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Illinois Legislature to Take Up Pension Proposal in Early December

The Illinois Legislature will convene during the first week of December for a special session to decide on a remedy to the state’s $100 billion pension crisis, reports StateTrack’s Alex Manuel Moya. The House will hold committees sessions on Dec. 2 and likely move to floor action on Dec. 3. The Senate may return on Dec. 3 and 4.

A conference call was held last week between House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and other key lawmakers over a proposal that could save Illinois $150 billion over the next three decades. The plan, which originated from a series of guidelines devised by a bipartisan pension panel a few months earlier, would reduce employee contributions and replace retirees’ 3 percent annual compounded cost-of-living increase with one that’s half the inflation rate.

Walker Calls for Special Session in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) called for a special session to take place on Dec. 2 so legislators can grant people more time to transition from one health care plan to another, reports StateTrack’s Alex Manuel Moya. The three-month extension will give 77,500 Wisconsinites until April to exit BadgerCare Plus, the state’s health care coverage plan, prior to entering the federal insurance market.
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Coal Fires Up Two Key Senate Races in 2014

There’s no separating coal from the politics of West Virginia and Kentucky, two must-win states in the GOP’s calculus to regain the Senate majority in 2014.

But there’s also little apparent separation on the issue between the Democrats and Republicans likely to face off in the general elections in those states — largely because the Democrats have no legislative record on coal to compare. This has set off a battle of guilt by association, which means voters in these Appalachian states should expect to see plenty of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in Republican TV ads next year.

Like immigration in the Southwest, coal is more than just a single issue in this region. As two of the top three coal-producing states in the country, where coal powers the vast majority of residents’ electricity, it’s inherently connected to everyday life in West Virginia and Kentucky. Even if it’s not the only issue, it’s always an issue.
“They want to see them fighting for their lives,” veteran Kentucky Democratic operative Jimmy Cauley said of voters. “It’s their jobs and their culture that coal represents.”

The coal industry took a hit last week when the Tennessee Valley Authority announced it will close eight coal units, including two of the three units at the Paradise Fossil Plant in western Kentucky. Those two will be replaced by a gas-fired plant.

Read More on Roll Call: Coal Fires Up Two Key Senate Races in 2014

Pelosi Dismisses Obamacare Defections, Defends Statements

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her rhetoric leading up to passage of the 2010 health care law Sunday while seeking to minimize the reports of unrest in her caucus and the potential for political fallout in the wake of the law’s rocky rollout.

“I stand by what I said,” the California Democrat told anchor David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” responding to two old interviews — one from 2009 and one from 2010 — in which she said that if individuals liked their existing health insurance policies, they could keep them, and that the Affordable Care Act needs to pass in order for the public to see what’s in the bill.

Pelosi’s appearance on the widely watched Sunday talk show comes at a critical time for Democrats, who are being accused of breaking promises to constituents as millions have received notices that their old insurance plans have been canceled because they don’t comport to the new standards of Obamacare, and the enrollment website HealthCare.gov has been riddled with glitches that have prevented those with canceled policies from easily shopping for new ones.

Read More on Roll Call: Pelosi Dismisses Obamacare Defections, Defends Statements

How the Capitol Turned the Day JFK Died

Nov. 22 falls on the Friday before Thanksgiving this year, just as it did 50 years ago. And that extraordinary day in 1963 began on the Hill in ways that would seem familiar to the congressional denizens of today.

The House was done for the week, having pushed through spending bills for public works, arms control and military construction in plenty of time to allow a cluster of Texas Democrats to get home for a high-profile political photo op.

The Senate convened for general speech-making and preliminary debate on the bills set for consideration after the weekend: restricting wheat sales to Soviet bloc nations and delivering federal funds for local library construction. As was the custom, then as now, the chore of acting as presiding officer had been parceled out to several of the freshmen with the lunchtime slot assigned to the youngest in the class, 31-year-old Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

He was in the chair when his brother was killed.

And from that instant, the scene at the Capitol unfolded in ways that may be difficult to comprehend in today’s congressional culture of commuting lawmakers, hyper-partisanship, legislative stasis, saturation live coverage and social-media press relations.

Almost 20 minutes elapsed between when the shots were fired at John F. Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas and when a messenger delivered the first ominous alert to the president’s youngest sibling, who hustled off the rostrum and called the White House to learn more.

“Will the senator from Vermont yield for an emergency?” Democrat Wayne Morse of Oregon asked, interrupting a speech by Republican William Prouty to propose a quorum call while the horrific explanation for the young Kennedy’s departure swept through the chamber.

Read More on Roll Call: How the Capitol Turned the Day JFK Died