By Ray Long
10:22 PM EDT, May 28, 2013
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate pressed for a compromise Tuesday to allow concealed weapons in Illinois, advancing a measure that would let Chicago keep local firearms laws like its assault weapons ban and rejecting a separate bill that would wipe them out.
The latest developments unfolded as lawmakers attempt to meet a federal appeals court's June 9 deadline to craft a statute that would allow Illinois citizens to carry guns in public. Illinois is the only state in the nation that does not have some form of concealed carry on the books, but the House and Senate have split on what to do.
The Senate Executive Committee, loaded with Democratic loyalists to Senate President John Cullerton, first rejected a less restrictive concealed carry proposal that passed the House last week with the support of Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. Opponents contended it was an overreach.
The Senate panel then proceeded to endorse a more restrictive bill that would allow Chicago and other communities to keep intact their local laws, a key element that Cullerton and other lawmakers insisted must be in any final product. The bill also included provisions from the Madigan-backed House bill, including tougher mental health reporting requirements and a 16-hour training period that would become the nation's lengthiest.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said the Senate-backed bill "provides a reasonable framework" to protect gun safety laws around the state. Mayor Rahm Emanuel also supported it.
With Friday's adjournment deadline getting closer, Cullerton suggested a compromise bill could take shape through further negotiations. "If we get over this super pre-emption that wipes out all these ordinances, we then have a concealed carry bill," Cullerton said.
Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno of Lemont said she sensed the sides were getting "closer." She cast a "present" vote on the bill Cullerton favored to encourage negotiations.
The National Rifle Association registered as "neutral" on the less restrictive Madigan-backed bill but opposed the more restrictive version sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago.
Raoul included a provision that would not allow concealed weapons in any bar, restaurant or establishment where alcoholic beverages are consumed. The House bill allowed concealed carry in some such places, depending on the amount of booze sold.
But Raoul removed from a previous version provisions that would have required a person to have a good "moral character" and a carve-out that would have required the Chicago police to endorse a permit for carrying in Chicago in addition to a permit for the rest of the state. Raoul also adopted the provision in the Madigan-backed bill that allowed for any law enforcement authorities, including federal officials, to object, as well as creating an appeals panel for applicants who are denied permits.
Democratic Rep. Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg warned that Raoul's bill would not pass the House as is, but Raoul said they plan to discuss options Wednesday.
Statewide cellphone driving ban
In other action, the House sent Quinn legislation to ban most cellphone use while driving. Exceptions would include hands-free devices under a bill sponsored by Rep. John D'Amico, D-Chicago. Tickets would be $75 and increase for repeat offenders. Chicago and Evanston already ban the practice.
Puppy lemon law
The Senate sent the governor a bill which aims to protect buyers of pets that turn out to be sick. Under the so-called puppy lemon law people would have up to 21 days after purchasing a pet to seek reimbursement for veterinary costs for a sick animal. They also would have the option to exchange the pet or get a refund.
Online voter registration
A key Senate panel advanced legislation that would allow voter registration by email. Another provision would remove the new requirement that candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run as a team in primary elections, and instead allow nominees to pick their running mates post-primary.
Emanuel retiree health care
The House sent the Senate a measure to allow Emanuel to transfer about 35,000 City Hall retirees to federal health insurance. The current subsidy expires soon. The measure does not affect city workers who retired before 1989.
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