Illinois legislators’ hands are not idle

But several proposed laws are plain silly as pension crisis lingers

Our state lawmakers can’t come up with pension reform, but they can find the time to make it a crime to buy or sell lion meat.

They have no concrete plan to pay down a $10 billion pile of unpaid bills, but they can file bills to crack down on anonymous commenters on websites.

Recent piecemeal attempts to cobble together pension reform aside, state lawmakers have a history of dealing with anything but pension reform. A last-minute effort to enact pension reform collapsed in the final hours of the 2012 spring session, but lawmakers took the time in May to pass a bill allowing trained miniature horses to be used as service animals for the disabled.

One could make a convincing argument, given the state’s financial crisis, that any bill not dealing with pension reform is a distraction. But some bills, from parades crossing railroad tracks to allowing the state to issue “Choose Life” license plates, are more meaningless distractions than others.

The following is a bipartisan list of some of the bills before state lawmakers – six from each house, divided equally by party – that some lawmakers are focusing on while the $96 billion in unfunded pension liability increases by $17 million a day.

• Lion meat – House Bill 2991, filed by Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, makes it a Class A misdemeanor to slaughter lions for meat, buy or sell lions for the purpose of slaughter, or sell the meat.

The bill, now sponsored by Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, is awaiting action in the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee.

In Lang’s defense, he also has filed a pension bill – it would make the temporary 67 percent income-tax increase permanent to pay for the pensions.

• Death penalty – Senate Bill 2275, sponsored by Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont, brings back the death penalty for certain circumstances. Lawmakers abolished the death penalty in the 2011 lame-duck session that gave us the 67 percent income-tax increase.

The bill is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Subcommittee on Civil Rights.

• Enema of the state – Senate Bill 1651, sponsored by Sen. Iris Y. Martinez, D-Chicago, establishes licensing requirements with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for colonic hydrotherapy.

The bill is awaiting reassignment to the Senate Licensed Activities and Pensions Committee, of which Martinez is chairwoman.

• Gubernatorial portraits – House Bill 975, sponsored by Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Decatur, provides that no portrait or other image of any current or former Illinois governor shall be paid for with state funds.

The bill, which given recent history should exempt mug shots, is stuck in the House Rules Committee.

• Show yourselves – Senate Bill 1614, sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, requires website administrators upon request to remove any comments by an anonymous poster unless said poster agrees to attach a name and confirms that his IP address, name and address are accurate.

The bill is stuck in the Senate Assignments Committee.

• Real estate comments – The Republicans filed a comment regulation bill of their own. Senate Bill 1863, sponsored by Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Champaign, requires a website administrator to remove any messages upon request that are “spurious” and “demonstrably inaccurate” real estate offers.

Bill consideration is postponed in the Senate Licensed Activities and Pensions Committee that will likely hear Martinez’s colon cleaning regulation bill.

• Rare disease awareness – Senate Resolution 84, sponsored by Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, and adopted last month, designated the last day of February 2013 and 2014 as Rare Disease Day.

• Animal tails – House Bill 2699, sponsored by Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, makes it a Class C misdemeanor to dock, or remove, the tail of cattle. The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Business and Occupational Licenses Committee.

• Smoke detector batteries – House Bill 2278, sponsored by Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, requires that smoke detectors not wired into the power of any house built after 1988 must have a nonremovable battery able to power the detector for at least 10 years.

The bill, like Rita’s animal tail bill, was assigned to the Business and Occupational Licenses Committee.

• Eat local – House Bill 1272, sponsored by Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Hainesville, designates the first Saturday of each month Eat Local, Buy Illinois Products Day, and directs the Illinois Department of Agriculture to increase awareness of Illinois food and agribusiness products.

The bill cleared the State Government Administration Committee on a 20-0 vote and is poised for a full House vote.

• Window tints – Senate Bill 1524, sponsored by Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, ensures that home-rule governments can’t override the state’s ban on tinted car windows. The bill is set for a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Transportation Committee.

• I love a parade – Even lawmakers who have seized the initiative on pension reform, like Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, have found it hard to resist filing odd legislation.

Nekritz filed House Bill 3255, which requires governments allowing a parade to cross railroad tracks to give the owner of the tracks 24 hours’ notice of the event. The bill is still in the House Rules Committee.

On the Net

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