Scoreless at session’s halftime

Lots of big, controversial issues remain for lawmakers

Both the House and Senate have now reached a sort of halfway point in the spring session, at least as the legislative process is set out in high school government class.

Yes, anyone who spends more than 5 minutes around the General Assembly knows the place doesn’t run like government is laid out in textbooks, but play along for a few minutes.

The deadline has now passed for the House and Senate to act on bills that started in their respective chambers, marking the halfway point in the process. Let’s see where some big things stand.

The state budget? It’s not May yet, so, of course, it’s nowhere to be seen. Outside, that is, of Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget that was outlined in March and hasn’t been heard of since. Even Quinn’s budget probably wouldn’t be out there if the state Constitution didn’t force him to do it. Bzzzt. (Cue the penalty buzzer).

Gambling expansion with its lure of easy new millions for the state? Hasn’t passed either chamber. Bzzzt.

Concealed carry seems headed toward the state in one form or another after a court-ordered deadline of June 9. Surely the Legislature has acted to put its stamp on that, right?

Nope. The House has debated and voted on two concealed-carry bills – one restrictive, one not – and rejected both of them (guess they get points for consistency). That still puts the House ahead of the Senate, which has yet to publicly debate and vote on any concealed-carry bill. Bzzzt.

Compared to all of that, there’s been an explosion of activity on pension reform. The Senate actually passed a reform bill (on the second try) dealing with one of the five systems. The House has passed three reform bills over to the Senate.

Unfortunately, none of that stuff is the final version of pension reform. Plus, it all passed before the spring break that ended April 5. Since then, nothing.

Starting this week, there are 5 weeks left in the spring session before things would head into overtime. It’s certainly not unusual for big things to be pushed off to the end of session. Besides, the General Assembly has been compared to theater, and any good dramatist knows you build up to the big climax.

Still, that’s an awful lot of big, controversial issues still to tackle in a short period of time.

Add to that the fact the Legislature hasn’t approved money to pay back wages due under an AFSCME contract.

So right now, many agencies can’t pay the back wages without whacking their operations, maybe even through layoffs. That means the state could be headed to yet another financial crisis.

Not that anyone would notice another catastrophe about to unfold at this stage of the game.

Honked off

Quinn was still honked off last week about Texas Gov. Rick Perry coming to Illinois to poach Illinois businesses.

“He talks all of the time,” Quinn said. “He never stops talking except when he was asked in the presidential debates. He didn’t do that well there, and I don’t think he’s going to do too well in this escapade he’s involved in now.”

Another of Quinn’s points, basically, is that as much as other governors want to paint Illinois as a bad place to do business, they’re coming to Illinois to steal stuff, not the other way around. If we didn’t already have the businesses, the governors wouldn’t be here trying to take them.

“They’re all showboating. These characters come and want to showboat,” said Quinn in summation.