By Jackson Adams -
Most state House and Senate members in Illinois were given only one day to read through a 327 page pension bill before it was called for a vote on Tuesday.
“The members of the conference committee had several days to read the bill,” said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, “Lawmakers could have had it any time Sunday or Monday that they wanted it.”
Not all lawmakers agreed.
“We should have had a more transparent hearing for the public and the rank-and file-members. Even though people knew the issues the language was far different,” said State Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, who is also seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
“I saw the actual language of the bill sometime on Monday. It is 300-some pages long,” he said. “As Americans should have learned from Obamacare, you can’t just take data points or a ‘trust me,’ you have to read the actual language of the legislation. And while these issues have been around it’s very different to read it in statutory language. I also thought it looked bad they did this the day after the filing period was closed. I believe in transparency.”
State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, claimed he reserved the entire day to read the bill, and that even then he hadn’t finished it.
Nekritz pointed out that time with the issues was enough for lawmakers to decide.
“This was not terribly different from a lot of bills, where we do not read every detail but we get a very complete summary and analysis done, and there was plenty of time to absorb that,” she said.
“Some of these issues we have been through two thousand times,” said state Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates. “For those of us who have been paying attention it’s about looking at the differences with the earlier bill.”
But other lawmakers pointed out that many of the differences required time to identify.
“I received it at 11 a.m. on Monday,” said Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon. “It seems funny to me that a bill of this consequence was moved as quickly as it was.”
“I’ve been here for three years, going into my fourth year and I’ve seen things of imminent importance and critical significance to taxpayers run through this place like water through a sieve,” he added.
Discomfort with the time given for lawmakers to read through the bill crossed the aisle.
State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, R-Aurora, was among those who wished there had been more time to look over the paperwork.
So was state Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, who only started looking at the new bill on Monday.
“I wish I had time to read the  pages, but I’m not that kind of a speed reader,” he said. “County government has a two week limit to read through bills. Why shouldn’t state government have the same thing?”
County ordinances and contracts are laid over at least one board meeting, which are held every two weeks, explained Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen.
“State bills are generally so much more complex than local government,” he said. “That would make sense that you would have a fair amount of time to review and absorb what they are. Sounds like that would be a good rule.”
The pension bill passed by simple majority in both the Illinois House and Senate.
Jackson Adams writes for Illinois News Network.