Special session produces nothing

January 2, 2008 9:18:04 PM PST
In Springfield, lawmakers are starting the new year much like they ended the old one after the governor's call for another special session to try and solve the transportation funding crisis. CTA, Pace and Metra commuters could all be seeing service cuts and fare increases if the lawmakers do not come up with a solution by January 20.

The house actually had 70 of its members show up Wednesday. So they had a quorum. But they had nothing to vote on, so they were there for about 15 minutes, and then they left.

The senate had 15 people who show up. They were in session for two minutes and then they adjourned. So Wednesday, in the state capitol, while it was certainly predictable, it was nothing very special.

"It's not only a new year, but it's a new day. And there's no time to delay in saving the CTA," said Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The governor called this special session, but the house speaker and senate president were not there. The absences made it tough to do anything special. The house republican leader, who was also not there, describes the legislative show by referring to a song by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

"Welcome back, my friends to the show that never ends/We're so glad you could attend/Come inside come inside," say the lyrics.

If the session does not produce a deal, it will lay off workers, and unions will withdraw huge money-saving concessions that they agreed to last year and have extended.

The house mass transit committee did meet to consider funding possibilities, including adding another 90-cent tax to a pack of cigarettes. But that's just an ingredient and no decision because of absences. But what the new year means is that passing a transit bill will require only a simple majority vote, not the two-thirds vote that sank efforts in the fall. So in theory, it should be easier.

"No longer can we be held hostage by those who may want to play politics because, again, all we need is a simple majority. I speak for all the riders of public transportation who believe that Springfield has had more than enough time to act. They had almost a year and a half," said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

The governor issued a statement saying that he was disappointed that despite the advance notice enough, legislators did not show up to do anything. But a number of legislators say that this was another meaningless waste of taxpayer money for a session that was predictably not going to happen as they are going to be back in their regular session next week.

So can they solve the mass transit funding issue? A number of legislators say yes, they are optimistic, but they don't yet know how.