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More Questions Than Answers As Springfield's Legislative Session Winds Down

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 31, 2013 2:45PM

A flurry of activity in both houses of the Illinois Legislature has lawmakers scrambling Friday morning to pass several items of legislation. Paramount among those bills is SB 1, the pension reform bill championed by Illinois House speaker Michael Madigan, which was slapped down like a red-headed stepchild by the Illinois Senate Thursday evening in a stunning rebuke. The Senate voted down the measure 42-16 and Madigan had harsh words for Senate President John Cullerton after the vote.

Madigan said the Senate vote showed “a lack of leadership” on Cullerton’s part. The two have been proposing dueling pension reform plans in recent weeks. Republican State Sen. Kirk Dillard also criticized the vote, saying “We were one hour away from finally putting us on a road to fiscal solvency.”

Conspicuously silent on the subject was Gov. Pat Quinn, who once proclaimed he was “put on this earth” to solve the state’s Gordian knot of a pension mess. Save for a couple updates to his Twitter feed, Quinn has allowed Madigan to run point on rounding up the support to pass SB1.

Top Senate leaders called Madigan's pension reform plan "unfair and illegal." Editorials in today's Tribune and Sun-Times call for the Senate to reconsider their vote and pass Madigan's bill. Both editorials noted that Madigan's bill isn't the perfect solution, but it's expected to save taxpayers $187 billion and to eliminate $96 billion—and growing—in unfunded pension obligations.

Cullerton's argues the Senate pension bill, SB 2404, will save the state more money while not being unconstitutional. The We Are One Coalition backs Cullerton's plan.

Then there's the marriage equality bill that's been stalled in the House ever since the Senate passed it in a historic and symbolic Valentine's Day vote. State representatives are now gathering on the House floor (view the live feed of the House session here), but it's unknown whether they have the votes to pass the bill. Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) has kept his roll call concealed for weeks, but he and Quinn have consistently said they have the votes for passage.

Supporters of the bill, frustrated with the lack of discussion on it and Madigan in general, have begun floating this meme online.

In better news, the two chambers in Springfield appear close to a compromise on a new concealed carry bill. State Sen. Kwame Raoul said the deal "would allow local municipalities to retain gun regulations, something he and other supporters of tighter gun restrictions insisted be included. But he gave ground on the issue of allowing guns in restaurants, even if they serve liquor." The bill will be sponsored by state Sen. Gary Forby (D - Benton). The Genera Assembly has until June 9 to pass a new concealed carry bill.

The state Legislature did manage to pass an economic development bill that will, among other projects, green-light Mayor Rahm Emanuel's ambitious "tourism and trade show" plan that includes an arena for DePaul University. Quinn praised the bill's passage in a statement.

“We are strengthening the partnership between government and the private sector to spotlight what makes Illinois one of the best places to do business, and creating more jobs for the people of Illinois.

“This legislation builds on our ongoing efforts to work with private sector leaders to aggressively market and promote Illinois to businesses around the world.

“I want to thank Senator Andy Manar for his work and all the members of the Illinois General Assembly who voted for this bill.”