Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reprise: HJRCA49

“…cause that’s all you ever hear about in this country is our differences.  That’s all the media and the politicians are ever talking about, the things that separate us, things that make us different from each other…They try to divide the rest of the country. They keep the classes fighting with each other…”  - George Carlin

“…In fine, we thought he was everything/To make us wish that we were in his place./
So on we worked and waited for the light,/And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;/ And Richard Cory,  one calm summer night,/ Went home and put a bullet through his head. – Edwin Arlington Robinson  

Playing to the Gallery (the sinister appeal of HJRCA 49) 

Idiom:  In brief, playing to the gallery means to seek popular acclaim. The expression’s origin is from the theater, and it describes the message or content of the play as written for the less intelligent or to those who could not afford the best seats in the house and therefore had to sit in the cheaper gallery.  In later years it became a way to describe the person who cheapens his own abilities while seeking the approval of the uneducated populace, appealing to base instincts and interests.  And this brings us to Speaker Madigan’s Constitutional Amendment HJRCA 49, passed by all but two senators in the General Assembly. 

Madigan’s HJRCA 49 plays to the gallery by exploiting the very real anger and envies that can separate all of us, yet the amendment ironically does nothing to ameliorate any of the fiscal woes that our State and its citizenry face.  On the surface, Madigan’s Constitutional Amendment promises to make it tougher to provide pension benefit increases by requiring a three-fifths vote by both houses. 
In fact, there is no part of the proposed Amendment that will assist in the paying down of the unfunded liability, which threatens to strangle the state’s financial budget.  There is nothing that works to relieve the state from the madness of an ill designed ramp-up developed in 1995 (P.A. 88-0593), one which guarantees a tsunami of increasing payments into 2035. No attempt is made to alleviate or address the possibly federally prohibited forced payment of extra compensation by Tier Two employees.  In every sense, HJRCA 49 represents Speaker Madigan’s utmost cynical political gesture and his complete disdain for the people on all sides; and thereby, as usual, we all become victims of his intrigues. 

HJRCA 49 is crafted to appease the “gallery,” or for those who sorely seek revenge.   Nearly half a decade into the Great Recession, the toll on the shocked middle class in this country and state has understandably rendered people permanently economically injured and justifiably angry. 
Some very few examples:
“…the typical American family lost nearly 40% of its wealth between 2007 and 2010, shaving the median net worth to (lower) levels not seen since the early 1990’s” (Lee, Don.  Recession cut wealth by 40%.  Chicago Tribune.  12 June 2012). 
Median home equity for families owning homes fell nearly 43%, from $95,300 to $55,000.  Incomes have likewise fallen nearly 8% (  
The numbers of children being born in the State of Illinois into poverty have increased to nearly 20% - that’s one in five children living in a family of four earning less than $22,000 per year (

One out of every seven households in Illinois has a zero or negative net worth, and increases in personal bankruptcy filings in the collar counties have exploded to an average of over 200% ( )      

Indeed, this is fertile soil for sowing seeds of hate and anger; perfect bedding for something like Speaker Madigan’s HJRCA 49.    

Add to that the emotionalism and strident catchwords of the corporate owned media and the local power groups like the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.  Indeed, the Chicago Tribune often highlights its singular role in successfully assisting Madigan’s proposal for a vote in November.
 “ The action (passage of HJRCA 49) comes as the state faces a yawning gap in public pension funding and follows Tribune reports that have exposed how public officials and union members have padded pensions with lucrative sweeteners. The measure also potentially serves as an attempt to channel voter anger over burgeoning costs of public pensions.” (

For years, the Chicago Tribune has been concentrating on the exceptional and unacceptable manipulators of pensions in the public arena (Chicago Labor Leaders, previous members of the General Assembly, the previous Mayor of Chicago, public school administrators seeking work outside the state after receiving a large pension), and subsequently applying those spectacular sins to the “much too generous” pensions for public unions entirely.  After all, it’s not the unique nor the extraordinary the Tribune is after; it is all of us in the public sector.  On every opportunity, the Chicago Tribune decries the basic concepts of collective bargaining. Witness the drawing by their political cartoonist Scott Stantis a day after Scott Walker’s failed recall in Wisconsin.  And, while the choice of images – a gorilla-like caricature in a zoot suit – is simple and puerile, it does echo the kind of anger we hear directed at collective bargaining across the board from the Tribune.  In short, like Speaker Madigan, the Tribune also plays (or screams) to the gallery.

And who is the gallery?  Why, it is of course all of us – people who live in a state awash in debt and burdened by bills that have been grown to mountainous proportion – gifts from our political predecessors, some incarcerated and some walking blithely about. 

And in Springfield?  Even our best politicians face daunting challenges to understand the basics of needed pension reform, intelligent changes in tax structuring, a better methodology to tackle the unfunded liability.  It takes considerable time and mental energy to separate these items, much less make serious decisions about how to correct them.  Instead, the legislators often find themselves coerced or coaxed to accept whatever appears before them.  Representative Bost (R- Murphysboro)   made abundantly clear what many of his colleagues say in closed rooms to each other and their constituents( ).  On the other hand, HJRCA 49’s four pages is seemingly simple, apparently commonsensical, and outwardly direct – very much the opposite of Speaker Michael Madigan and his political mind. 

It would be inspiring to imagine leadership in Illinois that makes changes to the fiscal policies of the State of Illinois to revolutionize and remedy the budget issues, the result of decades of under funding the pensions needed costs.  The Speaker chooses not to do so.  Instead, Madigan chooses to play a deadly game pitting one group of workers against another, neighbor against neighbor, and possibly using the amendment to close the door on the state’s contractual pension obligations for all time.

HJRCA demonstrates the lowest and most vicious form of contemptuous political expression emerging from an assembly of the supposedly conscientious.

Vote NO on HJRCA 49.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

IRTA Meeting at Plymouth Place

IRTA Meeting at Plymouth Place (What needs be said)

Unfunded Liability vs. Pension Reform:

When we listen to Governor Pat Quinn or the Chicago Tribune decry the problems facing Illinois after years of underfunding the pension systems, we catch the words “pension crisis” over and over.  Yesterday evening at the gathering of the West Lake Shore Unit of the IRTA, I tried to make clear that it is not nor was it ever a “pension crisis.”  It is instead a debt issue called the unfunded liability.  Our legislators need to understand that as well.  To do otherwise – to continue to call the problem a “pension crisis” - is to paint public service as an onerous drain on the past, current, and future of the people of Illinois.

Public service is anything but that.

The unfunded liability – the result of decades of little or even no payments by the state to match the contributions made by millions of past and current employees now reaches an estimated $83 billion.  To understand the enormousness of this arrogant breach of responsibility, we can examine Governor Quinn’s mantra that for every day the General Assembly does not act; the state loses another $12.6 million.  That amount, sufficient to run four or five small businesses for three or four years, is only a fraction of the debt Illinois now owes in the unfunded liability.  In fact, $12.6 million is only 1.5/10,000th of the actual $83 billion.

The cost of not addressing this debt crisis has begun to disrupt the state’s ability to provide needed services at an increasing rate.

The Ramp-Up
The enactment in 1995 of a flawed Public Law 88-593, also called the Pension Ramp Up – exacerbates the inability to solve the debt the General Assembly now faces.  The bill set forth an ambitious schedule of increasing payments, both actuarially and logically unsound, which was designed to bring the five pension systems into 90% funding by 2045.  Instead, the Ramp Up has created an escalating required payment that increases so rapidly (especially in a slow or depressed economic period) that honoring the payments will take greater and greater portions of the general revenue fund in each successive year.  According to the Office of the Governor, the debt is now taking 13% or more of the general revenue fund.  Next year’s jump in required payment will be nearly 20% - from this year’s $4 billion  to next year’s 5.09 billion ( ). 

Instead of a Ramp-Up, the debt (unfunded liability) needs to be restructured and amortized as any real, sensible credit repayment plan should be.  In other words, the payment this year should be the same as next year, and so on until the debt is repaid.  The “mortgage” could be reconfigured for a date well beyond 2045.  Remember when we all purchased that house or auto?  At first the payments seemed daunting, but over time they became a manageable part of our monthly budget.  For the state, the pain in the initial years would be offset by the knowledge that the annual amount necessary to pay back would remain unchanged in the decades to come. Likewise, this method would provide for a stable expectation for needs in each year’s budget process.  Perhaps even the bond rating company Standard and Poor’s would take notice of this new responsibility.

So far, the bills that have been brought forth by members of the General Assembly to fix the debt crisis have consisted of cuts to the benefits previously provided and perhaps guaranteed by the Illinois Constitution in Article XIII, Section 5.  If the past and currently proposed bills are typical, legislators in Illinois are seeking the wrong solutions: trying to fix an enormous debt and an impossible pay-back scheme by taking benefits from retired, current and future workers.  Even if such scapegoating were not morally reprehensible, it will not generate the funds necessary to pay down the debt the General Assembly has accrued.

The director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability Ralph Martire warns that all of the proposed cuts to benefits passed collectively will provide only millions; in fact, he adds that such a draconian solution will only provide about 25% of the monies needed to deal with the ongoing debt (unfunded liability).  The coercive and cynical choices between health care or compounded COLA’s, the increases in contributions, the consideration of taxing retiree income, capping benefits, extending age requirements – will not solve the debt problem in Illinois.  Taking millions from the public sector will not generate the billions needed to resolve the debt crisis.

In order to generate the billions of dollars needed to resolve the debt crisis, we need to change the current tax structure from a flat tax to a graduated tax system.  Illinois is one of only seven states left in the country to hold to an antiquated flat tax system.   Yesterday evening, I described the latest loss of a dynamic business enterprise to our neighbor state Iowa.  A global company from Egypt, Orascom, has decided to build its $1.4 billion operating plant four miles away from Illinois’ border.  The head of the company, Nassef Sawiris, described the unpromising look of Illinois’ balance sheet as reason for the decision.  In fact, Iowa has a graduated income tax system.  According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accounting, replacing our flat tax system with the system Iowa has in place would provide an additional $6.3 billion in annual revenue.  In addition, the move to a graduated tax would bring tax relief to nearly 94% of all taxpayers in Illinois.

In January, a lame duck General Assembly will reconvene.  Madigan has hinted that “pension reform” may be accomplished in that session.  It would not be unlikely for Governor Quinn to call for a special session in January before the swearing in of new legislators on the second Wednesday.  You will remember that the last tax increases in Illinois were accomplished in a January lame duck session.  Speculation places the possible number of lame duck legislators at between 25 and 40.  Also, consider that bills need only a majority in January, not the super-majority needed in November. 

It is my hope that this information helps you in your conversations with your legislators.  Please contact your representative and senator now.

Thank you.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A.L.E.C. & Patti Pt 2

“It’s a very sad day when a Democratic General Assembly will make cuts on the backs of children…I don’t think the way to balance the budget is to make children uninsured.”  - Anne Marie Murphy, Executive Director Chicago Metropolitan Breast Cancer Task Force (   

And in each and every meeting she had with me, our staff and with the working group, she would bring more reforms and cuts for consideration.  I truly believe without our team member, Patti Bellock, at the table the Medicaid package would have been so much weaker than then what was signed into law.”  - House Republican Leader Tom Cross 

Crocodile Tears (“Patti & the Poor”) Pt. 2

IdiomCrocodile tears describe a false or bogus pretense of grief or sadness over a decision or action.  “It is proverbial that a crocodile moans and sobs like a person in great distress in order to lure a man into its reach, and then, after devouring him sheds bitter tears over the dire fate of its victim” (Charles Funk.  Hog on Ice & Other Curious Expressions. Harper Colophon.  1985.) Even Shakespeare describes this common, colloquial belief in his works on more than several occasions.

ON The Passage of the Medicaid Bill (SB2840)

“Some of my best friends” are not homeless, but a good number of my friends are.  After working in homeless shelters and acting as a site manager for many years, I have come to know too many people who try to exist on the street during the   most intemperate conditions.  The winter is indeed a harsh mistress.  On the coldest evenings, we all eat together, talk together, argue sports trades, discuss good and less-than-good movies, question politics, tell a joke, share a story…in short, we are just people – except for my better fortune.  By and large, what separates my friends and me is not necessarily “There but for the grace of God”; more likely it is  “There for the grace of not having a medical catastrophe…”   In almost every case, there were no nets to catch my friends from the “outrageous slings and arrows” of tumors, diabetes, stroke, aneurism, and so on.  I might tell you, after Governor Quinn’s signature on the latest Medicaid cuts brought to you by ALEC-award-winning Rep. Patti Bellock (Westmont) and Heather Steans (Chicago), winter could be especially cruel this year. 

In June, Governor Quinn signed into law several bills that will enact huge cuts to the health care services and Medicaid programs which deprive hundreds of thousands of Illinois’ lowest income classes of residents from services and assistance starting last month in July.  Total costs “saved” may include nearly $2.7 billion in multiple layers (  That’s a lot of money – and it’s more than a lot of people.  Here’s what’s going to happen:

Nearly 3000 – 4000 children will be removed from the universal income eligibility for offspring, a politically unwanted and orphaned child of ex-Governor Blagojevich – albeit a saving grace to thousands of lower income families before his fall from grace (www.

More than 25,000 parents lost Medicaid coverage as of July 1, 2012.  A bit more than the population of Representative Bellock’s constituency in Westmont, Illinois.

 According to reporter Christian Davion, $15 million provided for critical medical and in-home nursing will be cut for families, which will now face insurmountable medical costs for full-time hospitalization [rather than home ventilators, oxygen, feeding tubes, etc.] (   

Another $72.2 million will be cut by eliminating Illinois Cares Rx, the state program that offers prescription drug discounts to over 180,000 citizens from low-income households who are elderly and/or suffer from disabilities.  (www. 

Family Care for those families (two person household) making more than $20,000 annually will see their access to assistance stopped immediately. 

While this may seem injurious to those in the shady area that hovers just above a basic $20,000, Republican Senator Dale Righter of Matoon, IL, rationalizes this as an appropriate line in the sand:  “We need to incentivize the providers to make the Medicaid population healthier.  To me, this is about pay for performance”  (www.  In other words, let’s target the most desperate cases while eliminating the merely needy.  With that logic, those struggling people working at basic service jobs earning just over $20,000 annually are doing well enough to no longer deserve medical assistance, even if they have kids.

Podiatric services will also be curtailed – unless you can prove you are diabetic.  My homeless friends slog through the deepest and coldest wet snows without work (while looking) and without footwear (desperately looking), and limp their way into shelters each evening.  Want to hide out in the library? – Not allowed.  Go to an emergency room? – Not for long.  Stand in a foyer? – Keep moving.  The bottom line is stay on your feet all day and keep walking.  Now, if you’re not a proven diabetic with paperwork - No more medical assistance. 

Sadly, there’s more.  Nursing Care advocates also warn that this bill will jeopardize nursing home care as a result of cutting Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing home operators.  Behind closed doors, state officials working on the bill to cut Medicaid costs agreed to lower the set levels of care that had existed prior to the bill’s passage for care standards.  That’s right, reduced standards.  State Senator Jacqueline Collins noted, “They did an end run around the process.  It was a disservice to the democratic process.  Clout, money, and influence determined the outcome” (

Of course, some of our “indigent and chronic” are not without mental issues.  Did you think our legislators would find some port in the storm of cuts for anyone hearing voices in his head?  “The National Alliance on Mental Illness has ranked Illinois as the number one state in the US for budget cuts to mental health services for 2011, with the state having eliminated 31 percent of its total budget since 2008.  Including Quinn’s latest proposal for an additional 40 percent in cuts from state mental health programs, which includes shutting down six of the state’s twelve remaining mental health facilities.  Illinois will have cut over 71 percent of its funding for mental health services and programs over the past five years” (

Sorry, my friends.  And, if it is the “winter of their discontent,”
not to worry; they are so marginalized and without any political enfranchisement that whatever pain falls on them will not make a mite of difference to the rest of us. 

August 17th will provide the Illinois General Assembly a chance to move toward pension reform – like they did for Medicaid reform – after failing to make payments to the pensions for nearly 60 years.  This last Medicaid bill will result in a loss of nearly $1.35 million in Federal funding for Medicaid and the coffers in Illinois, as well as a consequent impact upon the employment of nearly 250,000 people in the state medical systems ( ).

Imagine what they can do to the machine that provides over $4 billion in economic energy a year in Illinois.  Say a prayer – for yourself and my friends.  

A.L.E.C. (Patti & the Poor) Pt.1

First published in August of 2012 in Pension Education

“To expand this program (Medicaid) is not unlike adding a thousand people to the Titanic…People come from all over the globe to the state of Texas for their Healthcare.”  -  Rick Perry on his refusal to accept additional Medicaid for Texas

“I have been forced to support the establishments I have mentioned through taxation and God knows they cost more than they’re worth…If they’d rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”  -  Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol  

A.L.E.C. (“Patti & the Poor”) Pt.1

Acronym – (American Legislative Exchange Council) ALEC is an assemblage of over 2000 legislative members and more than 300 corporate entities whose design and purpose is to seek direct access to politicians on the federal and state levels, provide forums and in-service on crafting “model” legislation, and expert/lobbyist assistance in creating or writing bills to take back to legislative capitols across the country.  Think Corporations Gone Wild.

According to ALEC Exposed, corporate members pay an annual fee of up to $25,000 to participate in ALEC’s agenda ( and additional sums for influential membership in a specific task forces)  while legislators are asked to donate only $50 to join the “not-for-profit” organization.  Additional funding arrives under such nominal cosmetics as grants: for example, $1.4 million from Exxon Corporation.   Not surprisingly, Koch Industries have a beginning and continuing heavy influence in the operation of ALEC. 

“ALEC’s appeal rests largely on the fact that legislators receive an all-expenses-paid trip that provides many part-time legislators with vacations that they could not afford on their own, along with the opportunity to rub shoulders with wealthy captains of industry [major prospective out-of-state donors to their political campaigns]”   ( ).  

Legislators’ entire families are invited and childcare is provided during after-session parties and cocktail gatherings.  One might imagine that lubricated shop talk would likely not include the benefits of collective bargaining; in fact, although ALEC describes itself as non-partisan, the leadership circle of over 100 politicians includes only one lone democrat – amidst such luminaries as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Rick Perry (see above quote), Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Jan Brewer, Newt Gingrich, Eric Cantor, the Koch brothers, and significant others. 

In Illinois, ALEC has another leadership circle working on the state and local level to effect legislation, which aims at supporting free markets, reducing the size of government, and promoting a conservative/corporate agenda. 

In fact, Illinois holds the distinction of having the ALEC State Representative of the year:  Representative Patricia “Patti” Bellock of the 47th district (Westmont Office).   A recent letter of congratulations from Republican House Leader Tom Cross – also a member of ALEC -  glowed with the kind of Orwellian political doublespeak  that sanitizes the actual undercutting of the medically needy or marginalized with positive parsing.   

Dear Friend,
Please join me in congratulating State Rep. Patti Bellock for being named “Legislator of the Year” by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for her extensive work on Medicaid reform. 
Rep. Bellock spent thousands of hours in meetings crafting Medicaid reforms that protected the most vulnerable while helping put our Medicaid system back on a path toward financial stability.  This was by no means an easy task.  All along the way, she faced strong resistance from many Democrats and interest groups who want to see Medicaid expanded, not reduced.   Once initial reforms were enacted into law, Bellock still had to fight to see commonsense measures like her recapture audit and residency verification implemented.  Rep. Bellock is still leading the fight to ensure implementation of all the reforms we have passed and is working with staff to craft additional Medicaid Reform measures
I remember several times this session when Rep. Bellock came into my office and said, ‘I think now is the time that we need to push for more reforms, this is our opportunity to push as hard as we can.’  And in each and every meeting she had with me, our staff and with the working group, she would bring more reforms and cuts for consideration.  I truly believe without our team member, Patti Bellock, at the table the Medicaid package would have been so much weaker than then what was signed into law.
Rep. Bellock was recognized for her efforts at ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah this past Friday.   She was nominated by several of her colleagues for this prestigious national award. Patti Bellock is highly deserving of this recognition and we should all be proud of her, her past accomplishments, and those still to come.   
Tom Cross
House Republican Leader
State Representative, 84th District

And what better individual to sit upon the committee to design the necessary cuts in Medicaid for the State of Illinois’ fiscal health (irony there, eh?) – after all, Rep. Bellock sits on the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force.  And besides Bellock, ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force includes many corporate parties supposedly interested in what’s best for all of us needing health services.  I’ve randomly selected only 8 of 40 corporate members provided to help and assist curious legislators.  For the entire list, please feel free to seek out their records on healthcare work – especially for the poor ( ).  

CIBA-GEIGY – Investigative reporters blew the whistle on chemical companies like this in 1980’ for offloading excess chemicals banned in Europe or the U.S. (

Solvay Pharmaceutical -  class action suits for changing/limiting pension plan benefits (

Hoffman-LaRouche – the company that brought us Accutane and consequent injury lawsuits (

Council for Affordable Health Insurance – shifting the lowering costs of public patients to higher costs for private patients with Medicaid billing changes(

Travelers Companies – seeks mandatory binding arbitration agreements with its workers /purchasers to avoid court settlements (

 Schering-Plough (Merck) – who gave us Vioxx and a $950 M settlement – still ongoing (

Parke-Davis – Successfully sued for the marketing of an anti-convulsant named Neurontin , given by company to medical staff for uses unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration ( ).

Upjohn – instrumental in the development of a deadly drug (Panalba), later forced off the US market and still sold by the company in 33 countries under another name (

PART 2: A closer look at how ALEC award recipient Representative Patricia Bellock and others “protected the vulnerable” in their providing financial stability for Medicaid. 
Remember, they believe your pensions need financial stabilizing too. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Madigan-Speak (or what to tell your neighbor about HJRCA#49)

Term: Byzantine – intricately designed to the point of confusion and convolution, often for devious or surreptitious reason ( ). 

 In November, a proposal to amend the Illinois Constitution will appear on the voting machine/sheet in your local polling place.  It seeks to amend the current section in Article XIII, Section V, of the Illinois Constitution that presently states the following:

Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

Not surprisingly, the additional Madigan Amendment #49 to this earlier Section V is nearly 24 times longer than the original, simply crafted section. 
In fact, (see above) the original Section V is only 40 words.  This new addition in HJRCA#49 generated by Speaker Michael Madigan is nearly  933 words, and it reflects the kind of byzantine and convoluted writing that will result in myriad questions, perpetual litigation, and eternal public sector vs. government conflict.  

If you’ve received your pamphlet from Jesse White, you’ve had the opportunity to read it.  Confused?  You should be. 

Is this what we want?

Michael Madigan, the master of political magic, has witnessed, endured and orchestrated a myriad of byzantine maneuvers to cover himself and his position for 30 years in power as the House Speaker.

This last work – HJRCA #49 may be his finest masterpiece or his first accidental transparency. 

Madigan’s Amendment is Convoluted:  Employing ambiguous phrasing like “emolument increases,” and providing nearly 400 words to describe (or obfuscate) what determines a “benefit increase,” the proposed Madigan Amendment offers not much else than confusion in the present.  As for the future of those firemen, teachers, police, and public servants in Illinois, Madigan’s Amendment promises bewilderment at the very least and substantial pain at the very most: 

Nothing in this Section shall prevent the passage or adoption of any law, ordinance, resolution, rule, policy, or practice that further restricts the ability to provide a “benefit increase”, emolument increase”, or “beneficial determination” as those terms are used under this Section.

ResultsAdoption of this Amendment promises a new growth industry in class action lawsuits against the State of Illinois, myriad portals for eager lawyers willing to interpret sloppily written legalese, and uncertainty for prospective employees considering working in Illinois as public servants.  Say good-bye to good firefighters, police, teachers, etc.  Forget ever reversing the inequities for Tier Two employees.

Madigan’s Amendment plays upon Appearances:  HJRCA #49 looks like action, of some kind, and it plays on the emotions of those who have come to believe that the pension crisis in the State of Illinois can be solved by writing new law to prevent public servants from securing a retirement that media and politicians have decried as exorbitant.   

Reality: HJRCA #49 is the child of hysteria wrought by Tribune Watchdogs and others regarding the very few (and culpable) characters who have indeed taken advantage of pensions – but NOT the hundreds of thousands of retired workers who have dutifully paid into them for their lives’ services.  AND HJRCA #49 does NOT address in any way whatsoever the real problem with the “pension crisis.”  The Madigan Amendment avoids any real response to the unfunded liability of over $80 billion facing the State of Illinois.   In fact, Speaker Mike, who oversaw the increases in so many people’s benefits during his tenure in the House, bills that were passed nearly unanimously, has once again created a canard in which he appears to have done something popular while squirming on in his political career.  It is safe to say that the Speaker’s ability to generate the votes necessary to approve a benefit change or disapprove will not be affected by a 3/5ths requirement anyway.  This, once again, is just window dressing, for Speaker Madigan. 

Madigan’s Amendment (#49) is the last change we need. It will
  • ·      Concentrate and assure his continued power.
  • ·      Create litigation at all levels in our courts.
  • ·      Make it difficult to hire qualified future employees.
  • ·      Do nothing to solve a fiscal issue with the state’s pension debt.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Legislative Amendment

Legislative Amendment (Although this Vocabulary first appeared in Pension Vocabulary in October of 2011, it is all the more poignant as we deal with proposed amendment HJRCA49.)

“It is conceivable that a legislator who is not running for re-election and who is under the inauspicious and officious influence of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and other legislators will write and propose an amendment to the Illinois constitution before exiting the General Assembly, thereby challenging the 'Pension Clause' once again and; thus, we must prepare for a constitutional revision" (We Must Prepare for a Constitutional Revision).
Unfortunately, in a state where appearances trump realities, an influential and powerful Speaker of the House Madigan was able to generate an unnecessary and confounding proposed legislative amendment (HJRCA#49) before the people in the November elections.  More about the topsy-turvy complexities of this badly drafted bill later.  First, let’s be very aware of how the legislative amendment process differs from others and how it is voted on specifically in Illinois.

In Illinois, two procedures can be used to make amendments to the Illinois Constitution, both of which will eventually face the approval or disapproval of the voting public. In truth, we might argue that either a Constitutional Convention might bring such a possibility or that a court's interpretation might be the same as an amendment, but a truly new request for a proposed amendment is more likely to come to all of us in Illinois by one of two processes.
One is an Initiative Amendment Process: This occurs when an amendment is placed upon a ballot based upon the request (or initiative) of the citizens of Illinois. In order to proceed, a set number of voters must sign a petition to request an amendment. “This initiative method was included to give the voter the possibility of changing the constitution even if the legislature was unwilling to do so” (Understanding the Illinois Constitution )  In order to declare such an initiative, a percentage of voters equaling at least 8% in the previous gubernatorial election must be identified on the petition...



Another is a Legislative Amendment Process: An individual in the House or Senate of the General Assembly creates and proposes an amendment, often at the sanction of leadership. In this case, the proposed amendment must seek the approval and vote of both houses of the General Assembly by a three-fifths endorsement. No more than three articles of the constitution may be amended in any election; in the case of the public pensions, the single target would probably be Article XIII, Section 5: “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

Regardless of whether a proposed amendment comes from the legislature or through the initiative process, it must be placed on the ballot at the next general election and must be approved by three-fifths of those voting on the amendment or by a majority of those voting in the election. Some voters choose not to vote on amendments at all, while others choose to vote only on them; thus, the need for a fractional difference as per the Illinois Constitution (Article IV).
In short, a positively accepted and proposed amendment from either the public or a member of the legislature will be an opportunity for the citizenry of Illinois to make an alteration in the existing framework of the Constitution of the State of Illinois.