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.
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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.