GateHouse News Service
Gov. PAT QUINN wanted pension reform done in the lame-duck session. Didn't happen.
He wanted a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons passed. Didn't happen.
He wanted a same-sex marriage bill passed. Didn't happen.
Hope as a kid he had better luck getting Santa Claus to listen to his wants list.
The Illinois Constitution stipulates that when a new session of the General Assembly begins, the governor presides over the Senate until senators are sworn in and select a Senate president. Gov. PAT QUINN fulfilled that role last week.
Senators got sworn in anyway.
Reps. ELAINE NEKRITZ, D-Northbrook, and DANIEL BISS, D-Evanston, had a pension reform bill they hoped would pass. It was comprehensive and combined concepts from a variety of other pension reform proposals. It also saved some real money, which is the whole idea of doing pension reform.
Alas, that bill like so many others didn't have enough support to pass the House. Asked if there were one or two main objections raised by lawmakers, Nekritz said she wished it were only one or two things. She then ticked off a list of reasons fellow House members gave for not supporting it.
Some Chicago lawmakers were upset that downstate teacher pension costs weren't being shifted to local districts since Chicago pays its own teacher pension costs. Some thought the benefit changes were too harsh. Some didn't like the fact judges were excluded. Some questioned why they should stick their necks out on the bill when there was no guarantee the Senate would consider it.
And then Nekritz added that there are "a lot of people for whom the depth of the problem hasn't quite sunk in."
Think about that. Nekritz wasn't talking to people at a town hall meeting who may or may not follow state government news closely. She was talking of other House members, people who are paid a nice salary for dealing with the myriad issues facing the state. There seriously are lawmakers who at this stage of the game still haven't grasped the magnitude of the state's pension funding problems? We're all in a load of trouble.
So what's going to move things along?
Maybe if Illinois actually gets its credit rating reduced again, lawmakers might be motivated to do something. Obviously, the mere threat of that happening hasn't been enough to stir them.
The other is lawmakers finally realizing the real-world effects of Squeezy the Pension Python. The cartoon snake is silly, but it does illustrate a very real point. When more and more money goes toward pension obligations, less and less is available for programs lawmakers like to crow about, like education funding and taking care of the needy.
Page 2 of 2 - Lawmakers complained about some of those cuts last year, and more are probably on the way. That may be what finally grabs their attention.
The idea of listening to the pension reform debate drone on for another five-month spring session of the General Assembly makes you wish the Mayans had the calendar right.
When a new House and Senate are sworn in, their first duty is to elect a speaker and president, respectively.
Even though the outcome is a foregone conclusion, the chambers go through the process of nominating people and having those nominations seconded.
Sen. MARTIN SANDOVAL, D-Chicago, was selected to give one of the seconding speeches for Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago. As Sandoval concluded, he brought up the old saw about speaking softly and carrying a big stick. With that, he picked up an enormous gavel he had hidden at his desk and presented it to Cullerton. This thing looked like it could have been a prop for Conan the Barbarian.
Guess if they make a sequel, Cullerton's prepared to land a part.
Follow Doug Finke at twitter.com/DougFinkeSJR.