Keeping Retirement Weird. Senator Biss’ view on pension theft seems to have changed. Activism works.

Back in 2013, Skokie Senator Dan Biss’ name was synonymous with pension theft.

He was then, and is now, a liberal Democratic member of the Illinois General Assembly.

Some suspect he is one of those who has his eyes on the Governor’s Mansion now that Governor Rauner is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the country.

Before the Illiinois Supreme Court ruling affirming the pension protection clause, Biss had plenty of opportunities to defend his pension theft position. Trust me, we retirees can be a pain in the ass.

As in the video above of our 2013 visit to the Senator’s Skokie office..

Recently a retired teacher activist  forwarded to me a letter she received from Senator Biss after she asked him about his current position on pensions.

Thank you for writing; it’s good to hear from you again. The courts have been extremely clear about the pension issue, and I certainly do not want to put everyone through a similar ordeal again. Recognizing that, I will oppose any effort at reform that I believe will only waste time and taxpayer money in the courts and cause anguish to beneficiaries. Attempting to kick the can further down the road by passing legislation that we know won’t stand up to the scrutiny of the courts will only guarantee greater future pain.

Best,

Senator Daniel Biss

9th District – Illinois

Well, thank you Senator Biss.

But you know me. I’m always skeptical unless every i is dotted and every t is crossed. And though I like Dan Biss personally, politicians can be wiggly.

So I wrote him.

What did he think of the consideration model that his Senate President, John Cullerton and the governor are proposing. How would he have voted on SB 17?

“I would have voted against SB17 had it come to the floor. My constitutional concern isn’t with the concept of consideration, which is a standard part of contract law, but rather with the question of whether this bill meets that test as it applies to future raises counting toward the pension,” the Senator wrote back.

SB17 never had time to get to a vote before the new legislative session began on Wednesday. But I imagine it will be back in the new session as part of some Grand Bargain to resolve the state’s budget impasse.

Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan seems to be saying that there is no interest in this version of pension reform.

Now I will differ with the Senator over whether Cullerton’s proposal meets the criteria of consideration, which as he points out, is a standard part of contract law.

Consideration requires in order to change the conditions of a contract, an exchange of equal or greater value. SB17 is a choice between two diminishments.

And Senator Biss would probably say that his change of views about causing anguish for beneficiaries is a result of the ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, not activists knocking on his door.

But I also think it is due to pension activists causing a ruckus.

Plus there would have been no court case without us.

The lesson for now is that activism works.

6 Replies to “Keeping Retirement Weird. Senator Biss’ view on pension theft seems to have changed. Activism works.”

  1. So, yes, this “consideration’ thing is part of the grand bargain which seems to be on the table, then off, then back on (or so I hear?). Or a vote as a separate bill. Fred, I’d love a reply – so you truly trust Biss to stand firm on pension benefits?
    He’s a mathematician, and everyone smart will say the only good option is to restructure the pension debt, because that is what is really costing, not the benefits paid out. Is that ever going to get talked about seriously and acted on? Is it too early for you to say you you’re backing for the 2018 governor?

    1. Michael,
      Perhaps you can show me the part where I said I trusted Dan Biss or any politician with my pension.

      1. Ok, point taken! Though this post seems to show that he’s evolved on his position (if not necessarily on grounds of fairness), and word on the street (folks who interact with him from my state uni job) is that he truly felt he had made a mistake on the issue and regrets it, but I’m not particularly encouraged by that.

  2. Michael, I always recommend that for people to know a candidate, look up her/his–a. voting record &–even more importantly–b. record of campaign contributions. You can look them up on the Illinois State Board of Elections website. For contributions, specifically, look up Illinois Sunshine–pretty much everything can be seen (unless it’s really dark money). I used it to reference some local candidates, finding one who had accepted money from Dan Proft’s right wing group, Illinois Liberty PAC. Finally, if you’re unclear as to a group’s mission, do a bit more online investigation of that group to find out what you need to know.
    And make sure to read Jane Mayer’s (prize winning NYT investigative reporter) book, Dark Money (just came out in paperback).

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