Pension Reform Delayed… Again - State lawmakers once again delayed taking a vote on pension reform this week citing the need to get an actuarial analysis on newly proposed changes. While the legislative leaders have intimated that they plan to return to the Capitol during the first week in December, it is extremely disappointing that the General Assembly has once again left town with no solution to the greatest challenge facing the state.
Pension Reform Movement - For several months, a ten-member Pension Reform Conference Committee has been meeting and making some progress on reaching consensus on pension reform resulting in both short-term and long-term savings. The bipartisan group made significant progress but was not able to reach a resolution. So this week, the four legislative leaders took ownership of the issue and have been meeting privately without involvement from the Governor’s office in an effort to reach agreement that can pass the General Assembly.
Pension Reform - For those familiar with football terminology, this week’s pension reform effort could be considered “three and out” followed by a punt. Originally scheduled to be in session for three days, the General Assembly cancelled the final day of session and took no action on pension reform. Members of the bipartisan and bicameral conference committee continued to meet with small progress reported.
Fall Veto Session Arrives - Members of the House of Representatives and Senate return to the Capitol next week for the first week of the Fall Veto Session. Lawmakers are scheduled to convene on October 22-24 and November 5-7 with many items on the calendar but none more important than pension reform. Pension Reform Update - For the past several months, the ten-member Pension Reform Task Force has been meeting both publicly and behind closed doors in an effort to reach consensus on a plan that can pass the General Assembly with bipartisan support. With only days remaining before the start of the Fall Veto Session, prospects for a resolution to the greatest challenge facing Illinois are slim.
ICC Proposes Higher Taxes - In a move that could hit the pocketbooks of Illinois residents and businesses, the Illinois Commerce Commission is proposing a new funding plan that would increase taxes on electricity, water, telecommunications, and natural gas to pay for their operations. According to the ICC, for the past four years the Public Utility Fund has had“insufficient” funds for operations despite a twenty-five percent reduction in staffing due to higher costs associated with group insurance, union contracts, and retirements while revenue has remained relatively flat.
Senate Holds Second Hearing on GMO Foods - The Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Food Labeling held its second public hearing on the campus of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale to discuss mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. The event drew nearly 150 attendees including representatives from the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association who participated in the panel opposing this costly change that would make Illinois one of only three states with a labeling requirement.
With a scheduled adjournment on May 31, the General Assembly is planning to remain in session over the Memorial Day weekend with a goal of adjourning on time. With less than a week remaining, many high profile issues remain before the legislature including the state budget, pension reform, hydraulic fracturing, concealed carry, same sex marriage, and telecommunications reform. A tentative budget deal has been reached and Democrat caucuses will be briefed on Monday with possible hearings on Tuesday.
Senate Passes Pension Reform - In the ongoing pension battle, the Senate passed a watered-down version of pension reform this week that realizes only one-third of the savings contained in SB 1 that previously passed the House of Representatives last week. SB 2404, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), was the result of negotiations with representatives of labor unions who supported the final language that passed on a vote of 40-16-0. Thirty-seven Democrats and three Republicans provided the affirmative votes needed for passage. The IMA opposed passage of SB 2404 because it does not realize enough savings to solve the state’s $97 billion pension problem.
Pension Reform Passes House of Representatives - Illinois lawmakers took a major step forward toward resolving the state’s massive pension debt by narrowly passing a comprehensive bill with bipartisan support. Actuarial studies indicate that SB 1 reduces Illinois’ long-term pension liability by more than $30 billion immediately and ensures that the state’s pension system are fully funded in thirty years. As a result of the reduced pension liability, the plan lowers the statutorily required annual pension payment by nearly $2 billion providing more budget flexibility for critical programs in education, infrastructure, and public safety. The IMA strongly supports SB 1 and remains hopeful that the Senate will pass the legislation.
House of Representatives Defeats Concealed Carry Measures - With the clock ticking toward June 9, the date by which the Courts ruled that Illinois must bring its current gun laws into constitutional compliance, the Illinois House of Representatives defeated two vastly different concealed carry bills that sought to address the ruling. In late 2012, the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals ruled that Illinois’ law banning concealed carry violates the Second Amendment and ordered lawmakers to resolve the issue within 180 days. While the IMA normally does not engage in concealed carry issues, there is one provision regarding an employer’s right to control their property that creates concern.