SPRINGFIELD — After failing to accomplish pension reform this spring, legislators returned to Springfield Wednesday for a special session.
The General Assembly voted to create a conference committee, which will consist of five members of the House and five members of the Senate, which will attempt to produce a plan for pension reform by a July 9 deadline set by Gov. Pat Quinn.
According to State Rep. Pam Roth (R-Morris), the General Assem-bly was only on the floor for about half an hour during Wednesday’s session.
Roth said the pension problem has been studied by numerous committees during her time in office, and she hopes this panel of 10 is more successful.
“I’m hopeful that they can come back with a meaningful solution that doesn’t just kick the can down the road,” Roth said. “The worst thing we can do is do nothing.”
During the spring session, each house of the legislature passed its own pension reform bill.
The House bill, backed by Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), would raise employee contributions to pensions, while lowering benefits.
The Senate bill, worked out between Sen-ate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and some union leaders, would give employees choices in benefit plans.
We Are One Illinois, a labor coalition, expressed concern about the conference committee in a statement and vowed to fight for the Cullerton plan.
“The conference committee appointed today is heavily stacked against protecting retirement security for working families and seniors,” the organization’s statement read.
“Even so, our coalition will continue to do everything possible to advance SB 2404, which is fair, bipartisan and constitutional, while producing substantial savings for the state.”
Some members of the legislature suggested more than the two bills would be on the table for the conference committee.
Roth said there are more ideas being circulated, and the conference committee should consider them.
“If I were on the committee, I’d want everything on the table,” Roth said. “I personally think every idea needs to be considered from every angle.”
State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said she expects the conference committee to produce a compromise between the two already-discussed bills.
“It will probably be somewhere in the middle,” Rezin said.
Rezin said all interests have “a seat at the table” in the panel discussions, and that the committee will likely discuss amending cost of living adjustments and funding guarantees.
She also added that she would like to see some kind of protection for those with smaller pensions.
“It is our hope that the people at the table will come together for an agreement,” Rezin said.
The special session may also include work on the state’s concealed carry bill, which passed in the previous session and is currently on Gov. Quinn’s desk.
If he rejects that plan, legislators will have a chance to vote again during the special session.