SPRINGFIELD -- During the first week of its fall veto session, the Illinois General Assembly passed none of the controversial measures that were talked about before the veto session. In each case, the sponsors still are trying to herd enough members together to pass their legislation.

SPRINGFIELD  -- During the first week of its fall veto session, the Illinois General Assembly passed none of the controversial measures that were talked about before the veto session. In each case, the sponsors still are trying to herd enough members together to pass their legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said the addition of days in January’s lame-duck session before a new General Assembly is sworn in could mean bills won’t be called for a vote until then.

“Sometimes when there’s a lot of expectations, things tend to fizzle out because maybe it’s trying to accomplish too much, too fast,” she said. “It has been a relatively quiet week.”

Lawmakers return to Springfield the week of Nov. 29 for the final three days of the six-day veto session.

Here is where things stand with the major legislation floating out there:

 

Gambling expansion

Senate Bill 3970

Status: In Senate Gaming Committee

Quote: “I think we’re real close right now. We want to do it the week we come back after Thanksgiving,” said Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, the bill’s sponsor.

Situation: Link said amendments are still being drafted to put the bill in a form that can pass the Senate. None of the amendments will change the bill’s scope, which now calls for new casinos in Chicago, Rockford, Danville, southern Cook County and Lake County, he said. It also authorizes slot machines at horse racing tracks, additional gaming positions at existing casinos and temporary slot machines at Chicago’s two airports.

The bill needs to be approved in the Senate and then the House before it can be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has expressed reservations about the size of the expansion. Link said he has not discussed details of the bill with Quinn.

 

Civil unions

Senate Bill 1716

Status: Awaiting a vote on the House floor.

Quote: “Until everyone pushes their (voting) button, we won’t know,” said Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the sponsor, about whether it has enough votes to pass.

Situation: Harris said a number of House members were absent this week, including some expected to support the bill, which would give same-sex couples the same legal rights and benefits as married, opposite-sex couples. The vote is expected to be close, meaning Harris needs all of the support he can get.

Harris said he believes most of the absent lawmakers will be back after Thanksgiving, when the second half of the veto session is held. However, he still would not make a firm commitment that he will call the bill for a vote then.

The civil-unions provision was added in the House. That means if the bill is OK’d by the House, it must return to the Senate for its approval.

 

Pension borrowing

Senate Bill 3514

Status: In the Senate Executive Committee.

Quote: “Nothing has changed. There is no mechanism to pay back additional borrowing,” said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.

Situation: The state owes more than $3.7 billion to the five pension systems to meet funding obligations this fiscal year. With the state drastically short of cash, Quinn called on lawmakers to borrow up to $4 billion to make the payment. His argument is that repaying the debt will cost the state about $1 billion in interest, while skipping the payment to the pension systems will add $25 billion to their debt from lost investment income.

The House has approved the plan. However, not all Senate Democrats support it, which means Republican votes are needed for it to pass. Republicans say it is irresponsible for the state to borrow money when there is no clear way for the money to be repaid.

 

Medical marijuana

Senate Bill 1381

Status: Awaiting a final vote on the House floor.

Quote: “If everybody on the House floor who told me they hope I pass the bill would vote for it, I would have 30 votes to spare. Unfortunately, politics and some misinformation that’s been spread has gotten in the way of those votes,” said Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, the bill’s House sponsor.

Situation: The bill sets up a pilot program that would let people with debilitating medical conditions possess and use marijuana. The Senate passed the bill with the minimum 30 votes in May 2009. However, it has never been called for a final vote in the House.

Lang said some members won’t make a commitment to support the bill until the last minute. That’s made it difficult to gauge exactly how much support it has in the House.

Even if the bill gets out of the House, it faces another vote in the Senate. The House changed the effective date of the bill to July 1, a change the Senate must also endorse.

 

Lifting smoking ban in casinos

House Bill 1846

Status: Awaiting a vote on the House floor. It has no Senate sponsor.

Quote: “We need the money. This is the bottom line. To let $500 million go, never to be recovered, is something that I cannot overlook,” said Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago, sponsor of the bill.

Situation: Burke’s bill would lift the smoking ban in casinos until states adjacent to Illinois ban smoking in their casinos. Burke said the ban has hurt Illinois casinos and is depriving the state, which has a $13 billion budget deficit, of much-needed revenue.

A recent study by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability found a 28 percent drop in state casino revenue since the ban went into effect, citing the smoking ban as the biggest reason.

Opponents point to a bad economy and revenue numbers showing that the Jumer’s Casino in Rock Island did better when it opened a brand-new, Las Vegas-style establishment, exceeding revenues of a nearby Davenport, Iowa, casino, where smoking is still allowed.

They also worry about the legislation opening up the possibility for exemptions for bars or others who claim to have been harmed by Illinois’ nearly 3-year-old smoking ban.

Next year, Burke said, he will explore filing legislation that would require casinos to have non-smoking areas for patrons and employees.

 

Personnel evaluations

House Bill 5154

Status: The House overrode Gov. Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto. The bill has not yet been sent to the Senate.

Situation: The legislation bars disclosure of the personnel evaluations of all public employee. Quinn proposed changing the bill to bar disclosure of personnel evaluations only for police officers. The House voted 77-36 to override the governor. The bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, plans to call it for an override.

 

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527. Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.