Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

March 22, 2013

Ill. legislators face tough votes after break

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers left Springfield Friday for a two-week vacation before a final two-month push at resolving the state's pressing problems, including the nation's worst pension crisis.

After three months of debate, lawmakers finally showed some progress on tackling state employee pensions, but they have yet to move for a proposal allowing gay marriage, a federal judge's order to permit conceal carry of weapons and an oil-drilling practice that could create thousands of jobs.

Also looming: Yet another push for an expansion of casinos and the need to approve a spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn laid out what he called "the most difficult budget Illinois has ever faced."

Legislators will intensify efforts to address all of those issues in the eight weeks before their May 31 adjournment. But a possible fix for the state's $100 billion pension systems deficit will remain center stage.

Some lawmakers believe they've at least gained momentum with their votes on pension reform this week.

"I don't feel like the break will hurt us," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, chairwoman of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee. "We've really done the heavy lifting right now."

Here's where five significant legislative measures stand:

PENSIONS

Discussions on the state's pension mess have dragged more than a year, but lawmakers' faces showed signs of relief Thursday when the House approved a measure aimed at reducing and delaying cost-of-living increases in state employees' retirement pay.

The measure is by no means the comprehensive reform needed to fix the pension problem. But lawmakers could still call the approval victory because the pared-down measure - estimated to save the state $19 billion - had been one of the most contentious points of debate.

The driving forces behind the proposal - Nekritz and Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston - shared a big hug after the breakthrough. But they conceded the measures' fate in the Senate is uncertain.

On Wednesday, the Senate rejected a more comprehensive reform package sponsored by Biss. It included the COLA cuts and two other stripped-down measures that have passed the House.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

A proposal to make Illinois the 10th state to allow same-sex couples to marry received the Senate's approval on Valentine's Day. Only one Republican voted in favor of it.

Now House members are sending mixed signals about it.

The most powerful man in the General Assembly, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, last week said the measure is 12 votes short of approval. But one of the bill's top sponsors, Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, said it's closer than that. In the past, Harris and other supporters have said they would not call the proposal for a vote until they are certain they have the 60 votes needed to pass it.

CASINOS

An Illinois Senate committee approved a measure calling for five new casinos and thousands of slots at racetracks and Chicago's airports.

Quinn has vetoed two similar proposals, but the new measure would allocate the gambling expansion's profits to education, an idea Quinn has suggested he could support.

Legislative supporters say that adding the casinos could create thousands of jobs. But Quinn has vetoed their past attempts on ethical premises, and he says he is still studying the most recent one.

OIL DRILLING

An extraordinary compromise bill that would facilitate and regulate the practice of high-volume oil and gas drilling, known as "fracking," has been negotiated by lawmakers, representatives from the oil and gas industry, environmentalists, agriculture industry officials and Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Experts have said the bill has the strictest regulations in the nation. Lawmakers have touted it as a jobs and revenue generator. The measure is stalled in a House committee while industry and unions work out differences over hiring requirements.

Supporters say they are confident it has the backing to move forward.

GUNS

In December, a federal court struck down Illinois' concealed weapons ban - the last in the nation - and gave lawmakers until June 8 to adopt a law allowing concealed carry.

To find a solution, the House began holding weekly floor sessions last month, allowing lawmakers to propose gun measures. So far, lawmakers have considered more than 15 proposals, both for and against gun restrictions, but they are nowhere close to sending a bill to the Senate.

Gov. Pat Quinn wants Lisa Madigan to appeal the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. She has said she will wait to see what lawmakers decide.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • tony- farmers 5 FOR FRONT Farmers market frenzy underway Partly Cloudy, afternoon showers or thunderstorms83/557A When Clarence Unkraut retired, it was second nature for the lifelong farmer to keep turning up soil. The produce from his garden, from standard potatoes to deep purple cabbage and pearl white p

    July 14, 2014 6 Photos

  • UPDATE: Autopsy reveals Buzzard died from head injury

    An autopsy of a St. Elmo man revealed he died from a head injury as a result of a fall into a parking lot next to Luke's Bar and Grill in Altamont.

    July 13, 2014

  • Ron W.jpg Opinion: 'Signs, signs, everywhere a sign'

    On July 10, 1971, a band from Ontario, Canada, made its debut on Billboard’s Top 40. Its first single would move up the charts to No. 3. The band was called Five Man Electrical Band and the song was “Signs.”

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joshua Robison.jpg Opinion: America is a parade

    This idea marched into my mind about a week ago while sitting along a street in Herrick, Illinois. My family and I, along with a few hundred other people enjoying the pleasant July morning, were lined up to watch the town’s annual Independence Day parade.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • No foul play suspected in Willow Hill death

    No foul play is suspected in the Thursday afternoon death of a 33-year-old Willow Hill man.

    July 11, 2014

  • St. Elmo school board member found dead

    Authorities have not confirmed why a St. Elmo school board member was in the Altamont parking lot where he was found dead Friday morning.

    July 11, 2014

  • Schools receive full grant payments for first time in seven years

    Area school districts, as well as districts across the state, received an expected surprise from the state this year, receiving all four grant payments on time.

    July 10, 2014

  • Impact on women workers in question after Supreme Court ruling

    U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling favoring Hobby Lobby’s right not to provide birth control under the Affordable Care Act may have businesses considering their employee health coverage. However, local religious nonprofits are already exempt from the provision.

    July 10, 2014

  • No Headline Provided SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Here are the winning numbers selected Wednesday in the Illinois State Lottery:My 3-Midday1-6-3My 3-Evening3-3-5Pick Three-Midday6-4-1Fireball: 4Pick Three-Evening3-6-2Fireball: 2Pick Four-Midday4-3-1-7Fireball: 8Pick Four-Evening6-

    July 10, 2014

  • Vandalia man pleads not guilty to drug-induced homicide in Kull death

    Now that probable cause has been found to try a Vandalia man on charges of drug-induced homicide in connection with the January overdose death of an Altamont man, Effingham County prosecutors say more charges may be forthcoming.

    July 9, 2014

AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.