SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A proposed solution to Illinois' historic $100 million pension crisis is hanging in the balance as the state Legislature's October veto session approaches.
Key Democrats on a pension panel are pushing a plan to save the state $138 billion over the next 30 years, but Republican lawmakers want a number of changes. House Speaker Michael Madigan hasn't yet committed to calling the proposal for a vote, either.
Senate President John Cullerton supports the deal and calls it "less unconstitutional" than a previous plan that would have saved $163 billion.
Illinois' five public-employee retirement funds have an unfunded liability of about $100 billion. The annual contribution to the fund, plus payments on past pension bonds, is about $7.65 billion this year. That number will increase in years to come without action.
Illinois lawmakers are criticizing the cost of renovations at the state capitol. The price tag for the upgrades in Springfield are approaching $50-million. The Chicago Sun Times reports the cost includes $80-thousand sculptures and chandeliers and $670-thousand copper-plated wooden doors. Democrats and Republicans alike are now questioning the bidding process and Republican Representative Jim Durkin says, "I'm embarrassed to say that this went on without anyone's knowledge that I'm aware of. And we have some egg on our face." The renovation is being funded by construction bonds that were part of a $31-billion capital construction plan approved by the Legislature.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An expert in term limits says a Republican governor candidate's proposal to overhaul the Illinois Legislature is better structured than past failed bids.
University of Illinois Professor Chris Mooney says Bruce Rauner's petition drive to limit lawmakers to eight years in office is savvy in its three-pronged approach. The Winnetka venture capitalist's proposal would not only limit the length of terms but also cut the size of the Senate and make it harder to override a governor's veto.
Those elements could help the proposal overcome a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 1994 initiative because it didn't make "structural and procedural" changes to the Legislature.
But the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform says it is concerned that Rauner's petition drive could unfairly boost his separate governor's campaign.
CHICAGO (AP) - Gay marriage supporters are launching a $2 million statewide campaign to approve same-sex marriage in Illinois.
Illinois Unites for Marriage is a coalition representing gay rights, civil rights and political groups.
In a statement Tuesday, the group says it will place 15 field organizers throughout the state to engage supporters. They plan to target legislators who oppose a measure to lift Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage.
The Illinois Senate passed the bill in February. It wasn't called for a vote in the House because the bill's sponsor said it didn't have the votes to pass.
Jim Bennett is chairman of the coalition. He says the next few months are critical because lawmakers could take up the bill in the fall.
Opponents say marriage should be between a man and woman.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Lawmakers are set to meet in Springfield to consider a bill allowing the concealed carry of weapons in public on the day of a court-mandated deadline to pass such legislation.
Gov. Pat Quinn has asked for sweeping changes to a concealed carry bill, but lawmakers have been less than enthusiastic, so far, and are expected to override his changes.
Quinn wants an ammunition limit and to prohibit guns in any place that serves alcohol, among other provisions. He has backed his changes by focusing on violence in Chicago.
But several lawmakers say Quinn proposed changes come too late in the process.
Illinois is the only state without a law to allowed concealed carry. A federal appeals court ruled the state's ban unconstitutional and set a Tuesday deadline to allow it.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn wants lawmakers to return to Springfield later this month, but some legislators aren't sure why.
Quinn released a statement Thursday criticizing lawmakers for failing to address the state's nearly 100-billion dollar pension shortfall and calling a special session which begins June 19th. The announcement follows news that Moody's Investors Service is lowering Illinois' credit rating. But a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says he believes the special session is to deal with guns, not pensions.
Quinn is currently considering conceal-carry legislation that was passed last week. Quinn hasn't said if he'll sign the plan. If he vetoes it, lawmakers could override the veto.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers have overridden Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of legislation that addresses so-called Smart Grid technology.
The Illinois House voted Wednesday to again approve the legislation, a day after the Senate approved it for a second time. Quinn vetoed it May 6, saying the proposal weakened oversight and forced automatic rate hikes.
ComEd and Ameren pushed the bill to clarify legislation allowing the utilities to raise rates to fund the high-tech system. But the Illinois Commerce Commission and both utilities disagreed over implementation. ComEd filed an appeal over technical matters and faces a lawsuit over installation delays.
ComEd says with the new law the average residential customer will pay 40 cents more a month starting in 2014 and 80 cents more in 2017.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is holding fast to his position that legislation calling for the carrying of concealed weapons should allow city governments to decide their own standards.
But the Democratic governor's preference goes against lawmakers, who have given such ideas a chilly reception.
The General Assembly has until June 9 to end Illinois' last-in-the-nation ban on concealed carry because of a federal appeals court ruling.
Quinn wants larger cities such as Chicago to be able to set up their own standards for gun-toting citizens.
Gun-rights advocates say that would create a confusing "patchwork" of laws and put gun owners in jeopardy.
A plan in the Senate would give Chicago-area police the ability to deny gun permits. Gun owners and Republicans are cool to the idea.
Opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," held a rally and lobbied Illinois legislators Tuesday. They're hoping to win support for a two-year moratorium on the practice instead of regulations that would allow it.
Fracking opponents say they were ignored during negotiations over a regulatory bill, which proponents say would give Illinois the nation's toughest regulations.
Protesters say they fear the water around their southern Illinois homes could be polluted by the practice.
Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack rock formations to release oil and natural gas.