* In These Times…
According to one campaigner for the recently passed marriage equality bill, [House Speaker Michael Madigan] demanded support for his pension bill from the major sponsors of the bill as a price for bringing it to the floor.
* By my count, of those who were around for both votes, 13 of the House’s Democratic gay marriage sponsors voted for Madigan’s pension reform bill back in May. Six voted against.
Just three of those previous “No” votes switched to “Yes” this week. One of those who switched was Rep. Lou Lang, a top member of leadership. He basically had no choice. The other two were Reps. Kelly Cassidy and Ann Williams, who explained her vote to constituents…
I have consistently voted against “pension reform” bills that I believed went too far; many took a punitive approach to addressing the problem. I understand that the public employees are not at fault here. On a personal level, this was the most difficult decision I have made as a legislator. But it is also unfair to continue the downward spiral of cutting programs and funding for our neighborhood schools, the mentally ill and disabled, and other critical human services.
While this bill is certainly not perfect, it is significantly improved from the previous version of SB 1, which I did not support. Over the past several months, I worked to make sure that whatever pension bill was passed would be the best bill possible. I pushed for a guarantee that the State will make its pension payment, so we don’t end up right back here in the future. This bill contains that. I strongly advocated for protections for the people at the lowest end of the income scale, and fought to ensure that any changes to COLA be tied to the CPI, to help pensions keep up with inflation. This bill does that. I asked that if benefits must be cut, then it only made sense for employees to contribute less. This bill does that. I believe the legislation that passed is better because of these efforts.
Cassidy was clearly upset when voting for the pension bill. I don’t doubt that something was up with both her and Williams.
But another Democratic gay marriage co-sponsor, Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, switched from “Yes” on pension reform in May to “Present” this week.
So, the net gain was just two votes. The bill passed with 62 votes, two more than needed.
Pressure? Probably. But it really didn’t matter in the end.
*** UPDATE 1 *** “I would never trade a vote like that,” said Rep. Williams, calling the allegation in the ITT piece “absolutely ridiculous.” She also said there were no conversations with Madigan about the bill.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Rep. Cassidy: “So much less than true it couldn’t be more ridiculous. [Madigan] never spoke to me about the bill once.” She also called the allegation “patent crap.”