What will happen if a special session this week doesn’t produce an agreement on public pension restructuring?
Gov. Pat Quinn wants to keep the fire burning by establishing a so-called conference committee, with members from both the House and Senate, to reconcile the differences between the competing proposals that they have passed.
“If they need a little help on how to use a crowbar to break the gridlock, my suggestion is to use what’s been used in Illinois, used in Washington, D.C., to break gridlock, and that’s the conference committee,” the governor said.
This is often done in Congress, and has been done before in Springfield, though not recently. This specific proposal would enlist five rank-and-file members of the House – three Democrats and two Republicans – and five rank-and-file members of the Senate – three Democrats and two Republicans – to serve on this committee. They would be given a deadline, according to the governor’s office, but the idea is not foolproof:
- The committee wouldn’t necessarily have to stay in Springfield and keep meeting until they reach a resolution
- There would be no guarantee that any plan to emerge from the committee would be called for votes on the floor of the House and Senate
- If a proposal, provided that there is a proposal, were called for a vote, there would be no commitment by members or leaders to pass it.
Furthermore, House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) doesn’t like the idea, saying it seems to him like a way for the governor to remove himself from the process.
A special session is set for Wednesday, and the only plan so far is to call S.B. 1 for a vote in the Senate. This is the measure that the House passed, but it has failed in the Senate before and probably will again, with senators irked that a plan that they passed has not been called for a vote in the House. They believe it would pass the House if the speaker would call it for a vote.
The House and Senate are at odds on this: The Senate believes the House-passed plan is unconstitutional, while the House believes the Senate-passed plan isn’t aggressive enough.