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Illinois Lawmakers Couldn't Meet Often in 2020 Because Of The Pandemic, But That May Change In 2021; 'At Least 22 Other States Have Been Operating Virtually'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- New year. And new laws.

Usually there's a laundry list of changes that take place on January 1. But COVID-19 prevented lawmakers from meeting for most of last year.

CBS 2's Lauren Victory reports on why the Illinois House and Senate might not be able to get anything done in 2021.

A veto session in November got canceled because of COVID concerns. As it stands, Illinois lawmakers can only vote in person and they haven't done that in more than seven months.

Illinois legislators got down to brass tacks back in May after COVID-19 kept them away from the capital for two months.

"And that was good in that it allowed them to conduct some business," said Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation.

No bills voted on in more than half a year during a pandemic that affected every single voter.

"There's talk of borrowing billions of dollars from the federal government," Msall said. "How is that borrowing going to be paid back?"

Msall of the non-partisan government watchdog group, The Civic Federation, explained Illinois lawmakers could conduct their sessions via Zoom, but some might challenge a virtual vote in court.

Passing a law to allow yeas or nays over the internet could get around that, but it presents a problem. They can't approve remote legislating without being there in person.

Illinois Representative Ann Williams (D-11th) plans to push hard for her remote legislating bill, if the General Assembly meets next week as planned.

"We were told to be back in the chamber on Friday the 8th," said Williams.

A similar bill failed in the Illinois House in May.

"I've been talking to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and I think there is an openness to moving forward now," Williams said.

Legislators in Pennsylvania, California and Colorado approved voting from home months ago.

"At least 22 other states have been operating virtually or remotely during the pandemic, more are likely to join," Msall said. "Only Illinois from our standpoint has been resistant."

Representative Williams stressed she prefers meeting in person, but added that this bill is necessary to give her and her colleagues the option to vote from home in the most extreme circumstances, like the pandemic.

The Illinois Senate passed its own version of a remote voting bill in 2020 and has been holding committee meetings virtually.

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