November 13, 2013

Lawmakers Told To Be Ready For December Session

A top aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan is telling Illinois lawmakers to be ready for a special session in Springfield in December.

Madigan Chief of Staff Tim Mapes told Democrats in an email Wednesday that a  "possible'' session could begin Dec. 3. He told lawmakers to "keep other days that week available.''
The email was sent around the time Madigan and other legislative leaders were meeting in Chicago to discuss a deal to solve the state's $100 billion pension crisis.
Dec. 3 is the day after the deadline for candidates to file paperwork in the 2014 campaign, including anyone challenging incumbents.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says progress is being made on pensions but any agreement is on hold until the cost savings of proposed solutions can be calculated.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, with Senate President John Cullerton
(M. Spencer Green/AP)
July 30, 2013

Madigan, Cullerton File Lawsuit Over Halted Lawmaker Pay

The leaders of the Illinois House and Senate are filing a lawsuit challenging Gov. Pat Quinn's halting lawmaker pay over the state's pension gridlock.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton explained their move Tuesday calling Quinn's action "purely political and unconstitutional.''

Earlier this month, Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators' paychecks in the state budget through his veto power. Lawmakers failed to come up with a solution to the state's nearly $100 billion pension crisis and when a pension panel blew past another deadline, he moved to stop their pay.

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has said she has no choice but to withhold their paychecks and cited a previous court case.

Gov. Pat Quinn issued a statement Tuesday afternoon in response to the lawsuit.

"Today's lawsuit filed by two members of the Illinois General Assembly is just plain wrong," he said.  “If legislators had put forth the same effort to draw up a pension reform agreement that they did in crafting this lawsuit, pension reform could have been done by now."

Madigan's spokesman says the lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Lisa Madigan
(Seth Perlman/AP)
July 17, 2013

Madigan Won't Discuss Dad's Role in 2014 Decision

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is declining to discuss what conversations, if any, she had with her politically powerful father before deciding not to run for Illinois governor.

Madigan ended months of speculation Monday when she announced she wouldn't challenge Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014.

The Chicago Democrat said she would never run for governor while her father, longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, remained in his job.

Lisa Madigan spoke to reporters Wednesday for the first time since her announcement.

Asked if her father had considered stepping down so she could run, Madigan declined to elaborate about her decision making process.

"There's a process that I went through in terms of evaluating how I could best continue to serve the people of the state of Illinois," she said.  "Obviously, that involved private conversations that I will not be going through with you publicly."

She said she evaluated how best she could serve the people of Illinois.   Madigan plans to seek another term as attorney general.

July 17, 2013

Ousted Metra CEO Describes Rough Illinois Politics

A former California transit executive tapped to clean up Chicago's scandal-tarnished Metra commuter rail agency says he was pushed out for doing exactly that and resisting pressure from Illinois politicians.

Alex Clifford was allowed to speak publicly for the first time Wednesday about his lucrative buyout agreement, which critics have called hush money and a waste of taxpayer funds.

Inquiries into the deal have led to revelations that House Speaker Michael Madigan asked Clifford's staffers to give a pay raise to a Metra employee who was a contributor to political campaigns benefiting Madigan.

Clifford told the Regional Transportation Authority Wednesday he believed Madigan's actions betrayed a "moral and ethical flaw."

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says the speaker was merely supporting a recommendation by the employee's supervisor and did nothing improper.

June 18, 2013

Lawmakers, Quinn, Plan Pension Talks Into July

Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers are working on a new plan to solve the state's $97 billion pension crisis that involves forming a bipartisan committee and reconvening the Legislature again in July.

Lawmakers will meet in Springfield Wednesday for a special session called by Quinn to deal with pensions. But Quinn's spokeswoman told The Associated Press Tuesday that the governor will call an additional session in "early July'' for lawmakers to keep working on the problem.

The House and Senate are split over rival plans on how to solve the crisis.

Quinn's proposal for a committee to overcome the stalemate was initially rejected by House Speaker Michael Madigan. But his spokesman said Tuesday that he has warmed to the idea.

Lawmakers are scheduled to consider pension legislation at hearings Tuesday.

June 14, 2013

Illinois Leaders Hold Another Pension Meeting, Still No Clear Deal

Illinois’ top public officials met behind closed doors Friday to discuss the state’s $100 billion pension debt. And still, there is no clear compromise on pension reform.

The meeting, and pensions stalemate, comes as Gov. Pat Quinn called lawmakers back to Springfield for a special session next week to address pension reform.

Without a compromise from legislative leaders, lawmakers have been left wondering why the special session is necessary.

Quinn said Friday he wants state senators to re-vote on a bill they soundly rejected two weeks ago, but was approved in the House.

“I’m going to make a Herculean effort to get ‘yes’ votes on that bill,” Quinn told reporters.

But Senate President John Cullerton says getting 20 senators to flip their votes will be tough.

“So, uh, I’m not very optimistic,” Cullerton said.

Meantime, Republican Senate leader Christine Radogno says she was uncomfortable at Friday’s meeting watching Democratic leaders disagree.

Democrats hold supermajorities in the House and Senate in Springfield and the leaders in those two chambers have yet to see eye-to-eye on the best way to reduce retirement benefits of state employees.

“I kind of felt like I was witness an awkward family fight,” Radogno said. “It’s clear that there’s not agreement, even close to agreement between the Democrats.”

Quinn also requested that lawmakers form a rare, special panel of lawmakers, called a conference committee, to come up with an agreed-upon pension plan. But that, too, was rejected by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“I’m concerned on the conference committee that it’s an effort by the governor to distance himself from the process,” Madigan said.

But Quinn defended that plan, saying conference committees are designed to break a legislative stalemate when no other solutions are present.

Michael Madigan
(Seth Perlman/AP)
June 12, 2013

Madigan Plans New Vote On Pension Plan

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is planning a fresh vote on his own plan to reform public-employee pensions despite a request from the governor for compromise with the Senate.

The Chicago Democrat filed legislation Wednesday identical to a bill the House OK'd last month but failed in the Senate.

It doesn't mention a rival proposal by Senate President John Cullerton. Gov. Pat Quinn wants both ideas in one bill in case a court rejects one.

Quinn has called the General Assembly into a June 19 special session to deal with the $97 billion pension debt.

Madigan has said Quinn's idea for hybrid legislation could be too complicated.

The new version delays implementation until June 2014 so it takes fewer votes to pass it.

June 04, 2013

Quinn and Cullerton Meet Over Pensions

Gov. Pat Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton have met to discuss stalemate over a solution to Illinois' pension crisis, but House Speaker Michael Madigan didn't show up.

Aides to all three leaders had no details on Tuesday's roughly hour-long meeting in Quinn's Chicago office. Neither Cullerton nor Quinn addressed reporters. 

Quinn announced the meeting a day earlier.

Both the House and Senate remained deadlocked on a solution to the nearly $100 billion problem. The Senate voted down a House-backed plan late Friday. Meanwhile a plan by Cullerton didn't leave a House committee.

No details were immediately available about what Quinn and Cullerton discussed.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says the Chicago Democrat is out of state. He didn't know if Madigan participated by phone, an option Quinn aides presented.

(Andrew Harnik /The Washington Times /Landov)
May 23, 2013

House Guns Bill Passes Committee; Quinn Disapproves

A measure that would allow Illinois residents to carry concealed firearms is heading to the House floor after lawmakers approved it in committee on Thursday.  But Gov. Pat Quinn opposes the plan.

The legislation prohibits concealed-carry in many public places, like public transit, sports arenas, schools, and street festivals.

Some of these have been sticking points for gun-rights advocates, who would prefer universal carry.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) said legislation would also eliminate differing local gun laws in favor of a uniformed state law.

“If Rep. Bost and I are going to go to Wisconsin goose hunting, we’re traveling in our car, we’re not going to know from one town to another what’s expected of them," Phelps said. "And they get pulled over or get a flat tire, and they find out their gun is transported illegally; they go to jail. We just don’t think that’s right.”

However, the elimination of local rules would also strike down bans on assault weapons, like the one in Cook County.

Concealed carry applicants would pay $150 for a permit.

Applicants who are denied permits because local law enforcement says they're dangerous would be able to appeal to a seven-member review board.

The measure was endorsed 13-3 by the House Judiciary Committee. It comes two weeks before a June 9 deadline set by a federal appeals court for Illinois to abandon its prohibition on the public possession of weapons.

Gov. Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson calls the legislation is "a massive overreach'' because it would overturn all existing local gun laws on the books. 

Anderson says a Chicago ban on assualt-style weapons would endanger the public.

The plan for Friday's vote was brokered by House Speaker Michael Madigan, who like Quinn is a Chicago Democrat. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says the speaker thought it was best to have "one law for one state'' to minimize confusion.

The federal appeals court ruled that the Illinois ban on concealed carry was unconstitutional.

May 09, 2013

Quinn: Madigan Pension Bill Deserves Senate Vote

Gov. Pat Quinn says House Speaker Michael Madigan's pension-reform plan deserves a Senate vote. The Democratic governor said the proposal is comprehensive.

Illinois has nearly $100 billion in pension debt because of years of state underfunding.

Senate President John Cullerton has a different idea he plans to call for a vote Thursday afternoon. Public employee unions back that proposal.

The House approved the Madigan bill last week. It would require employees to pay 2 percent more toward retirement benefits. It would reduce annual cost-of-living increases for retirees and raise the retirement age for workers under 45.

Cullerton's proposal would offer employees a choice between health insurance or cost-of-living increases. He says it would survive a court challenge.

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