June 2, 2008

SPRINGFIELD (June 2)—Although it’s been passed by both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, House Bill 5169 can’t go to Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his signature just yet.

The reason is that the House and Senate passed two slightly different versions of the Railroad Police Act Amendment. Now the language in the two versions must be reconciled so that the governor can be presented with a single bill

“We don’t believe it is a serious problem except for the delay involved,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “The General Assembly adjourned Saturday without the members having had a chance to work out mutually agreeable language, so the bill is sort of in ‘suspended animation’ until the legislature convenes for the fall veto session.”

Szabo said the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Tom Holbrook (D-Belleville) used a parliamentary stratagem to keep the bill open so that House and Senate negotiators could adjust its language later.

“He filed two motions—one for the House to concur with the Senate version, and another to non-concur, including a request for the Senate to rescind its amendment. As long as those two motions are alive, all options are open.”

When the state representatives return to the House in the fall, Szabo said, they will vote either for non-concurrence or concurrence. If they agree to concur with the Senate version, the House will adopt it and send the bill to the governor. If they vote to ask the Senate to rescind its version, the bill will go back to the Senate and if the Senate agrees to rescind, the bill goes to the Governor. If the Senate does not agree, a House-Senate conference committee is established for resolution.

“Bottom line—the bill is alive, but will be subject to parliamentary maneuvering” Szabo said. And, he noted, the dispute over language affects only “technical procedure”, not the core language which the union placed in the bill to protect rail employees from railroad police departments that abuse their police powers.

“An overwhelming majority of both chambers agree that the protections provided in HB 5159 are both reasonable and necessary,” Szabo said. “Both the House and Senate versions provide identical provisions for objective oversight,” he said. “Charges of abuse of railroad police power could still be investigated by the Illinois State Police and findings enforced by the Illinois Commerce Commission.

“We’re just going to have to wait a little longer and ‘play a game of chess’ to get that protection—but it’s worth waiting for.”