Monday, March 6, 2017

To the Sponsors of House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 18

Most Illinois citizens (who have read this blog) recognize the incessant schemes of the Civic Federation, Civic Committee, Illinois Policy Institute, and their minions in the Illinois General Assembly (and governor) that blame public employees and retirees for the chronic Illinois budget crisis.

Most Illinois citizens (who have read this blog) also recognize that some politicians, who lack moral sensibility and legal understanding, have no qualms about stealing money from the public pension funds and ignoring the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling against any form of unconstitutional public pension theft.

Public employees and retirees know about the corporate vast resources of money and influence the Civic Federation, Civic Committee, Illinois Policy Institute, and their minions in the Illinois General Assembly (and governor) have committed to reforming public employees' and retirees' rights and benefits and their own accountability under the law in Illinois.
Public employees and retirees know about unethical and incompetent politicians and their wealthy benefactors who continue to choose and ignore the legal court precedents, the essential history and necessity of the “Pension Protection Clause,” and what it means to uphold the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions. 

Public employees and retirees know that to repeal the “Pension Protection Clause” is to attack public employees’ and retirees’ rights to a constitutionally-guaranteed compensation, and that this can never be legally or morally justified, especially when Illinois politicians have continuously stole money that was supposed to be paid into the public pension plans for several decades.

Public employees and retirees know there are no equal rights when resolutions and proposals are made to underpin and to sustain the fortunes of a few at the expense and victimization of the state’s public employees and retirees. 


Public employees and retirees know that to possess a right to a promised deferred compensation, such as a defined-benefit pension, is to assert a legitimate claim with all Illinois legislators to protect that right, and that fulfilling a contract is a legal and moral obligation justified by trust among elected officials and their constituents. 


Public employees and retirees know the “Pension Protection Clause” is a binding legal commitment and requirement of justice, and that justice demands we keep our covenants with one another: for when legislators swear an oath to uphold the State and U.S. Constitutions, then citizens of Illinois have also acquired the right to expect that they will uphold that pledge. This is a matter of important legal and moral concern for all citizens of Illinois, for all legal claims are validated by a moral framework since the concept of justice is grounded in ethics and morality.

According to Eric M. Madiar, former Parliamentarian to Illinois Senate President John Cullerton in 2015, “…Public Act 98­0599 [the senate bill that attempted to diminish and impair Article XIII, Section 5 in December 2013] was not a response to an unknown or unforeseeable problem, but rather a response to ‘a crisis for which the General Assembly is largely responsible.’ The court further found that the Act was not the least restrictive means the State could have used to address the problem, but ‘an expedient to break a political stalemate.’

“In addition, the court indicated that the Act was tantamount to a taking of private property because the Act failed to distribute the burdens of pension funding evenly among Illinoisans let alone the State’s contract partners. The court explained that the U.S. Constitution ‘bar[s] Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.’   

“In short, whether under a Contract Clause or Takings theory, the same arguments that prevailed in the Pension Reform decision against Public Act 98­0599 would equally apply to the… proposed amendment. As a result, the proposal amendment does not offer a plausible path to unilaterally reduce the fiscal burden of State and local pension obligations…” (Read Amending Article XIII, Section 5 (The Pension Protection Clause) of the Illinois Constitution). 

To the Sponsors of House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 18  (Sosnowski, Ives, Morrison, Skillicorn, Long, Spain, Phillips, Wehrli and McDermed), HJRCA 18 is unethical, duplicitous, and illegal. HJRCA 18 would not only destroy the public employees’ and retirees’ financial security, but it would also damage the communities that these people support, serve and protect, and ultimately the state's economy.

Moreover, HJRCA 18 would not reduce the state systems’ current $130+ billion unfunded liability that was largely created by the Illinois General Assemblies and Illinois governors; HJRCA 18 would not address the real fiscal issue caused by the state’s out-sized pension debt—in other words, how to amortize the $130+ billion debt owed to the five state-sponsored retirement systems in a feasible way. It would also take three-fifths of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly.

Read the State and U.S. Constitutions: Article 1, Section 16 of the Illinois Constitution: “No ex post facto law or law impairing the obligation of contracts… shall be passed”;  Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution: “No State shall… pass any… ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts…” 

To also ignore the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and change laws that protect one group of people is to ignore due process and equal protection of the laws that guarantee contractual agreements. 

It is shameful that a few policymakers are willing to renege on a guaranteed constitutional contract when they are the debtors. It is legally and morally wrong to modify public employees’ contractual rights and benefits prospectively and retroactively when there are legal and ethical ways to address the pension debt problem, such as through pension debt and revenue restructuring. Legal and moral sense dictates that all members of the Illinois General Assembly must align with the U.S. and State Constitutions and sanction the vested rights of its middle-class public employees.

Read the Illinois Supreme Court ruling: docket number 118585, filed on May 8, 2015.

—Glen Brown


Andersson has recently removed his name from the bill; McDermed has added her name.

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