Chicago Democratic State Senator Iris Martinez.
She’s my State Senator. But I don’t understand her.
On Tuesday she voted for SB1. She is a pension thief.
But on Friday she sent an email to me and her other constituents which said she voted for SB1 because she was against it.
I have heard versions of this story from other Representatives and Senators who I have talked with these past view weeks. But none put it as boldly and incomprehensibly at Senator Martinez.
She believes SB1 does not meet the requirements of the state constitution.
She hopes it will be ruled unconstitutional.
But she voted for it.
I will say that I don’t think people should make much of (House) Speaker (Michael) Madigan’s comments that he believes the law will be upheld. What else is he going to say? – John D. Colombo, the Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Professor of Law
In interviews with News Bureau Business & Law Editor Phil Ciciora, two University of Illinois law professors discuss the constitutionality of pension reform bill passed by the Illinois Legislature and signed into law Dec. 5 by Gov. Pat Quinn.
The big question: Is the law constitutional?
John D. Colombo, the Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Professor of Law: The constitutional issues are no clearer today than they were six months ago. I continue to believe that if the Illinois Supreme Court interprets the pension clause in the state constitution literally, at least parts of the law will be struck down. It’s very hard to see how a reduction in the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for people already retired is supported by any contractual consideration. One of the arguments I’ve heard is that the 1 percent reduction in contributions will constitute legal consideration for the COLA change, but retirees have no payments to reduce, so clearly with respect to them there is no consideration.
Laurie Reynolds, the Prentice H. Marshall Professor of Law: I agree with everyone who has noted that state employees have always lived up to their side of the bargain, paying the contributions dutifully with the expectation that the state would do likewise. But that didn’t happen, and though it is a shameful breach of the public trust, the pension system has not been funded adequately. And that is the starting point of the legal analysis; the court has to start with where we are now, not with where we should be.
No constitutional provision is absolute – every sentence, every duty, every seemingly clear and unequivocal requirement can always be interpreted as having a qualifier, a caveat, a “but.” In this case, I believe that the meaning of the pension clause is going to be that no benefit shall be diminished unless the state has clearly established that diminishment is the only way to keep the state afloat and to allow the state to continue to perform its other important duties to the citizens of Illinois.
If the opponents of the law can show the Illinois Supreme Court that the state is bluffing here, that there are actually reasonable alternative strategies that would fully fund the system and that would allow the state to continue to fund its other obligations (education, Medicaid and transportation, et cetera), then the court is likely to say that this law is an unconstitutional diminishment.
But if the state is able to convince the court that this law cuts pension benefits no more than necessary to keep the state afloat, then I think it is highly unlikely that the court will read the pension clause literally and invalidate the law.
Colombo: Even for people still in the system, the 1 percent reduction almost certainly will not equal the value of the lost benefits in most cases. It is also hard to see how the state’s agreement to actually fund the pension plans is consideration, since they have the obligation to pay the pensions anyway – and the “guarantee” is only as good as the Legislature’s word, which we all know isn’t worth much at this stage. That is, the funding guarantee can be overturned by another vote of the Legislature, so there really isn’t much of a guarantee at all.
Finally, altering a binding contract generally requires consent of both parties to the contract – you cannot unilaterally change a contract even if you offer adequate consideration without “acceptance” of that change by the other side. That’s clearly not happening in this case.
Having said all that, there is no guarantee that the court will, in fact, interpret the pension clause literally. As Laurie has noted, there are other tools at the disposal of the court that could result in its reaching a different conclusion. Law is not arithmetic. At the end of the day, it is all about interpreting the language, and that’s what the court is there for. Until they decide, we’re all just purely speculating.
I will say that I don’t think people should make much of (House) Speaker (Michael) Madigan’s comments that he believes the law will be upheld. What else is he going to say?
Reynolds: I would also point out that the state courts once had an opportunity to order the state to fund the pension system and chose not to jump into that essentially legislative decision. In the Sklodowski case in 1998, the (state supreme) court rejected a suit brought by members of various retirement systems, asking the court to order the state to fund the system. The court refused to do that, noting the importance of legislative discretion in this area and concluding that the law did not give employees vested rights to any particular statutory funding level.
I know that this case is easily distinguishable from the current situation, but I think that the earlier case shows the court’s deference to legislative prerogative, and I expect that that deference might well apply to tip the scale in favor of judicial approval of this delicate political victory that is supposed to solve Illinois’ fiscal woes, or at least most of them.
Read the entire article here.
- George Schmidt publishes Substance News.
The voting on SB1 showed how the Democrat leadership will try to play this from now on. First “downstate” — then Chicago. No sooner had SB1 passed than Rahm Emanuel’s talking points (and distortions) were being blared as “news” in the Tribune, Sun Times, and TV.
But this time around, it’s going to be different, starting with the governor’s race.
It’s sad that Ken Davis thinks Bruce Rauner is a shoo-in just because he had more money. There are a lot of very good historical examples in Illinois about why that doesn’t work. One that comes to my mind is Hofeld (was that his name?). Others galore. The Oberweiss thingy is another example. Rauner is going to pour out millions of TV ads and radio, but unlike Rahm’s Blitzkrieg TV campaign in 2011, this is a different time and reality. Rauner is one of those guys for whom it can be said “There is less to this than meets the eye…”
But let’s be comprehensive, and start with Pat Quinn’s ugly dissing of the Chicago Teachers Union and those of us who elected him in 2010. The Vallas thing was a massive slap in the face, and he didn’t even have the courtesy to give the CTU leadership a heads up before he announced it. I heard it during a meeting at CPS (on of all things school finances) and immediately said, “That’s got to be from The Onion.”
Within five minutes, Crain’s and the Sun-Times were making it clear that this Vallas thing was not an Onion report, and we were discussing Quinn’s political death wish.
Pat Quinn foreshadowed his political suicide before the “pension reform” confrontation. The Paul Vallas choice highlights Quinn’s spit-in-your-face approach to teachers, and it was increased with Quinn’s crazy celebratory signing of SB1. As many of us have noted (and Fred does here) the Working Peoples Party is gaining. But what needs to be added is that it was the Working Peoples Party that exposed the hypocrisy of Paul Vallas in Connecticut, challenged his crazy claim to be an education leader, and voted him out in Bridgeport by voting out the school board that would have continued to support his fantastic version of corporate “school reform.”
As to this week’s votes against Illinois teachers. By Wednesday night when the 800-member Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates met, we all agree with Karen Lewis, Jesse Sharkey and the others who spoke that the Illinois attack on our pensions was just the prelude to what will be done to Chicago pensions. And it’s worth noting that Chicago Teachers Union had people in Springfield on Tuesday to continue the lobbying that had begun up here with all reps and senators.
Apparently, thought, some of the Democrats don’t get it. My part of town (Portage Park) was an example of the split personality. My senator (Mulroe) voted “Yes” for SB1, while my rep (Martwick) voted “No.” Almost as soon as the vote was reported, I got an email from Mulroe’s office trying to explain his vote, using the same BLAH BLAH BLAH talking points about fiscal responsibility — while ignoring the revenue issues and the plutocracy — that Fred talks about.
One of the contributions CTU lobbyists and researchers made to the discussion took place during Wednesday’s meeting. By the time we went home from that meeting, every delegate, representing 600 schools, had a listing of all the reps and senators and how they had voted on Tuesday. And for the Senate, we also knew how they had voted on HB2536 (corporate welfare for Archer Daniels Midland) and HB 3271 (corporate welfare for Office Depot).
It was amazing to me that I could get that silly email from Senator Mulroe about is SB1 vote when I also knew that he had trashed us by voting to steal from the pensions of state workers and teachers, on the one hand, and then voted to increase corporate welfare the same day, on the other hand.
As everyone knows, the reason Pat Quinn is governor (instead of Bill Brady) is that teachers delivered the key votes in the three counties (out of 101) that Quinn won four years ago. Not one teacher I know will vote for Quinn now that he’s married to Paul Vallas and the Vallas craziness. And every teacher will eventually know every vote on corporate welfare from guys like Mulroe — long before the next election.
This was a tough week for Illinois geezers like me.
Oops. This is where my retired friends text me about calling ourselves geezers.
But I say we should embrace the term.
Turn an insult into a proud self-description.
I keep saying that we are a new generation of retirees. We came of age in the sixties and are turning 65 now. We know how to fight for what is right. And we know how to win.
And the timing couldn’t be better because there is a war on geezers. A Democratic and Republican war on geezers.
What the political leadership did this week in cutting 25% of my earned retirement over the next 20 years was a battle in the war on geezers.
I was struck by an article in the business section of the New York Times this morning.
Four administrators at Rutgers, New Jersey’s public state university, are filing an age discrimination suit against their employers.
Mr. White, 63, had received positive annual reviews from 1990 to 2011. In 2009, the supervising administrator wrote that his work was “conducted at the highest possible level!”
He was considered a leader in the field, winning a Fulbright grant in 2005, the first year it was offered for career services directors. Rutgers, the biggest public university in New Jersey, was ranked 21st nationally in 2010 by The Wall Street Journal for placing undergraduates; in 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the business school 33rd in the nation for M.B.A. pay.
But none of this information was included when Gregory S. Jackson, now the university president’s chief of staff, wrote Mr. White’s performance appraisal for the first time in April 2012. Mr. Jackson, who had recently taken oversight of career services, wrote that Mr. White had failed to meet standards in every category.
Soon after, Mr. White was removed as director; within a year, he was fired.
And New Jersey’s public pension system is in Governor Christie’s line of fire.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who supports legislation to cut future hires from such groups out of his state’s pension, issued an executive order this month creating a Pension Fraud and Abuse Unit. Among its mandates is to look at “claims of improper participation in the retirement systems.”
According to the New York Times story:
Age discrimination claims are on the rise as members of the post-World War II baby boom enter their 60s. Last year, 22,857 people filed age-related complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, compared with 16,548 in 2006.
What appears to be happening is that older public (and private sector) employees are being forced out of their jobs because of age discrimination then the state cuts their pension benefits.
We have nothing to lose.
And what little we have.
CONVICTED FOR THEIR CONVICTIONS! In Raleigh, NC, the next group of “Moral Monday” are now convicted for civil disobedience: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, Rev. Curtis Gatewood, Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Rev. Nelson Johnson, Maria Teresa Palmer, Rev. Larry Reid, Sr., John (Bob) Zellner, Perri Morgan, O’Linda Gillis, Margaretta Belin, Dr. Timothy Tyson, and Barbara Zelter.