Friday, May 3, 2013

Trading off each other’s problem issues – our state’s General Assembly at work

Watching Illinois’ General Assembly at work this week, it almost seemed like the two chambers merely traded each other a problem issue.

Trading problems under the Capitol dome?
Almost like a late-season trade between slumping baseball clubs who get rid of problem ballplayers in hopes that someone else’s athletic refuse will be less stinky than the ones currently wearing their uniform.

FOR THE RECORD, an Illinois House committee gave its support to a pension reform proposal that has the support of the high-and-mighty Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Yet that measure includes provisions that have failed to make it through the Illinois Senate in the past, and state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, is reluctant to say he could support it now.

Has pension reform merely gone from the House to the Senate so nothing can happen in the end?

Anything is possible, particularly when one takes into account the issue of expanded gambling opportunities in the state. So much for the idea of our state Legislature's Democratic domination creating an atmosphere where ideas just get rammed through the process into law!

A BILL MEANT to approve creation of a new casino in Chicago, along with four more casinos in south suburban Cook County, in Lake County near Waukegan, in Rockford and in Danville, got final approval on Thursday from the Illinois Senate.

Yet now it goes to the Illinois House, where leadership there who constantly tout the concept of more casinos in Illinois (so the state can tax them as yet another source of revenue) say that more changes will be necessary before anything can get final approval.

Of course, the REAL final approval on any new state law is a signature of approval from Gov. Pat Quinn – whose aides told the newspaper reporter-types that this bill is “moving in the right direction” to their ideal, but isn’t quite there yet!

I’m sure there are some people who seriously believe that political progress was made in the past couple of days toward these issues – although I still expect that nothing of significance will happen until May 31 in those final hours before the Legislature adjourns “sine die” for a summer break.

IF EVEN THEN, to be honest.

Because these are the ongoing issues that perpetually crop up on the Legislature’s attention span, but never actually get acted on. Even the pension reform, which has had so many “Must be acted upon Now!” deadlines that I’m sure legislators by now are immune to such rhetoric.

Particularly since there are so many interest groups out there that have threatened to take legal action against Illinois if certain elements of pension reform get passed, that all the actual final vote and gubernatorial signature means is that the lawsuits can now begin!!!

That alone may discourage some legislators from daring to vote “aye.” Why bring on a lawsuit – particularly since some future political opponent can distort it into a charge of “Rep. __________ voted for a measure that cost Illinois countless dollars in legal fees” and “Only the attorneys get rich with Rep. ____________ in office!”

THEN, THERE’S GAMBLING, where I’m amused about the rhetoric that says any money derived from a Chicago casino would have to go toward improving schools.

“It’s all for the children,” they’ll say. Which makes it sound like all the cheap rhetoric we’ve heard for decades about how the Illinois lottery games benefit public education.

It does! But at the expense of other money that might have been put toward public education being shifted toward other government responsibilities. Will we eventually get to the point where all of public education funding will come from gambling activity?

Personally, I could care less if somebody wants to piss away a paycheck at a local casino. But if the only way for “Junior” to gain something at school is for “Daddy” to blow his salary while playing slot machines, then something is serious askew.


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