* Here’s the hard, simple truth about pension reform, or anything for that matter: Nothing difficult ever gets done unless House Speaker Michael J. Madigan pushes his members to vote for it. Period. End of story. And, so far, MJM is not working his members.
The Tribune chronicles a list of excuses…
Many in the House did not want to take up a controversial issue when the Senate isn’t even around to consider it. Some Democrats refused to commit to voting for the plan when they didn’t know how many Republicans also were willing to stick out their necks.
Others stood against any pension changes. Some who were willing to entertain a new approach criticized the proposal as too harsh on public employees and retirees. Still others contended the proposal violates a state constitutional prohibition on diminishing or impairing public employee pensions, as union officials have maintained. […]
And then there are the outgoing lame-duck lawmakers. While those who lost in November or are retiring are politically insulated from facing the voters again, they aren’t eager to use their last minutes in public office to vote for a proposal that would reduce their own retirement benefits.
But the easiest blame was cast upon absent state senators and their leader, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.
“There are a number of people who are talking about the Senate,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, a sponsor of the pension measure, which advanced earlier Monday from a House committee on a 6-3 vote. “But those are some of the people who, if not the Senate, also would have found another excuse.”
* And I’m not sure that this interpretation is correct…
If lawmakers don’t meet their deadline Wednesday, the General Assembly can start again. About three dozen new lawmakers will be sworn in Wednesday for the new session.
“I don’t think we need to start over from scratch,” Nekritz said. “This is a piece of legislation that has had the most bipartisan support and the most momentum behind it.”
The Senate has actually passed a pension reform bill - twice. However, it has little support in the House, so far.
* Sun-Times editorial board…
We have said the Nekritz bill is constitutionally suspect, though its sponsors can muster some compelling arguments. Despite that, it gets our backing because it is the only comprehensive bill in play. Cullerton’s bill, which passed the Senate in May, only covers two of the five state pension systems, generating only about one-third of the needed savings. Though a better bet constitutionally speaking, any bill is a gamble given protections in the state Constitution.
But the Senate Democrats contend that a bill as unconstitutional as the Nekrtiz/Cross proposal would upset ratings agencies even more. Check the bottom of Page 1 of this document, for example.