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Pension law reform in spotlight

SPRINGFIELD -- There's a new call for state lawmakers to fix the pension system, but this time, they're not talking about the debt.
SPRINGFIELD -- There's a new call for state lawmakers to fix the pension system, but this time, they're not talking about the debt. A group is calling for reform to the pension law to make sure people who don't deserve a pension, don't get one. WCIA-3's Steve Staeger keeps us Connected to the Capitol.

When someone is convicted of a crime involving their job, they actually can continue to collect their pension until their sentencing date. It's one of many loopholes one reform group wants closed.

Ron Michaelson is on the board for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. He says, as lawmakers are delving deep into pensions, they need to change more than just the benefits.

"It just kind of adds to the whole problem of pensions in Illinois and how we have to clean things up. If you're an insider and you know how to play the game, you know the rules, you can get an edge."

He's talking about little-known loopholes. Springfield power broker Bill Cellini is in prison right now, tied to former Governor Rod Blagojevich's crimes. But he collects a little under $1,000 a year in a state pension, because for a short time, he was a teacher and his crimes weren't tied to his time as a teacher.

Former State Representative Connie Howard resigned last year, and earlier this summer, she pleaded guilty to pocketing state funds. Since her resignation, and until her sentencing in November, she can still collect a pension.

Michaelson said, "Even though in the grand scheme of things these are costing very little, they're still egregious in a sense."

Michaelson says as long as lawmakers are addressing the $100 billion hole in the pension system, they ought to take care of this, too.

"It's all interrelated and the fact that some of these things are coming to light now when we see the bigger problem might be the kind of incentive we need to take care of everything."

As for progress on the pension problem, a conference committee of lawmakers still hasn't reached a solution. Members have said they hope to have something ready by veto session next month.
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