Statehouse update: 97th General Assembly ends with lame-duck session, many issues deferred

Pension reform among matters left unresolved

Lori Clark

Lori Clark

In Springfield …

The 97th General Assembly came to a close late in the afternoon Tuesday, Jan. 8, when both the House of Representatives and the Senate adjourned sine die. The members of the 98th General Assembly were inaugurated at noon Wednesday, Jan. 9.

The Senate convened from Jan. 2 through Jan. 4 and the House convened from Jan. 6 to Jan. 8 for lame-duck session.

Only a few substantive issues were addressed.

Management Bill

SB 1556, as amended by the House, was passed Jan. 3 out of the Senate by a vote of 31-20, and it will now be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn.

Referred to as the “management bill,” this legislation removes approximately 1,900 public employee managers from unions and prohibits another 1,600 job titles from joining unions in the future. The positions and titles impacted are management and/or policy-making positions that until the last few years had never been unionized (e.g., legislative liaisons, budget directors, etc.). No one will lose their job as a result of this legislation; employees currently in those positions will just be removed from the collective bargaining unit.

Undocumented Immigrants Driver’s Licenses

SB 957 passed the House Jan. 8, and it will now be sent to the governor. who has indicated that he will sign this bill.

It allows the Secretary of State to issue temporary visitor’s driver’s licenses to applicants who have resided in Illinois for more than a year, are ineligible to obtain a social security number, and who are unable to present documentation issued by the U.S. citizenship and Immigration Services authorizing the person’s presence in this country. Temporary visitor’s driver’s licenses cannot be used as proof of the holder’s identity, and these license holders are subject to other Vehicle Code regulations, including insurance requirements. This bill will take effect 10 months after being signed in to law by the governor.

Gaming Expansion

SB 744, passed by both chambers of the General Assembly in 2011, had a procedural hold placed on it so it was never sent to the governor. Senate President John Cullerton released the hold on this bill Jan. 8, so it will be sent to Quinn

This gaming expansion bill would allow for new casinos in Chicago, South Suburbs, Lake County and downstate, plus it would allow the installation of slot machines at horse racing tracks and possibly at O’Hare and Midway airports in Chicago. Previously, the governor has expressed reservations about this gaming expansion, calling it “top heavy” and “excessive.”

Because the 97th General Assembly has adjourned, Quinn has the option of signing or vetoing this legislation, and there is no way for the General Assembly to override anything he rewrites or vetoes. It is highly likely that the governor will veto this bill, and the issue of gaming expansion will be revived in the 98th General Assembly.

Photo of one hand passing the baton to the nextThere were a number of other important issues that were either deferred to the 98th General Assembly or did not result in legislation moving forward during the lame-duck session.

Pensions

In the late afternoon of Jan. 8, in a last-minute effort to get some type of movement on pension reform, Gov. Quinn testified in support of SB 1673, House Amendment #14.

This bill would have created an eight-member Pension Review Commission with two members each appointed by the four top legislative leaders. Their purpose: to determine what legislative changes would be needed to four of the five state-funded pension systems (judges are left out of this) to ensure that they will reach 100 percent actuarial funding for all liabilities no later than Dec. 31, 2045.

If the General Assembly would not agree with their determination, then it would take an affirmative action by both chambers to override any of the proposed changes. Although the bill did get out of the House Personnel & Pensions Committee by a vote of 7-2, many members questioned the constitutionality and wisdom of this proposal. The bill was not called for a floor vote by the speaker of the house before adjournment.

So what’s next for pensions? The issue of how to stabilize the growing unfunded liability in the five state-funded pension systems will remain the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

It is anticipated that it will require at least an additional $1 billion in pension payments next fiscal year to adhere to the existing pension RAMP schedule. With state revenues not expected to rise significantly, the governor and the General Assembly will need to find this additional money somewhere, and that will most likely be in additional reductions to state programs such as education, student financial aid programs, social service cuts, and other core services.

It is likely that these fiscal pressures, perhaps coupled with an additional downgrade of the state’s bond rating, will force the governor and General Assembly to work together with the various stakeholders to resolve this issue. Whether that happens early in the session or at the end of May is anyone’s guess. There already are a number of pension bills filed in the 98th General Assembly, and we will continue to analyze these bills and keep you updated.

Concealed Carry/Ban on Assault Weapons and Ammunition

There were two bills that would have banned the assault weapons and ammunition in Illinois. Neither bill was called during the lame-duck session.

The issue of concealed carry also was not brought up during session.

In December, 2012, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a split 2-1 decision, struck down Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed weapons stating that this ban violated the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In its opinion, the court gave the General Assembly six months to draft legislation that would allow concealed carry in Illinois.

This week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a petition with the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court to have the entire court review this December ruling. Thus, at this time, Illinois’ concealed carry ban remains in effect, although this will remain an issue with the 98th General Assembly.

The 98th General Assembly will reconvene Tuesday, Feb. 5. NIU will still be represented by Rep. Bob Pritchard, but our new senator will be Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of State and Federal Relations for NIU.

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