SPRINGFIELD -- A new class of Illinois lawmakers that includes 15 new suburban members was sworn into office today, taking seats in the General Assembly to face about $9 billion in unpaid bills, a retirement system that's the worst funded in the country and a tax increase set to expire during their terms.
Still, the new members of the House and Senate were surrounded by family and the pomp of the day, and top Democrats are expected to file legislation today to try to get the debate over teachers' and state workers' pensions started once again.
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Thanks to a surprising number of victories in the suburbs in November, Democrats start the new session with majorities bigger than in recent memory. The party has a 40-19 advantage over Republicans in the state Senate and a 71-47 majority in the House.
How that new makeup will affect big issues like pensions, gambling and the budget remains to be seen, as moderate suburban Democrats often come to Springfield with different views than their downstate or Chicago counterparts.
After the swearing in today, lawmakers aren't expected to begin meeting in earnest again until Jan. 31.
The Senate re-elected John Cullerton as president for another two-year term.
The 64-year-old Democrat from Chicago began his third term at the helm as the 98th General Assembly was sworn in Wednesday.
Republican Sen. Christine Radogno was chosen as minority leader.
Michael Madigan was easily re-elected to another term as speaker of the Illinois House.
Republican Tom Cross was re-elected minority leader.