Overview of the Illinois Legislative Session

June 03, 2013

The Illinois General Assembly ended its 2013 session on Friday night, and it is more likely to be remembered for what was not accomplished than for what was accomplished.

Illinois lawmakers have spent several years talking about the need to fix what's now a $100 billion pension problem.

So, when it became clear that they would be leaving town without agreeing on a fix, the disappointment was palpable.

"Obviously this is a session where we have not enjoyed a great deal of success," said Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.

Madigan's pension plan failed spectacularly in the Senate.

Madigan has significant differences with Senate President John Cullerton over how to address pensions, and their lack of agreement led to an angry statement from Gov. Pat Quinn.

Cullerton took it in stride.

"It's not because we didn't try, and people shouldn’t be, you know, there’s no blame to go around. It's just people have different positions and it's difficult to get 30 votes on it," Cullerton said.

Lawmakers also rejected a plan to shift pension costs from the state to colleges and universities.

Some political watchers say it was a productive session aside from the pension issue.

Lawmakers expanded Medicaid and approved both a budget that didn't cut education and a compromise deal on fracking.

Few issues attracted as much attention as same-sex marriage, but that didn't even get a vote.

Rep. Greg Harris, the Chicago Democrat who sponsored the legislation, says he did not think he had enough support to get it passed. In an emotional speech, he said some lawmakers promised to back same-sex marriage when they return to Springfield in the fall.

"Until that day I apologize to the families who were hoping to wake up tomorrow as full and equal citizens of this state," Harris said.

The sponsor of a bill that would have added five new casinos in Illinois, including one in Danville, also did not call that bill up for a vote.

Despite that unfinished business, lawmakers did approve regulations for hydraulic fracturing, as well as a system to allow people to carry concealed firearms. A plan to limit high-capacity ammunition magazines in Illinois has failed in the Senate.

The Illinois Senate passed a measure allowing for intiatives to lure a fertlizer plan to Tuscola, as well as a third Chicago-area airport at Peotone.

A proposal that would regulate the use of drones by law enforcement agencies in Illinois has cleared the House.

Lawmakers aren't scheduled to return to Springfield until October, but Quinn said he plans to meet with House and Senate leaders on pensions next week.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio