House eyes six-day January session

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When Illinois lawmakers last were in session in a January, they voted to abolish the death penalty, increase the income tax and legalize civil unions.

Now, at least one of the two legislative chambers has told its members to be prepared to be at the Capitol for up to six days for another January session, this one possibly beginning Jan. 3.

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) notified his chamber that he’s prepared to be in session from that starting point all the way through Jan. 8, which includes possibly working through a weekend. Those days would be on top of six already-scheduled days spread over two weeks, beginning Nov. 27.

The Senate has not followed suit with a schedule of its own, but it is likely to be similar if not identical.

During the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Madigan signaled to reporters that a lame-duck January session might be the time to move a big pension-reform package that never could get off the ground this year.

It’s also possible lawmakers could take action on measures legalizing medical marijuana and gay marriages and extending the temporary income tax passed in 2011 beyond its 2015 expiration, though Senate President John Cullerton has been adamant against doing that.

Odd-year Januarys are when things often get done in Springfield when they can’t get done otherwise. That’s because of a proliferation of lame-duck lawmakers, who can vote their consciences without fear of reprisal at the ballot box. This year, there about three dozen of them.

Also, the state Constitution lowers the threshold from a three-fifths majority to pass legislation with an immediate effective date to a simple majority, meaning fewer House and Senate votes are needed to get something to the governor’s desk.

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