Illinois lawmakers put off gun control, and other high-profile issues
The State Journal-Register
Illinois senators left Springfield Thursday without taking final votes on gay marriage or gun control measures, the two highest-profile issues before the chamber this week.
It appears neither issue will be will be considered before new lawmakers are seated Jan. 9, meaning both debates will have to start all over again in the spring.
The lack of action was blamed by some on the absence of senators who were expected to support the measures. Others said senators balked at being expected to tackle major, controversial issues during an abbreviated lame-duck session.
“I think it is all of the above,” said Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville.
Senators also took only minor action on pension reform, tweaking a bill they passed last spring and urging the House to take it up when they return to Springfield beginning Sunday.
However, they did give final approval to a bill that will prevent thousands of state workers from joining unions.
Senators also approved a plan to provide money to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to pay for staff who investigate complaints against doctors.
The Senate began its lame-duck session Wednesday, but plans came apart the very first day, when the Senate refused to give an immediate hearing to a bill allowing same sex marriage in Illinois. That hearing finally occurred Thursday, but the bill wasn’t called for a vote before the full Senate.
“You try to have comprehensive discussions on a big, complicated issue like that and do it all within a few hours; it just doesn’t work,” said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. “I think there are at least a handful (of senators) open to the concept, but they don’t want to have it crammed down their throats in three hours.”
At least three senators who were expected to vote for the bill were absent Thursday, two because of family emergencies and one who is out of the country.
Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, said the failure to call the gun bills also was because some supporters were absent.
“The reality is, in order to get it passed, we have to have people in their seats,” he said.
Gun rights supporters said the assault weapons ban, as written, would outlaw the sale of far more guns than military-style assault weapons. A second bill to ban the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines would be unworkable, they said.
Pension, union membership
The Senate did approve a small change in a pension reform bill it passed last spring. That bill would require tate employees and lawmakers to choose between state-subsidized health insurance in retirement or continue to receive a yearly boost of 3 percent, compounded, in their retirement benefits. Those who want to keep health insurance would have to accept a lesser COLA.
The original bill, which is still pending in the House, required people to make the choice by May 31. Thursday’s Senate change would give people until Nov. 30. But the Senate didn’t take any other action on pension reform, outside of suggesting the House pass the measure.
Senators also approved a bill that restricts union membership for thousands of state workers. Cullerton said nearly 3,400 state workers would either be prohibited from joining unions or would have to give up their union membership.
Even workers in management positions have been allowed to join unions, lawmakers said, resulting in a state workforce that is more than 90 percent unionized.
The bill now goes to Quinn for his signature. He has supported the measure.
The Senate approved legislation that would allow DFPR to keep staff assigned to investigate complaints against doctors. About half of those investigators will be eliminated Jan. 15 if the House doesn’t also approve the bill.
The bill allows the state to “sweep” money from other dedicated state funds to pay for the investigators.
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527.