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November 25, 2012
By: Doug Finke

SPRINGFIELD — From gaming expansion to pension reform to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and even gay marriage, there is no shortage of issues Illinois lawmakers could tackle when they return for the start of the veto session Tuesday.

Just what they’ll do then and how much they might put off until January or later is the question.

“I think everybody is speculating there will be little done during the veto session,” said Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield. “Most of the stuff will happen the first seven days in January.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to be in session three days this week and three more days next week for the actual veto session. However, both the House and Senate have warned members to be prepared to return to Springfield right after the New Year for additional session days before new lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 9. The House is expected to return Jan, 3, while the Senate is considering a return Jan. 2. The significance is the number of votes required to pass a bill. During the veto session, a bill that takes effect immediately needs a three-fifths vote to pass – 71 votes in the House and 36 in the Senate. After Jan. 1, that drops to 60 votes in the House and 30 in the Senate. If lawmakers restrict themselves to dealing only with vetoes, they won’t have a heavy workload. Gov. Pat Quinn used his various veto powers on only 10 bills, including changing budget bills and killing the gaming expansion law. However, lawmakers almost never limit themselves just to dealing with vetoed bills during a veto session. Here’s a rundown of things that might be considered, either in the veto session or in early January.

Pension reform

Quinn has said he wants lawmakers to address pension reform before the next legislative session starts Jan. 9. The new session will bring more than 30 new faces to the legislature with no guarantees how they will vote on pension reform or other major issues.

“It doesn’t feel to me like we are likely to move ahead on pensions during the veto session,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Chicago, one of the top pension reform negotiators. “The biggest reason is we sure don’t have consensus around it.”

One of the major points of contention is whether downstate teacher pension costs should be moved onto local school districts and away from the state. Most Republicans and many downstate Democrats oppose the idea because they believe it will lead to higher school property taxes or cuts to school programs.

Quinn has sent mixed signals about the cost shift in the past couple of weeks. He said he still supports the concept, but does not think one issue should stand in the way of broader pension reform.

So far, only one pension bill has passed out of either chamber. The Senate last spring passed House Bill 1447 that changes pension cost of living adjustments for state employees and lawmakers. They would have to choose between continuing a 3 percent COLA each year, but giving up state-sponsored health insurance in retirement or taking a lesser COLA and still having access to state insurance.

The House has never acted on the bill.

Nekritz also said any pension changes likely would not take effect until the end of the fiscal year June 30, giving lawmakers more time to work on a resolution in the spring.

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