.

That may be the case, but as Chris Slaby reports, a political analyst says they also serve other roles. 

A panel that would look into the rising use of heroin at Illinois high schools is one of the latest under consideration.

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said the issue requires careful examination, instead of a “knee-jerk” reaction.

MANAR: “You know, if there was a way to legislate this, I would have offered a bill and legislate it. But I’m no expert on this one, and I think there’s a lot of folks that would have a lot of good ideas for this.”

But a political scientist at the University of Illinois Springfield says task forces aren’t always formed with that goal in mind.

Kent Redfield said while task forces make recommendations, lawmakers have no obligation to follow them.

Redfield said lawmakers also create them to put off making tough decisions, especially if an election is coming up.

REDFIELD:”People use them strategically. We’re not actually doing something, so there’s not a large cost involved.”

Still, Redfield said task forces have a useful role from a policy perspective.

He said they can force lawmakers to acknowledge a problem that hasn’t been discussed.

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