Illinois Senate defeats House-backed pension reform bill

May 30, 2013 (SPRINGFIELD, Ill.)

The proposal pushed by House Speaker Michael Madigan failed Thursday evening, with 16 voting "yes" and 42 voting "no." The vote left lawmakers without a solution to the pension issue with only one day left before the Legislature's scheduled adjournment.

The House-backed plan would cut benefits and increase contributions for employees to help cut a $97 billion debt in five pension systems.

But Senate Democrats prefer a plan by Senate President John Cullerton which offers employees a choice of benefits to forgo. He says that plan would survive a court challenge.

Meanwhile, the Illinois House overwhelmingly approved a plan Thursday that would regulate high-volume oil and gas drilling in the state, also known as "fracking," hoping to kick-start an industry that proponents say could bring thousands of jobs to economically struggling southern Illinois. The measure passed 108-9 and headed to the Senate, where it was expected to pass. Gaming expansion deal may have been struck

In Springfield on Thursday, there may be new movement on a gaming bill that's tied to other legislation, as well as new developments in the same-sex marriage bill.

Springfield is buzzing about a possible deal on gaming expansion, including a new Chicago casino and slot machines at racetracks.

Our sources say Gov. Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may have agreed in principle on a gaming expansion bill. All that's left is for House Speaker Michael Madigan to call for a vote on the measure, which has already been approved by the Illinois Senate.

But there's more: if Madigan calls for a vote on the gaming bill, will Cullerton call for a vote on the pension reform bill? In other words, Illinois could get a two-for on these major issues within the next 30 hours.

Meanwhile, there could be a vote Thursday night on the so-called same-sex marriage bill.

"They might as well vote today, they might as well support because we want to win today, not tomorrow," said Marquel Smith, marriage equality activist.

"If Mike Madigan doesn't get his house to pass this bill this session, we're going to lay it right at his doorstep," said Andy Thayer, Gay Liberation Network.

Outside the chamber, Bishop Lance Davis lobbied against the measure telling lawmakers who support same sex marriage they are not welcomed in offended churches.

"We're saying that if you go against the constituency, against us as a majority that you're going to push this bill through, then we're saying that our churches are closed to you," said Bishop Davis, African American Clergy Coalition.

The marriage bill passed the Illinois Senate last February, but has stalled in the House where roll calls indicate it still struggles to get the 60 votes needed for passage.

"I'm in Springfield and I'm never sure of anything because things change on a moment's notice," said Rick Garcia, LGBT activist.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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