Friday, October 14, 2011

SB 512 = No Trust in Legislative Leadership

When Civic Committee members, whom people have not voted into office, write a bill for state legislators and give advice on how to pass their bill, the people of the state are subjected to a law concocted with partisan interests. This is a breach of trust between the constituents and their legislators’ duty to represent them.

When legislators wield the power to impoverish some people and to destroy their right of self-preservation; when the Civic Committee and legislators are exempted from the severe consequences of their unjust proposal; and when the Civic Committee’s money not only buys the legislators’ votes but generates and perpetuates untruths among the public employees' and retirees' pensions, then one’s belief in the legitimacy of the Illinois General Assembly degenerates into skepticism and exasperation.

Furthermore, when one discovers that some of the best statesmen have retired a long time ago from the General Assembly; that competent and ethical leadership, in fact, no longer exists; that the majority of Illinois legislators pass bills they do not even read because “doing something” is all that really matters regardless of the disastrous consequences, then one’s belief in a representative democracy and justice becomes disfigured by cynicism.

How could we have faith in a process where some legislators are afraid to vote against a critical legislation because they are worried about running for re-election, about the redrawing of boundaries of their legislative districts, and about the funding of their next campaign? Is it because of their lack of will power and ethical leadership?

Moreover, what should we think about the legislative folly of the past several months? What should we say to a legislator when confronted with questions such as “how can a legislator read a 314-page bill when it’s being called in an hour or less?” or “why don’t you write the legislation?” and “what do you propose that we [legislators] do about the budget problem?” How can we believe in our state government when “party committees are often switched out or switched in to make sure that a bill will be unanimous,” and why aren’t any Nobel-prize winning economists invited to the Illinois pension symposiums?

Unquestionably, some legislators do not want to pay for public pensions, even though they were never fully funded since their inception many decades ago. It’s not about “pension sustainability,” “unfunded liabilities,” or suspect actuarial-cost methods, for we are aware of the media artifice that is “Illinois Is Broke” and that data can be easily manipulated and rationalized when one begins with a preferred conclusion and then works backwards to a plausible justification.

Many legislators and their Civic Committee benefactors want as much as House Speaker Madigan desires to “let the courts decide” (at the taxpayers' expense), while the Illinois Education Association and its members hope that Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate Eric M. Madiar's scrupulous research and final conclusions that the State of Illinois cannot “welch on promises” to the public pensions because there is “an enforceable contractual relationship” between the state and its public employees of which benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.” 

-Glen Brown

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