The 98th Illinois General Assembly’s Veto Session starts in 18 days. Although it is only scheduled for six days in 2013 (October 22 – 24 and November 5 – 7), there could be breakthroughs on some major issues.
There is a possibility that the pension reform conference committee led by Senator Kwame Raoul may be ready to unveil a solution to Illinois’ biggest problem that could actually pass in both chambers. Although there were competing bills in the House and the Senate in last Budget Session, House Speaker Michael Madigan refused to call the bill crafted in the Senate in his chamber. That may change this time.
The word around the Illinois Statehouse is that the committee will propose a plan that will have a cost-of-living component that cannot go above four - percent, decrease active employee contributions by one - percent and result in fully funded pensions by 2043. This appears to meet the constitutionality issue that President John Cullerton had with the House bill so much so that Cullerton has stated that he can deliver 18 votes from the Democratic Senate caucus, thus only requiring 12 GOP Senate caucus votes for passage.
Even if it does pass both chambers and is enacted by Governor Pat Quinn, some unions are still expected to challenge it in court. But it was always expected that the Illinois Supreme Court would be the final arbiter before a pension reform bill could really be implemented.
Quinn’s role in the Veto Session will be interesting. Even though Cook County Judge Neil Cohen ruled on September 26th that his attempt to deny members of the General Assembly their paychecks until they resolved the pension liability crisis was illegal, he continues the fight. He has taken this issue to the Illinois Supreme Court. It may be moot if the pension reform conference committee’s plan flies. It should also be noted that Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka paid the legislators the day after Judge Cohen’s ruling.
The real story will be how Quinn is treated by the legislative branch during the Veto Session because of this. Quinn should expect a little payback from the men and women of the Illinois General Assembly. The Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both chambers, but in this case, the Republicans may also “want in” on getting back at Quinn.
The other big issue is Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). ADM is planning to move their senior executive operations from Decatur, IL to a more urban environment. Chicago is in the running for the existing 100 jobs and a promised additional 100 jobs. So, the never-ending argument over public incentives to private companies will rise again. Normally this would be the crux of the issue. But once again, Governor Quinn has vowed to veto any legislation to help ADM if he doesn’t get a pension reform fix. This could result in a battle to embarrass Quinn and the building of an ark to fill up with legislative pork to secure the ADM incentive package votes. Incentives may not be necessary because some will argue that ADM will/should/must go to Chicago anyway. But they also need to factor in that St. Louis is actually closer to Decatur.
The chances of same-sex marriage and a Chicago casino being dealt with are very slim in this Veto Session. If they are, that would require additional session days and would mean that this could be a monumental session. But don’t plan on it. They may not even deal with pension reform - which should jump-start St. Louis and Atlanta economic development representatives heading to Decatur.