By Doug Finke, GateHouse News Service

Reform? See you in January

Pension fix a dead duck until lame-duck session meets

That hammering sound you hear is another nail being driven into the coffin of pension reform for 2012.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune editorial board last week that pension reform won’t happen until Jan. 1 at the earliest. There aren’t enough votes to do it before then, he said.

Cullerton, recall, was the one who maneuvered a limited pension reform bill through the Senate in late May. It affected only state employees and lawmakers. Downstate teachers, university workers and judges were not included. Cullerton argued that passing reforms that affected only a couple of the state’s retirement systems was better than doing nothing.

The House didn’t pass the bill in May. Cullerton then led the cheers to pass the bill during the August special session. It didn’t happen then, either.

Now he’s saying it probably will be January before another attempt can be mounted. House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, had already said he has no plans to be in Springfield before the election. He’s also indicated January might be a more likely time to change pensions.

It would appear Gov. Pat Quinn should start focusing his reform efforts on a lame-duck January session that takes place before new lawmakers are seated.

Image woes

Back in July, Quinn headed to an appearance at a farm in Jefferson County in southern Illinois to highlight drought-relief efforts.

Then, as now, southern Illinois wasn’t exactly a friendly environment for the governor. Quinn wants to close state facilities, costing the area a bunch of well-paying state jobs it can ill afford to lose.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees decided to show what they thought of Quinn and his decisions. The union got more than 100 members to show up and demonstrate against the governor.

That’s when things got interesting. News accounts from the appearance said the event was moved to a more remote area a few miles away. Some accounts portrayed it as a hastily arranged move apparently prompted by the presence of the protesters. Others didn’t go that far.

Regardless, the notion that Quinn was trying to duck union protesters got planted.

Thus, when Quinn didn’t appear at a Springfield function last week, even though he was listed as a speaker on the program, the immediate assumption was that he again was trying to avoid a planned protest outside the event.

It wasn’t the case, but it underscores the image problem he’s got right now.

What vetoes?

The deadline has passed for Quinn to act on legislation passed during the spring session.

For those of you scoring at home, the General Assembly sent Quinn a whole lot of bills this year. To be exact, Quinn acted on 460 pieces of legislation this calendar year.

Quinn signed 450 of the bills. He used his rewrite authority on three bills, cut some money out of three spending bills, and totally vetoed four bills, including gambling expansion and plastic bag regulations.

What can we learn from the dearth of vetoes this year? Perhaps that lawmakers did a particularly fine job of passing top-notch legislation that met the governor’s high standards.

Or, more likely, it just illustrates what happens during every spring session. Lawmakers act on a few high-profile, controversial measures and a whole lot of stuff that isn’t all that exciting.

Copyright © 2014 Northwest Herald. All rights reserved.