House session called to vote on Smith expulsion
The Associated Press July 20, 2012 9:24PM
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn
Updated: August 23, 2012 10:49AM
SPRINGFIELD — When the Illinois House convenes next month to consider expelling a member charged with bribery, legislators should also use the occasion to decide what to do about the state’s troubled pension systems, Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday.
Speaker Michael Madigan notified House members Friday that the chamber will convene Aug. 17. He told them to expect their work to be finished the same day.
Madigan did not spell it out in his memo, but a spokesman for the Chicago Democrat confirmed the purpose of the session will be deciding the fate of Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago). Smith faces federal charges of accepting a bribe in exchange for agreeing to steer a state contract to a day care center. He pleaded not guilty.
A special House committee recommended Thursday that Smith be removed from office, a move that requires a two-thirds vote by the full House. If he is ousted, it would be the first time in a century that a House member was expelled.
Smith would remain on the fall ballot, however, and could end up being re-elected.
Quinn has been hinting that he might call legislators back to Springfield to address pensions, an issue that has been on hold all summer. The governor said the Aug. 17 session offers a good opportunity.
“I think that’s a good time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the pension issue,” he said Friday at a public appearance.
The retirement systems for state employees, university staff and teachers outside Chicago are in woeful financial shape. Their long-term obligations exceed the money available by roughly $85 billion. The cost of trying to keep that hole from growing larger is eating up most of the state’s new revenues, leaving little for other important services.
There seems to be general support in the Legislature for cutting pension costs by reducing cost-of-living increases for retirees. But Democratic leaders also want to make schools gradually take over the cost of providing pensions for teachers.
Republicans have balked at that idea, and there has been no movement on the issue in weeks.
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) doesn’t plan to call the Senate into session when the House meets, spokesman Ronald Holmes said. He suggested the House pass a version of the pension plan that the Senate already has approved.