Legislators back to the capitol after spring recess

Legislators’ two-week spring break is over; members of the House are back in Springfield Monday, and Senators will join them on Wednesday.

The same, overriding issue that flummoxed lawmakers last spring remains this one – pensions.Illinois’ money is increasingly going toward state employees’, teachers’ and university workers’ retirement benefits, mostly because in the past, the state put off making its pension payments.

There’s pressure on legislators to decrease that cost by reducing benefits. But there’s also competing pressure to leave those benefits untouched. All of that could boil over this spring as legislators take up their annual task of passing a new state budget. This year, they're set to make cuts to education and other areas of government spending.

But those cuts could be offset if the General Assembly and Governor Pat Quinn come to an agreement on a gambling expansion package that would allow five new casinos and legalize online betting.Other controversial items on the agenda include same-sex marriage and the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

Lawmakers also have about two months to comply with a court order requiring them to allow some form of concealed carry.  Illinois is the only state that forbids people from carrying guns in public.