Monday, January 7, 2013

The nada session?

Unless we get some mystical, magical and excessively speedy political maneuver, the Illinois General Assembly isn’t going to consider the legalization of marriage for gay people any time before the new Legislature takes over on Wednesday.

There’s also no chance that the Legislature will react to the shooting deaths of two dozen people at a Connecticut school by passing a series of strict limits of firearms possession – particularly on automatic weapons.

A PART OF me wants to believe that it is because the concept of pension funding reform is so significant that the General Assembly’s leadership wants to spend these final days of activity focusing on it.

Yet such a thought would be ridiculously naïve. Chicago Cubs fans would have a better grip on reality if they dreamed about a National League pennant in 2013.

This lame duck portion of the legislative session (the final few days in which legislators try to rush through certain bills before newly-elected officials can have their say) is truly going to be what it is meant to be – just a few final days of activity to wrap up old business.

It seems that none of the big social goals that some legislators hoped to get rushed through the process (so as to keep the ideological critics from being able to gear up their opposition) are going to make it.

LEGISLATORS IN THE Illinois House of Representatives’ judiciary committee that was considering assault weapons-related legislation admitted Sunday they can’t get their act together in time to get something sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for final approval before Tuesday night.

Gay marriage is also a long-shot, largely because the state Senate failed to advance the idea.

I suppose there is the chance that the Illinois House on Monday could suddenly create a bill and approve it; thereby allowing the state Senate to come back on Tuesday and give their support to the House measure.

But that seems like a stretch.

SO WE’RE NOT getting either of those ideals enacted into law anytime soon. And I’m also skeptical that anything is going to happen on pension funding reform.

It may be a step forward that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is now saying he’d no longer require suburban and rural Illinois school districts to pick up the costs of pension programs for their retired teachers – just as Chicago already does for retired Chicago Public Schools teachers.

But there’s still way too much confusion amongst the legislators about who will cover what and what kinds of cuts might have to be made to the benefits received by retirees.

Nobody wants to have to tell the people who worked their butts off all those years and who were counting on the pension program to provide them with something of an income in their final years that they have to take a cut.

THE OCCASIONAL STORIES we read about political people who manage to qualify for multiple pensions that add up to a significant income are truly the exception.

I honestly believe the activity that will occur on Monday and Tuesday toward this issue will be more about political people posturing themselves so as to try to shift blame to someone else.

“It’s his fault nothing happened!” is what we’re going to hear a lot of by week’s end.

The sad thing is that this is a problem that has grown so large because it has been postponed for so long.

IT REALLY WASN’T an exaggeration when officials said at the end of the spring 2012 legislative session that action was needed by then to avert financial catastrophe.

The fact that the deadline came and went has made many political people think that all the talk of deadlines is a lot of hot air. When the governor says he wants a solution to the problem approved by Tuesday, nobody takes him seriously.

So too many people seem to think this can be pushed off to the spring of ’13, then perhaps the fall and maybe even into 2014!

Gay marriage. Assault weapons. Pension funding. Add in expanded gambling and a Chicago casino, and these same arguments are going to keep cropping up for some time to come.


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