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Frivolous Bills at the Statehouse
$17 million dollars is how much Gov. Pat Quinn says the state falls in the red each day without pension reform. While there has been progress on the issue, no bill has hit his desk. Meanwhile, lawmakers are debating issues some say are trivial.
A piece of legislation prohibiting a driver from holding an animal in his or her lap while driving a car passed a committee several weeks ago. Then there's a bill that would make it illegal to slaughter a lion or to possess, breed, buy, or sell the animal for the purpose of killing them for meat. That too passed a committee.
"The economy is not that bad in Illinois, so we don't have to start consuming lions," State Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) said. "What are we going to do next? I know there is a lot of exotic pets that people eat but we don't want to eat the king of the jungle."
Those are two examples of bills some, like Kristina Rasmussen from the Illinois Policy Institute, say are frivolous and a waste of time, especially with Illinois owing $9 billion in unpaid bills and the state's pension liability close to $100 billion.
"There is that saying, don't sweat the small stuff," Rasmussen said. "Legislators are wasting their time on the small stuff. We have bigger problems at hand."
There has been some movement on pension reform. The House passed a few pieces of legislation on the issue. The Senate has as well. Trying to get both chambers to agree on one overall comprehensive package, however, will be tough. But Rasmussen asks, "Pets in laps and lion meat?
"A lot of different lawmakers will have constituents with something that is important to them and that's what comes forward," State Rep. Rich Brauer (R-Petersburg) said. "There is a lot of time in between when we talk about pensions and that's when some of those bills come forward."
"The number one issue right now is turning our state's economy around," Rasmussen said. "You cannot do that until you fix the budget problem and the pension problem. 100 percent of their attention should be on the those issues."
Gov. Pat Quinn has demanded pension reform for years. Last summer, the Democrat called lawmakers back for a special session to deal with the issue, but nothing went to his desk. He then set a deadline of January 9, but again, nothing happened. Lawmakers are off this week and next for spring break.