Monday, January 25, 2016

“Send a Reading Teacher to Springfield!” by John Dillon

“…That’s my bumper sticker for this political year.  I think maybe Springfield needs a reading teacher for every legislator.  Maybe I’d negotiate a few less than one for each and every of the 177 members in the General Assembly.  Why…?

“It’s pretty evident in the last few days that no one in the General Assembly really comprehended the 38-page judgment of the Illinois Supreme Court in unanimously striking down SB1 (also known as Public Act 98-599).  Perhaps they read it, but my bet is their eyes glazed over and they just kept turning pages, vacationing in the font changes and wondering when the assignment would come to an end. 

“It’s pretty obvious the new Governor’s had ‘his people’ read it for him.  I’d push for at least two reading teachers for his office staff; maybe an extra three or four for him – if he read it at all.

“Last week, Republican Leaders Durkin and Radogno announced a new bi-partisan pension reform bill.  Durkin, who told me last May he’d have a new pension reform plan with bi-partisan support despite the Supreme Court.  Durkin said he was willing to take a ‘leap of faith’ in dealing with the other side.  Senate Leader Radogno added she considered the outcomes of this collaboration ‘puny’ but ‘nothing to sneeze at.’

“Despite the Governor’s announcement of a new bill for pension reform which modeled the earlier SB2404 of Senate Leader Cullerton, the opinion of the Illinois Supreme Court on May 8, 2015, was sharp well-defined in its message that even a choice of diminishments is strictly unconstitutional. 

“Citing Kanerva v. Weems, Justice Karmeier writes, ‘We held in that case that the clause (Pension Protection Clause) means precisely what it says: if something qualifies as a benefit of the enforceable contractual relationship resulting from membership in one of the State’s pension or retirement systems, it cannot be diminished or impaired’ ¶45.

“Of course, by the time an excited Governor Rauner came to the microphone, he’d not only ignored the Court’s earlier decision but also added a new ‘agenda’ wrinkle: the elimination of collective bargaining in his pension reform bill.  Cullerton was quick to remove himself from any part of this discussion of a bill similar in design to his own SB2404, except for the addition of the usual Rauner anti-union demand.   

“What triggered Rauner’s last minute addition of a ‘poison pill’ to what might have been another attempt at pension theft in the General Assembly? Is he as crazy as I sometimes think?” […].

For the complete article, Pension Reform 2016: Jamais Vu by John Dillon, click here.

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