Lawmakers Face Busy Final Week of Spring Legislative Session

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ILLINOIS (WIFR) -- Perhaps like clockwork, Illinois lawmakers are going down to the wire to make some decisions that impact almost all of us. Here are some of the biggest issues that might come to a vote in this final week of the spring legislative session.

One of those votes may be on a proposed bill supporting gambling expansion. The bill sits in the House and would allow for a casino to be built in Rockford. Lawmakers say it isn't ready for a vote and may not be before Friday, the last day of the spring session. They're still working out how revenue will be distributed if it comes to the Stateline.

Another hot topic is our state’s budget. Governor Pat Quinn proposed education cuts to the tune of $400 million this years. Local representatives say that could affect every student which is why both chambers say they'll work to restore that funding. Still some say it's not enough.

"I don't think we're going to see a whole lot more than just a status quo spending bill,” 69th District Rep. Joe Sosnowski said. “At this point, I don't think there's going to be real strong reforms in where we're spending money.”

A big portion of this year's budget is the state's pension system; a system experts say is over a $100 billion in debt.

The House and Senate have proposals up for consideration.

Some experts say the House plan could save Illinois taxpayers over $100 billion dollars over the span of thirty years by forcing workers to pay more into their own pensions while also reducing their pension’s yearly cost of living adjustment. The numbers indicate the bill would essentially eliminate the pension problem.

The Senate's plan would save only a third of which the House’s would, but it allows workers the choice of what they sacrifice; give up or delay yearly cost of living adjustments, or give up health care benefits.

There’s a question as to whether it’s legal to reduce the cost of living adjustments. The state constitution prohibits lawmakers from diminishing pension benefits. Regardless what bill passes, they both would face the courts.

Both sides agree something needs to be done fast.

"What's been promised to people in the past is more than the system can handle." 35th District Sen. Dave Syverson said.

"We have two dueling proposals,” 34TH District Sen. Steve Stadelman said. “I'm hopeful that we can achieve some middle ground, some compromise so we can get a bill out of here."

Time is also running out on concealed carry legislation. A bill facing the Senate calls for gun owners who want to carry their firearms to go through background checks, take training courses, and apply for a license. The same legislation would ban gun owners from carrying their guns in hospitals, parks, schools, public events, buses, and trains. Both parties are worried about the bill's effect on current gun control laws.

"There's concern that the way the house bill is written those laws can no longer be on the books,” Sen. Stadelman said.

"The governor is in a very difficult spot,” Sen. Syverson said while looking ahead to possibility of the bill passing the Senate. “Does he approve a bill he doesn't like but has more restrictions, or does he let the courts pass something that will be even broader?"

Another bill is one that would allow same-sex couples to get married, but the measure has stalled in the house; Speaker Mike Madigan says there aren't enough votes to pass it.

Today the Illinois House approved expanding Medicaid to cover low-income adults who don't have kids living at home. That's an additional 500,000 people who previously didn't qualify. A minor change was made to the bill, so it returns to the Senate for a vote.

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