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Governor Quinn Sets July 9 Deadline for Pension Reform
State lawmakers return to Springfield for a one-day special session and create a new committee to deal with Illinois' $97 billion unfunded pension liability.
Governor Quinn is giving them a deadline of July 9.
Ten lawmakers will serve on a conference committee.
The Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are each appointing three members. The Republican leaders in each chamber are appointing two.
But, a local political expert questions whether the new committee will make a difference.
A little more than an hour into Wednesday's special session, the path to pension reform hit another delay.
A fire alarm forced lawmakers out of the Capitol for about a half hour, before heading to the floor.
That's where both chambers voted to create a conference committee, at the request of the governor.
"I think the actions today is a mechanism, a vehicle to try and forge the agreement necessary to put this issue to a solution, and to help move our state forward," Quinn said.
Representative Elaine Nekritz will be a part of the bipartisan committee of lawmakers.
"I think the conference committee process will look a lot like what we've been trying to figure out the last two years- figuring out where people are willing to compromise," Nekritz, a Democrat from Buffalo Grove, said. "At the end of the day, it'll be really about can we achieve the savings that will stabilize state government."
But, Republicans like House Minority Leader Tom Cross aren't sure.
"We have an opportunity to be down here and be done with it," Cross said. "But we didn't, so we'll move on. I don't want the conference committee to turn into another task force, another working group. We know what the issues are, we know we need to fix it.."
The conference committee will aim to strike a compromise.
The current impasse on pension reform stems from two rival plans proposed by the House speaker and Senate president.
UIS Political Science Professor Kent Redfield predicts nothing will happen until those leaders work out their differences.
"This is as much show as it is substance," Redfield said. "We'll get an agreement on pensions when you have an agreement between the speaker and president that they can sell to the two Democratic caucuses."
The conference committee will discuss the details both in private and in public hearings.
Once a compromise is reached, the group will present a plan to the General Assembly for a vote.
The conference committee consists of Democratic senators Kwame Raoul, Daniel Biss and Linda Holmes; Democratic representatives Elaine Nekritz, Mike Zalewski and Art Turner; Republican representatives Darlene Senger and Jil Tracy; and Republican senators Bill Brady and Matt Murphy.