Senate Week in Review: June 17-21, 2013
Friday, June 21, 2013
Public employee pension reform dominated the agenda when members of the House and Senate returned to Springfield June 19 for a special session, Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) said.
However, the stalemate on pension reform continued this week, prompting legislative leaders to create a "Conference Committee" designed to facilitate a constructive dialogue and negotiate a resolution on the issue. The bipartisan Conference Committee will be charged with crafting a plan that could pass muster with a majority of lawmakers
The Conference Committee process is not well known, and it has not been utilized in several years. However, it offers a forum for negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers on legislation when the two chambers cannot agree.
Conference Committees are composed of ten appointees designated by each of the four legislative leaders; the Senate President and House Speaker each appointed three members, while the minority leaders each appointed two. It is anticipated Conference Committee members will meet both privately and publicly to iron out differences and come to an agreement, which will be filed and presented to lawmakers in both chambers in a Conference Committee Report.
Lawmakers plan to return in early July to consider the product of the Conference Committee’s labors. If the effective date of the report is immediate, then the measure will require a 3/5th vote for passage. If the effective date is changed to June 1, 2014, a simple majority vote would be required.
If the Conference Committee cannot reach an agreement or the report is defeated by a roll call vote, a second Conference Committee can be created. If the second fails to develop a proposal that passes muster with lawmakers, the bill is declared lost. However, it is also possible for the Committee to submit "corrected” reports which contain new changes and have the practical effect of giving lawmakers more than two opportunities to reach a consensus.
Though legislative leaders have expressed their hope that an agreement can be forged by early July, at the close of day June 19 Quinn issued a pronouncement establishing a "deadline" for legislative action by July 9. It was not clear what the Governor intended to do if the deadline is not met.
Though the Governor has proclaimed his dedication to enacting public employee pension reform, he has offered no comprehensive plan of his own and was minimally involved in working to pass substantive reforms during the spring session.
Gov Signs “Fracking” Bill into Law
Earlier in the week, the Governor signed legislation that allows the state to adopt regulations affecting hydraulic fracturing, frequently known as “fracking.” Senate Bill 1715 was the product of extensive negotiations between environmental groups and industry representatives, and defines how Illinois will regulate and monitor this practice.
Hydraulic fracturing forces pressurized water, sand and other materials underground to expand fissures in rock layers that trap natural gas or oil. This allows the gas or oil to escape to the surface, where it can be recovered. Though environmental groups initially raised concerns about the impact hydraulic fracturing could have on Illinois’ natural resources, proponents say the regulations in SB 1715 are considered to be a model for the nation in balancing environmental concerns with the significant opportunities for jobs that the process offers.
In fact, it has been estimated that hydraulic fracturing could create as many as 40,000 jobs in Illinois, many in southern Illinois and other job-starved areas of the state. However, the economic development opportunities and growth associated with fracking will expand to other regions of Illinois, as the industry will rely on resources, material and transportation from all corners of the state.
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