Editorial: Bad session for statesmen in Springfield
Editorials May 31, 2013 9:52PM
In this Tuesday, May 21, 2013 photo Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, speaks to lawmakers while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Illinois lawmakers scramble to finish up business in their spring session with votes to legalize gay marriage and regulate hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas predicted, but uncertain. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman) ORG XMIT: ILSP108
Updated: July 3, 2013 6:54AM
What a bunch of losers.
And we, the people of Illinois, will pay the price.
Our flailing statesmen in Springfield struck out again Friday, but not before whipping a wicked foul ball into the stands.
The Illinois General Assembly failed to pass a desperately needed bill to rein in public employee pension costs. So what if the state goes bust?
The Legislature failed, once again, to cut a deal to bring a casino to Chicago. So what if Chicago goes bust?
The House did not approve a bill — its chief sponsor didn’t even dare call it for a vote — to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois. So what if good and decent people continue to be treated like second-class human beings because of their sexual orientation?
And here’s the foul ball: The Legislature approved and sent to Gov. Pat Quinn a bill that would legalize the concealed carry of guns in Illinois in an alarmingly free and dangerous manner. This ugly piece of work even preempts the right of home-rule governments, such as Chicago, to enact future laws on assault weapons — you know, those Chuck Norris fantasy guns perfectly designed for mass slaughter.
As we wrote in an editorial Saturday, we hope the governor won’t even think of signing the bill, though it passed both houses of the Legislature with veto-proof majorities.
The Legislature’s most pathetic failure was in not passing a pension reform package. A bill carefully crafted by Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), and backed by House Speaker Mike Madigan, by some estimates would have saved the state $187 billion over the next 30 years, effectively ending the pension funding crisis.
Senate President John Cullerton, who opposed the pension package, vowed later Friday that he remained “committed to staying at the table” until a deal is reached. Which is nice. And, to be fair, we’re sure Cullerton means it when he says that only his own much more modest pension reform bill, which would have done far too little to fix the problem, would have passed constitutional muster.
But the time for Cullerton to stay at the table, hashing out a pension deal with Madigan while watching the speaker slice up his daily lunch — a single apple — was last week.
Madigan offered his own empty words of consolation before adjourning the House: “I don’t think you should take our lack of success today as a reason to give up.”
So now we can all feel better.
As for the matter of a Chicago casino, Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), chief sponsor of the House bill, decided not to call it for a vote, saying afterward that 13 different points of dispute still had to be worked out.
This is absurd. The Legislature passed gambling bills in two previous sessions. Those bills were vetoed by Quinn, who rightly demanded stronger anti-corruption safeguards. Months of negotiations followed, and it appeared as late as Thursday night that a deal had been reached that Quinn could bless.
Then it all fell apart.
Way back in 1992, we wrote an editorial with this headline: “Don’t act on casinos in haste.”
Twenty-one years of talk is not haste.
But the Legislature’s most heart-breaking failure Friday was in not legalizing gay marriage.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia already have done so, and we felt sure that Illinois would be the 13th state. A gay marriage bill passed in the Senate on Valentine’s Day, and the word around Springfield late Friday was that it now would be passed in the House.
We even whipped up some stirring words in advance, ready to post online as soon as history was made, about how we were “proud to live in Illinois,” where the state Legislature voted to “stand on the right side of fairness, morality and history.”
Boy, do we feel like chumps now.
Friday in Springfield, come to think of it, was a day for chumps all around.