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Veto session may be lively, or maybe not

Pensions, ADM bill, gay marriage may face action

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Dynamo or dud. Lawmakers began their annual 2-week veto session Tuesday and could tackle major unresolved issues like pension reform, same-sex marriage and back pay owed to some state workers.

Or, the Legislature could once again decide to put those issues off until another day, leaving Springfield in early November with little to show for their time back in session.

“I don’t know how productive it’s going to be,” said Sen. John Sullivan of Rushville, a member of the Senate Democrats’ leadership team.

“I think there’s going to be a very light agenda,” said Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg.

Here’s where some of the issues stand heading into the veto session.

Pension reform

Just as it has been for months, pension reform remains on the lips of lawmakers as the No. 1 issue facing the state and one that must be addressed sooner rather than later.

And just as it has been for months, a clear solution to resolving the problem of ever-increasing state pension costs is nowhere to be seen.

A conference committee studying pension reform that was created in June has not yet come up with a plan that has the support of six of the committee’s 10 members. Five Democrats on the committee support a proposal that cuts annual cost-of-living adjustments to pension benefits, but also reduces employee contributions by 1 percentage point.

One Democrat feels the changes being discussed are too onerous for workers.

The four Republicans on the committee have balked at supporting the Democrats’ plan, in part because it will continue to consume a large amount of state revenue for years to come. They want additional savings by raising the retirement age, creating a 401(k)-style retirement plan, and not reducing employee contributions.

Public employee unions oppose the latest proposal and want the House to take up a reform plan negotiated by the unions that was previously approved by the Senate. That plan had been backed by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, but he said recently he supports the latest reform ideas advanced by Democrats on the conference committee.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, indicated it would be preferable to have the conference committee endorse a plan.

Same-sex marriage

The Senate last spring approved Senate Bill 10 that authorizes same-sex marriage in Illinois. The House did not.

On the final day of the spring session. Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the bill’s principle House sponsor, acknowledged he didn’t have the necessary 60 votes lined up to pass it and opted not to call it for a vote.

“Over the summer, there’s been an unprecedented outpouring across the state of people in support of this issue,” Harris said. “I am hoping my colleagues return ready to vote and make it the law in the state of Illinois.”

A representative of the Illinois Family Institute said she doesn’t think there are enough votes in the House to pass the bill.

“Here’s the bottom line,” said IFI operations director Kathy Valente. “We believe marriage needs to be protected and supported, not redefined.”

ADM incentives

Lawmakers could vote on legislation to give Archer Daniels Midland $24 million in tax incentives over the next 2 decades to keep its headquarters in Illinois.

The Decatur-based company wants to relocate its corporate headquarters to a metropolitan area to make international travel easier and make it more attractive for recruiting new talent. The company is considering Chicago among other locales.

Quinn has said lawmakers should not take up the incentive request until something is done to resolve the pension situation. Some lawmakers question giving the corporate giant tax breaks.

Other issues

There are only three vetoed bills pending where lawmakers could act to override Quinn. Perhaps the highest profile of those is a bill reducing the number of free admission days that museums must offer.

Bills have also been introduced to remove poker runs from the state’s charitable gaming law. The fundraising events were added to the gaming law last spring, but supporters of them have complained about permits and fees they are now required to pay.

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