Lawmakers returned to Springfield during the week to meet a federal court deadline for Illinois to adopt legislation granting citizens the right to carry a concealed firearm in public.
Although legislation making Illinois the last state in the nation to grant citizens the right to carry concealed firearms was approved at the end of May, Govenor Pat Quinn extensively rewrote the measure in early July. Governro Quinn’s actions forced lawmakers to return to Springfield to address his changes, because a federal court had ordered Illinois to act by July 9.
As anticipated, both the Senate and House of Representatives overrode the Governor’s changes to House Bill 183, thus putting the law into immediate effect.
While lawmakers said some of the Governor’s ideas could have merit, he was criticized for waiting until after the legislation had been negotiated and approved before weighing in. By lumping all of his changes together in an amendatory veto, the Governor forced the Legislature to take an “all or nothing” approach to his recommendations, as they could not be separated and voted on independently.
No Permits Until 2014?
Although Illinois now has a concealed-carry law on the books, it could take until next year before permits begin being issued. The Illinois State Police will oversee applications and say they will need time to gear up for the process. They have estimated it could take six months to set up the system and then could take another three months to process and screen applicants.
When it goes into effect, Illinois will require one of the most rigorous training programs in the nation for concealed carry, with permit holders required to complete 16 hours of training and pay a $150 permit fee.
Governor Shifts to Pension Reform
The Governor next shifted his focus to pension reform – announcing July 10 he was cutting lawmakers’ pay until a pension solution was enacted. He also claimed he would not accept any pay until the reforms were adopted, but did not cut his salary from the budget.
While many lawmakers share the Governor’s frustration with the lack of progress on pension reform, there is a feeling that the Governor’s action was more of a publicity stunt than a genuine attempt to move forward on pension reform.
A majority of legislators have voted for pension reform bills and different measures have passed both the Senate and the House, but the Governor has been unable to get his two legislative leaders to agree on an approach. Additionally, it was the Governor who requested that a Conference Committee be formed to try to hash out an agreement. Finally, the Governor has come in for sharp criticism for failing to appear before that Conference Committee to clarify what he wants to see in a pension reform bill.
Threatening to withhold legislative salaries until pension reform is passed is a high-risk decision by the Governor, one that can be easily overridden by the Legislature. But – to give credit where credit is due – at least he is doing something to focus attention on the issue. If a legislative pay freeze is upheld, there could be nothing more effective to get the players engaged and get this pension mess resolved. However, the risk is that legislators might enact a plan that would do little to solve the problem in order to again start receiving their pay, instead of passing comprehensive reform like Senate Bill 2026, which would permanently fix the problem.
Pension Reform Committee Meets
The Conference Committee on pension reform met at the beginning of the week in Springfield, partly in hopes of getting a clear picture from the Governor on his ideas for reform.
However, the Governor declined to appear and instead sent his budget director, who stuck to a prepared script and frustrated lawmakers by providing few specifics on what the Governor supports.
The Conference Committee has asked financial experts to review various options to determine what the potential savings might be. Because of the complex nature of the calculations, it was expected that the committee would not see projections for a week or more.
The Governor’s action on legislative salaries may ultimately prove to be ineffective, as it may conflict with the state Constitution’s ban on reducing an elected official’s pay during the official’s term of office – a separation of powers provision that was inserted in the Constitution to prevent one branch of government from altering the pay of another branch in political retaliation.
Parental Notification Law Upheld
Near the end of the week, the Illinois Supreme Court finally brought to conclusion a dispute over the state’s parental notification law affecting abortions for minors. The Court ruled the law constitutional on July 11; nearly two decades after the General Assembly passed the law requiring abortion clinics to notify a parent when an underage girl seeks an abortion
The act requires a parent or guardian to be notified 48 hours before a child younger than 18 has an abortion. Although the law was signed in 1995, it has been held up in court ever since. The law does not require a parent’s permission, but only notification and allows for judicial bypass in cases where notification would not be appropriate.
GOP Report Prompts School Funding Examination
Senators also took another step toward identifying school funding disparities by creating a bipartisan Advisory Committee on Education Funding (Senate Resolution 431).
The Committee grew out of a Senate Republican study of education funding that revealed funding inequities that benefit the Chicago Public Schools at the expense of downstate and suburban schools.