Friday, May 24, 2013

One more week to go, and Legislature likely will use every single second of it

Next Friday will be the political equivalent of Tax Day

We’re one week away from the scheduled end of the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session, and we still have quite a gap on the so-called “major” issues pending before our legislators.

Of course, I fully expect that come a week from today, we won’t be any closer to resolving these issues than we are now. We will see that our state Legislature will begin the morning of May 31 with significant questions to be resolved – and uncertainty over whether any solution can be found.

THOSE ISSUES INCLUDE whether marriage should be a legitimate option for gay people, whether people should be allowed to carry pistols on their persons for defense in public and that ongoing crisis that threatens to destroy government as we know it – a reform of pension programs overseen by the state.

I’ll concede that some action has occurred this week on the firearms issue – the differing sides are coming up with their own bills, with a state Senate committee giving its support to a measure preferred by those people who’d rather have as few pistols amongst the populace as possible.

While the Illinois House of Representatives will consider a bill by state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg – who is trying to appeal to the people who feel threatened to the point where they want to carry a pistol on them “just in case.”

Personally, I don’t know that giving in to that kind of fear is good for society. But this is the question that our Legislature will have to confront; and may well wind up ignoring if they become unable to put aside their inherent distrust of each other to agree on anything.

IT IS TRUTH that this desire to carry pistols in public is felt most strongly in the rural parts of Illinois – the ones whose residents feel that the population of the Chicago area (two thirds of our state’s people) is ramming our viewpoint down their throats.

A part of me has wondered if their vehemence for this issue is a reaction to the fact that they’re turning up in the minority on the gay marriage issue – which made it through most of the legislative process early on, but remains stuck before the full Illinois House. Whether the factions will be able to agree on this issue is as uncertain as whether they can agree on the “concealed carry” issue.

Some legislators are now going about expressing the thought that this issue should be postponed until the fall veto session. Which sounds like their way of derailing the issue – hoping that the summer months will cost the momentum that has built up – without having to actually vote “no” and come across as a bigot.

Then, there’s the pension funding issue. The leadership of both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives have their own proposals, and the state Senate claims their deal is better because the bulk of the labor unions that deal with the state have said they won’t sue Illinois government if it becomes law.

WHEREAS THE ILLINOIS House measure, which makes more in cuts, will definitely bring about legal challenges that will tie the issue up in the courts for years to come.

Then again, this issue is going to find someone to sue regardless of what gets passed. So perhaps the legal threat is an irrelevant issue for legislators to consider (although the newfound love the Chicago Tribune has found for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, because of this issue remains laughable).

Will our legislators finally see the threat of underfunded pension programs as an issue that MUST be dealt with now? Or will this issue, too, get pushed off until future years?

It’s going to make for a chaotic night come May 31 – more intense than what we feel when we wait until April 15 to file our tax returns!


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