Lame-duck session shortened making pension reform deal less likely
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK Sun-Times Media December 26, 2012 5:28PM
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton
Updated: January 28, 2013 4:00PM
The legislative lame-duck session might just have gotten lamer.
Leaders in the Illinois General Assembly have cut back the time they’ll work in Springfield starting next week, leaving them fewer days to take up pension reform and a gay marriage bill.
A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton confirmed he sent out a memo on Christmas Eve canceling scheduled sessions on Jan. 5, 6 and 7, but retaining Jan. 2, 3 and 4.
“It’s a more efficient approach that will allow us to shape the schedule based on actionable legislation,” Rikeesha Phelon said in an email.
The House will be in session Jan. 6, 7 and 8, she said. The Senate could return on Jan. 8 “to respond to substantive House action.”
A measure legalizing gay marriage might have enough votes to pass, she said, adding, “action will depend on the readiness of the House and Senate sponsors.”
But the leaders haven’t united around any one of thepension reform proposals, Phelon said. “So there is still work to do before votes are scheduled — that is unless the House decided to take up the pension reform already passed by the Senate.
State Reps. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, and Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook floated a bi-partisan pension reform plan that would reduce cost-of-living increases, raise the retirement age and gradually transfer the state’s education-related pension costs to downstate and suburban school districts.
Biss said the schedule change shouldn’t kill pension reform.
“I wouldn’t read too much into it,” Biss said. “If we have enough votes to pass the bill, we’ll take the vote.
“I don’t think the calendar is really a huge factor here.”
Gov. Pat Quinn has been demanding action on pension reform during the lame duck session that was supposed to span Jan. 2 to 9, arguing that the cost of keeping up with pension obligations is strangling virtually everything else in state government.
Quinn’s assistant budget director said Wednesday he’s still hopeful.
“We’re still actively talking to all sides to try to put together the pension reform package, and those talks will be going on right up until the session begins,” Abdon Pallasch said. “The ingredients are all there on the table for a pension reform package.”