* It’s so nice to see that Gov. Pat Quinn is now fully subscribed to the Tribune editorial board’s notion that all you have to do is wave a magic wand and hurl personal insults and the Illinois General Assembly will obey one’s every command…
The third Friday in August should be a good day to get a tee time in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn just called Illinois lawmakers off the golf course and back to work that day to save the state from a fiscal collapse.
The governor said Monday he has called a special session of the Legislature on Aug. 17 to deal with pension reform. That’s good.
There were two things, though, that Quinn didn’t say.
He didn’t say he will use the next 16 days to press Republican and Democratic leaders for a deal on pensions, so the rank-and-file will have something to approve at the special session.
He didn’t say he’ll call another special session on Aug. 18, and another special session on Aug. 19, and another one every single day until the Legislature puts real, substantial pension savings into law.
We asked the governor to call a special session and applaud him for doing so. But that action guarantees only that lawmakers will have a reason to hang around for a day and go see Cheap Trick, the headliner at the State Fair that Friday night.
Actually, Quinn did say that he plans to use the next several days to publicly push the General Assembly to heel…
“I think the way to look at it over these next couple of weeks is for the people of Illinois to put pressure on the legislature — their members of the legislature that are running for office in campaigns across Illinois … and I think this is a good time to say that, ‘This is a crying need of our state. We must act.’ “
* Ty Fahner is not on board, however…
While the governor’s critics lauded him for taking the initiative and stopped short of ridiculing his move as a political stunt, virtually no one in or around the Capitol buys into Quinn’s apparent thinking that such a quick fix may be in the offing to a problem that took decades to create.
Instead, the emphasis is on the House and its uncertain plans for a watered-down pension-reform bill that passed the Senate in late May. If the House passed that proposal, it would generate headlines that the governor and General Assembly finally were addressing the pension problem, but the approach would fall well short of totally winnowing down what government employees have been told to expect during their retirements.
“It’s a great piece of politics, and beyond that it doesn’t do anything useful,” Tyrone Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, said of Quinn’s special-session push if the emphasis strictly is on taking up the Senate-passed plan and having it fail.
“It’s shameful if that’s what the game is,” said Fahner, whose group has pushed a variety of more comprehensive pension reforms.
* Shades of Rod? Some, yes…
The situation Quinn set into motion Monday is not entirely unlike what played out when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich kept calling lawmakers back into special session to bully them into passing a multibillion-dollar capital construction plan that no one trusted him enough to administer. At one point, Blagojevich had 17 special sessions going on at one time and never succeeded in getting what he wanted.
Quinn, of course, is no Blagojevich. He’s used his special-session powers just once before. But his strategy this time, at least now, seems headed for the same result as under his predecessor.
* The Tribune reporters who covered the story don’t share the optimism of their editorial page…
The already-dim prospects of a deal on public employee pension reform before the November election got tangled up Monday in a disagreement over whether a special session on the issue should even be held next month.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn issued a proclamation summoning the General Assembly back to Springfield on Aug. 17, a move viewed as largely symbolic because lawmakers are no closer to striking a comprehensive deal than when they left town at the end of May. […]
Although Quinn sought to frame his special session call based on hopes for a deal, Republicans said privately that they had not talked to the governor since he had convened the legislative leadership in his office about six weeks ago. [Emphasis added.]
Calling a special session without first having extensive discussions with the leaders is quite Rodlike.
* More skepticism…
Many house members as well as senators are skeptical much could be accomplished in one day.
“Do I have my doubts? Without question. Like anything, it’s a process,” said Sen. Donne Trotter, (D) Chicago. “It didn’t happen overnight. It’s not going to be corrected overnight.”
“I just don’t think in a couple of hours on a Friday in the middle of August we’re going to be able to accomplish the governor’s goal,” said Rep. Lou Lang, (D) Skokie.
“If they can negotiate a deal and ratify it on August 17th, I think it’s possible,” said Roosevelt University Professor Paul Green. “If they start on August 17th, it will be the longest day.”
* And the Republicans would like to see a plan in writing…
Radogno spokeswoman Patty Schuh said Senate Republicans want to know more about Quinn’s plan, if he has one.
“We will be available in the coming weeks to discuss it, if the governor has a plan he’s going to lay out there or show us,” Schuh said.