Illinois fall legislative session: 5 for fighting about in Springfield
BY DAVE MCKINNEY Springfield bureau chief October 18, 2013 9:28PM
Updated: November 21, 2013 6:26AM
SPRINGFIELD — From pensions to guns to same-sex marriage, there are plenty of hot-burner issues confronting state lawmakers when they return to Springfield this week for the start of their fall legislative session.
But the big question is whether any of these lingering issues will really get done when the General Assembly convenes for three days beginning Tuesday and returns Nov. 5, 6 and 7.
Right now, because of supermajority-voting requirements on many issues and a December deadline for candidates to appear on the 2014 primary ballot, the odds seem stacked against dramatic movement on much of the leftovers from the spring. But here are some issues to watch:
A 10-member, bipartisan legislative conference committee appointed in June appears deadlocked despite nearly daily pleas by Gov. Pat Quinn to come up with legislation. Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) has hinted at trying to move a bill independently of the panel, but will he, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Republicans ever be on the same page in solving Illinois’ $100 billion pension crisis? No signs of that yet.
Archer Daniels Midland has asked for a $24 million state tax break to open a 100-employee global headquarters in Chicago. But Quinn hurt the chances of anything passing immediately with his line in the sand that he won’t consider the request until lawmakers send him a pension-reform package. All eyes are on the House, which has scheduled a Tuesday hearing on House Bill 380.
The Senate voted on Valentine’s Day to legalize same-sex marriage, but since then backers in the House haven’t been able to round up the 60 votes needed to pass it on to Quinn, who has pledged to sign it into law. Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief House sponsor, won’t say whether he’ll call the bill during the fall session, but he still appears short of votes. Regardless of the head count, some financial heavyweights behind Senate Bill 10 want an immediate roll call so they know whom to target in elections.
MUSEUM FREE DAYS
The House and Senate voted overwhelmingly in the spring to reduce to 26 from 52 the number of free days that museums and aquariums must offer patrons. But Quinn vetoed the bill, citing the potential ill effects such a move might have on low-income visitors. Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford), the chief sponsor of House Bill 1200, said he expects to try an override of Quinn as early as this week, and enough votes existed last spring to do so. “There seems to be the same support we had when we passed it originally,” he said. The initiative was sought by museums like the Field Museum, which faces a $170 million shortfall that has led the institution to cut its research budget 20 percent for next year, reduce its science staff and merge departments.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing to raise the mandatory minimum prison term for aggravated unlawful use of a gun (illegal gun possession) to three years from one and require offenders to serve 85 percent of a sentence, up from 50 percent. The proposal, Senate Bill 1342, got endorsed Wednesday by the City Council but not before an outcry from black aldermen worried their constituents could be disproportionately affected. The National Rifle Association also has issues with the legislation sponsored by Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside). It needs 60 votes to pass the House. Asked if he has those votes, Zalewski said, “I hesitate to answer that question with anything other than I think so, and I hope so.”