House members would like to vote on Cullerton bill
SPRINGFIELD — Area state representatives say they'd like to have a House vote on Senate President John Cullerton's union-backed pension reform bill.
The measure (SB 2404) passed the Senate last week but may not get a vote in the House, where Speaker Michael Madigan, also a Chicago Democrat, passed a competing pension measure that is not supported by unions.
Likewise, Madigan's bill has not gotten a Senate vote, meaning there's a pension stalemate with less than two weeks remaining in the spring legislative session.
"I think if we voted on the Cullerton bill, I think it would pass overwhelmingly," said Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin. "My gut is that it would pass handily. Whether we get that opportunity remains to be seen.
"You might see some of the Republicans who did not vote for the Madigan bill (SB 1), I think they'd strongly consider voting for 2404."
He predicted it would pass with "80-plus votes" out of the 118-member House.
"I've been saying for two years that we need a negotiated approach, with everybody at the table," said Hays. "It's certainly not a perfect bill, but it is by far the closest to that kind of a solution."
But he said chances that it would get a vote in the House are "less than 25 percent."
Supporters of Cullerton's legislation said it is fairer to union members because it offers them a choice on which benefits they can retain, such as state health care or annual cost of living allowances. They also contend it has a better chance of being found constitutional by the courts.
Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, said she thinks the Cullerton bill "should come to the House, but I don't know how that will be resolved."
She said she had "not been involved with any talks with the Speaker" on SB 2404 "but I'd lke to see it come over and at least give people the opportunity to vote on it."
Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign, said "that would be the most fair way to do it.
"Let's have a fair hearing over here in the House and see if there's support for it," he added.
Brown said he believed he would vote for the Cullerton bill, although he said he also "is holding out for a better solution."
Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, said he'd prefer a pension measure sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville.
"I don't think we're going to hear Cullerton's bill over here," he said. "I'm worried that the Cullerton bill is going to be light on funding, that it wouldn't save enough."