HJRCA0011 (Say it ain’t so, Joe…)
In the Shakespearian tragicomedy Merchant of Venice, a seminal moment arrives when the evil moneylender Shylock demands his pound of flesh to be cut off nearest the heart of loan-victim Antonio. Defenders of the threatened plaintiff beseech the judge to reconsider the ridiculousness of the original contract, one ultimately ending in the death of another. The judge, a brilliant and disguised heroine, warns that it cannot be done: breaking contracts would set a precedent in the state which would result in the destruction of all confidence in Venice and with its business partners beyond the sea.
In the tragicomedy that is Representative Joe Sosnowski, his recent sponsorship of HJRCA0011 demonstrates the Rockford legislator’s complete disregard for the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution as also nothing more than fiction, a careless piece of writing that he can expunge without consequence. Or can he? HJRCA0011 proposes, “to amend the General Provisions Article of the Illinois Constitution. Repeals a provision that specifies that 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. Effective upon being declared adopted.”
Sadly, it appears Representative Sosnowski has not considered the results of his proposal to strike down safeguards to the pensions systems in Illinois. Hopefully, other legislators have. Even if it were legal, such a proposed amendment would face the challenge of the United States Constitution under the Contract Clause of Article 1. Even if it were to come to fruition, such changes might result in an exodus of state workers from their present positions to other states or other employment. What responsibilities might the state face immediately for federal provisions regarding social security or retirement savings? What would the state do, still facing a nearly $100 billion debt that has to be paid? What would happen to the contributions of those who were paying into the various funds? What would be the legal (Representative Sosnowski cares not for moral concerns) rights of anyone now retired in an action designed specifically to deprive them of what heretofore had been a contractual promise – and we are back again to the United States Constitution.
Of course, this may be just fine with Representative Sosnowski, who one previous neighbor described as being well supported by Tea Party members in the area of Fox Ridge, where Representative Sosnowski lived before quickly escaping the nearby construction of a large asphalt production plant he had helped to arrange (http://rockrivertimes.com/2012/01/11/guest-column-change-of-address-for-joe-sosnowski/). The neighbor complained that Representative Sosnowski and his family moved nearly five miles away from Fox Ridge after the Representative’s declaring that such an enterprise as William Charles Asphalt would provide no differences in the environmental atmosphere or land. The concerned neighbor, Mr. J. Sammon, states,” Mr. Sosnowski…is a political opportunist. The Republican Party obviously advised him that becoming involved in this controversy and taking a stand against the William Charles conglomerate would constitute political suicide.” Ironically, the same resident describes Representative Sosnowski’s act of political cowardice as one more example of another legislator in Winnebago County willing to “feed at the public trough.” And yet, that is precisely how Representative Sosnowski thinks of those of us who would work in the public sector and expect a promised pension (after being denied social security) at the end of a long and often distinguished career.
Besides appearing at the Northern Illinois Tea Party Forums, Representative Joe Sosnowski is a full time employee of the Rockford Christian Schools, working in a promotional responsibility as Director of Institutional Advancement. On the other hand, when it comes to public schools, Representative Sosnowski’s votes seem less than generous when it comes to tax money for education or for regional superintendents. You can find quite a bit about Representative Sosnowski’s past voting records or his contributors (mostly realtor associations) at Project Vote Smart (http://votesmart.org/). For Illinois pensions, the Representative conveniently and unthinkingly links the unfunded liability and the normal required payment to victimize retired pensioners. In the Rockford Register Star voter guide, Joe’s description of Illinois is one of “past poor fiscal management,” one that requires a restructuring our retirement programs.” When Joe comes to restructure, he employs only a wrecking ball.
Representative Sosnowski ran unopposed this last time around, but many of his previous neighbors and others had created a write-in candidate to show their distrust and dislike of Representative Sosnowski: Mickey Mouse. Apparently, the cartoon character was a description of the lack of significant legislation (beyond special use permits for real estate friends) that Sosnowski accomplished in Springfield.
Maybe this is Sosnowski’s big moment? Maybe a really big bill like a House Joint Resolution for a Constitutional Amendment will provide some gravitas that will make the next write-in candidate a bit more serious? Maybe something like Goofy? Or maybe it will appease the Tea Partiers who are watching his every move? On the other hand, real legislation, Rep. Sosnowski, is designed with eventual outcomes in mind – both good and bad – not just to hit a target.