It Ain’t Over ‘til... (Recent Pension Movement)
The first day of spring and the continued dysfunction of the General Assembly makes one think of baseball in all its strangest configurations.
The screwball legislation called SB1 was narrowly passed yesterday, only after Senate Leader Cullerton called a parliamentary balk and coerced another senator (Dave Koehler of Peoria) into changing teams.
In fact, SB1 itself is the epitome of coercion, making active teachers in public downstate and Chicago suburbs choose between a compounded COLA and an undefined healthcare. (One wonders what that healthcare will look like once later defined.)
Senator Leader Cullerton considers this latest bill – which strips away all other targeted public sectors except active TRS teachers – possibly constitutional by reason of “consideration.” In essence, Senator Cullerton believes that making a choice for something not protected by pension law and, in so doing, relinquishing the right to something that is (a COLA) is constitutionally permissible. To say this is a gray area is an understatement that would make even Yogi proud.
|Senate Leader Cullerton|
In fact, questions of wasting time legally are what Sen. Kwame Raoul (13th District) was worried about – along with only 7 other Senators - when they voted no on the coupled bill SB35 that was sponsored by Senator Dan Biss (Dist. 9). As Yogi might add, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” Some senators are wary of anything so far proposed and so blatantly anti-constitutional. The Biss bill – SB35 - would disregard any honoring of the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution, and diminish benefits for active and retired TRS teachers (as well as other public sector workers).
Response to the Senate’s passage of the SB1 has been premature on all sides. As usual, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and their mouthpiece Chicago Tribune declared the Cullerton bill too little. More worrisome, the IRTA initially sighed relief and announced, “Retired educators live to fight another day.” Beyond accepting a divide-and-conquer strategy, this reaction is problematic for a number of reasons, most of them being in the House and Senate of the General Assembly.
|Rep. Elaine Nekrtiz|
SB1 now heads to the House, were we might remember Representative Elaine Nekritz (Northbrook) has prepped (with the assistance of Sen. Biss and others) a duplicate of SB35 – the bill which failed in the Senate by only 7 votes. Likewise, member of the House have recently been constructing (and in one case passing) various legislative amendments to pension reform. Whatever reaction to the arrival of SB1, we can likely expect an evolved version to return to the Senate for consideration in short order. We should expect SB1 to become something about which we might not sigh relief.
In short, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” As Bob Haismann would warn: We’d better keep making those calls. We’d better call while our active colleagues are working. They’d better call when they’re not. We’d better remind the legislators that we vote; that we believe in the inviolability of contracts; and that we stand behind our conviction that an irrevocable contract was created when we began teaching, not when we stopped. And we believe the courts will support that.
"It’s déjà vu all over again." Please, don’t not relax!