Our View: Lame-duck session usually a scary time

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

Today begins that grand ol’ Illinois tradition where lawmakers, historically, have found ways to screw over the state’s inhabitants.

Yes, it’s the first day of the January lame-duck session.

Don’t let that “lame-duck” descriptor – given because outgoing lawmakers often favor items they wouldn’t if they were facing another election – fool you into thinking the Legislature can’t inflict some damage during the waning days of the 97th General Assembly.

Remember the 2011 lame-duck session? Lawmakers approved the “temporary” 67 percent income-tax increase that is likely to become permanent.

Lame-duck sessions also are a time lawmakers are known for voting on controversial issues. In that same 2011 lame-duck session, legislators abolished capital punishment and approved civil unions.

This year promises more of the same as lawmakers appear to be cramming in a number of weighty issues. Driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, gambling expansion, pension reform and gay marriage all have been mentioned as possible items for consideration.

When they’ll have time to address all these items is baffling because legislative leaders have scaled back the number of days they’ll meet during the lame-duck session.

The Senate is scheduled to meet today through Friday, and canceled previously scheduled sessions for Saturday through Tuesday. The House is meeting Sunday through Tuesday, and canceled meetings scheduled for this week.

That signals that perhaps the votes for the weighty issues aren’t there. Or, leaders will ram through legislation and we’ll find out the ramifications down the road.

Quinn said in November he expected pension reform by Jan. 9. That’s the day a new General Assembly is sworn in, which means any legislation that doesn’t become law before that day dies.

Pension reform – an issue that should have been addressed way before the state’s unfunded liability ballooned to $94 billion – should be the only focus during the lame-duck session.

It’s past time for constructive, realistic reform.

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