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Lame-duck session shortened making pension reform deal less likely

Updated: January 28, 2013 4:00PM



CHICAGO — The legislative lame-duck session may just have gotten lamer.

Illinois’ General Assembly leaders have cut back the time they’ll work in Springfield starting next week, leaving them fewer days to take up pension reform and a gay-marriage bill.

A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton confirmed Wednesday he sent out a memo Christmas Eve canceling scheduled sessions Jan. 5, 6 and 7, but retaining Jan. 2, 3 and 4.

“It’s a more efficient approach that will allow us to shape the schedule based on actionable legislation,” Rikeesha Phelon said in an e-mail.

The House of Representatives will be in session Jan. 6, 7 and 8, she said. The Senate could return on Jan. 8 “to respond to substantive House action.”

A measure legalizing gay marriage may have enough votes to pass, she said, adding, “Action will depend on the readiness of the House and Senate sponsors.”

But the leaders haven’t united around any one of the pension reform proposals, Phelon said. “So there is still work to do before votes are scheduled — that is unless the House decided to take up the pension reform already passed by the Senate.

State Reps. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, and Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, floated a bi-partisan pension reform plan that would reduce cost-of-living increases, raise the retirement age and gradually transfer the state’s education-related pension costs to downstate and suburban school districts.

Biss said the schedule change shouldn’t kill pension reform.

“I wouldn’t read too much into it,” Biss said of the schedule change. “If we have enough votes to pass the bill, we’ll take the vote.

“I don’t think the calendar is really a huge factor here.”

Gov. Pat Quinn has been demanding action on pension reform during the lame duck session that was supposed to span Jan. 2-9, arguing that the cost of keeping up with pension obligations is strangling virtually everything else in state government.

Quinn’s assistant budget director said Wednesday he’s still hopeful.

“We’re still actively talking to all sides to try to put together the pension reform package and those talks will be going on right up until the session begins,” Abdon Pallasch said. “The ingredients are all there on the table for a pension reform package.”



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