A Little About Illinois Conference Committees

In June of this year, for the first time since December 2005, the Illinois General Assembly appointed a conference committee. The subject for this one is SB1: Pension reform legislation. That committee will meet in Chicago at 11 AM on Thursday, June 27 in room C600 of the Bilandic Building to start the steps necessary to reach consensus on pension reform. Additional meetings will likely be necessary. If agreement can be found, the conference committee will report its recommendations to the General Assembly, perhaps as early as July 8. The final step will be a vote by the entire legislative body.

The General Assembly has long been able under House and Senate Rules to appoint conference committees to resolve differences between versions of specific legislation that had passed out of the respective chambers.

The Rules adopted by each chamber allows the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate to appoint three members each and the House and Senate Minority Leaders to each appoint two members to the conference committee.

Even though the Rules provide for the possible appointment of a conference committee, no such committees have been created since December of 2005.

Conference Committee Procedures in the Past
A conference committee, in formal procedural terms, was tasked with creating a single agreed version of legislation that reflects compromise and that can withstand a vote by both chambers.

If agreements were reached on the language, staff would take the agreed text to the Legislative Research Bureau to be drafted.  The “conference committee report” would look like a bill, except at the end of the report there would be ten blank lines for the signatures of the ten appointed members of the Committee.

If the House and the Senate are in session, staff would then physically carry around duplicate copies of this paper report to the ten committee members to get their signatures on each copy.  If at least six signatures were gathered, including at least three signatures from members appointed from each chamber, the reports would be filed with the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate.

Once the reports were filed, they could be called on the House and Senate calendars like any other business on Third Reading. The Leaders of each chamber still had the power to call or not call the legislation.

While this is a description of the common practice of the Illinois General Assembly up until 2005, it is possible that the high profile of SB1 and changes in House and Senate rules since then, could lead to changes away from pre-2005 practices and procedures. We’ll be watching to see how the Speaker and Senate President manage the current process and will report here the results of this and future meetings.

Current Pension Reform Conference Committee Members

  • Speaker Michael J. Madigan appointed Representatives Elaine Nekritz, Art Turner, and Mike Zalewski
  • House Minority Leader Tom Cross appointed Representatives Darlene Senger and Jil Tracy
  • Senate President John Cullerton appointed Senators Kwame Raoul, Daniel Biss, and Linda Holmes
  • Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno appointed Senators Matt Murphy and Bill Brady.

More info on the Pension Reform can be found below: