Thursday, May 16, 2013

SB2404: A Simple Simile(?)

Simple Similes & SB2404
Yesterday on the Mag Mile, in broad daylight and heavy foot traffic, an elderly lady was robbed by a group of young thugs who demanded her money and her jewelry.  Perhaps you’ve read or heard about it.  She estimated her loss in jewelry at approximately $100,000.  The media is aghast at either the inattentiveness or callousness of the pedestrians who did not come to her aid  ( Even if apocryphal, it's a great simile.
Perhaps if she had shouted and screamed they’d have taken notice?
On the other hand, if she were more like the coalition We Are One, she’d have wisely responded by saying, “Can we negotiate?”
Maybe then the thugs would have taken only some of the jewelry.  Or she could have explained what it was worth to her and they could let her keep, say, half of it.  Doing that she could have gotten something out of the deal. They could have gotten something too.
Lately, my friends and fellows have been trying to comprehend the “new alliance” between the coalition of unions (We Are One) and the legislators in the Senate who have constructed a bill that increases costs for actives and reduces pensions for actives and current retirees.   The bill is SB2404.
“There is a new reality.” According to IEA lobbyist Will Lovitt at the IEA Retired Convention.  “What I am hearing in Springfield is not like anything I have heard since I began working there.”  This warning of a General Assembly ready to redouble efforts to reign in costs for the debts they’ve accumulated did not fall on deaf ears or mute voices.  The argument regarding the negotiated” bill SB2404 has been heated.
“Get a grip, people,” emailed one retiree, “it’s negotiations.”  In other words, you have to give to move on.  Members of the General Assembly who crafted or backed SB2404 point to collaboration as momentous in their praise.  Senator Toi Hutchinson wrote, “Senate Bill 2404, a product of negotiations between public employees unions and the Senate President, is not only a cost savings measure, but is also the most fair approach presented thus far to current and future retirees. 

I commend the union coalition for having made such a great effort to ensure the stability of the pension systems for future generations.”   Past and current leaders of the IEA have pressed the retired membership that SB2404 is the only bill worth supporting.  “SB2404, the Cullerton-Coalition bill, is a choice model proposal that asks active and retired members to accept a benefit change in exchange for something of value.  That concept is what gives the bill the greatest chance of being constitutional.” 
The IRTA disagrees, and they are drawing a line in the sand – much to the consternation of SB2404 backers.  Some even suggest that such a challenge might threaten the “new alliance,” and provide for the passage of the pension killer bill, SB1. 
Lots of people draw lines in the sand, even very important people.  Just last month, President Obama found himself in a sticky situation after earlier drawing a line regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, only to find it necessary to vacillate after their probable use as reported by victims and other media.  He needed to check on the veracity of such claims.  Some lines are indeed necessarily more shallow than others. 
On the other hand, it doesn’t take a great deal of reading to realize the words, “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” seem pretty clear.  Reading Eric Madiar’s careful exegesis “Is Welching on Public Pension Promises and Option for Illinois,” one finds that the history and documentation of the 1970 Constitutional Convention chronicles a seriously deep line drawn purposely by Representatives Henry Green and Helen Kinney. 

In fact, the words are so clear and so self-evident that the city of Joliet was informed last week by the Illinois Appellate Court, who side-swiped more than side-stepped the question, whether changes in retirees’ health care can occur post retirement.  “The appellate court basically ordered that the case be reconsidered based on contractual issues.  It also indicated that a future decision should comply with a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that health benefits for retirees should remain as is unless there is clear evidence that benefits can be subject to changes” (( 
So, one ponders, who is offering changes in healthcare in SB2404?  Will these changes become part of a past history providing precedent for future considerations?
Will the General Assembly come back for more after this “new alliance,” this “new reality,” and this potential passage of SB2404? My experience says indeed they will.
Let’s go back to the Mag Mile.
Thug: Okay lady, we’ll take just half of the loot.  Give me your left earring and just one of the rings.
Lady:  Thanks, you guys.  Thanks, so much.  Here you go.
Thug: Okay, now give me all of it.
Maybe we should shout and scream after all?  Maybe that scream should be:  “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.


  1. there must be the rationale for why the Department of State does not negotiate with hostage takers. Maybe it's because it prompts the hostage takers to do it more often since taking hostages works.

    If the legislature can get away with ignoring the Constitution, then there are no laws, no rules. Chaos.

  2. I am on the side of IRTA. When SB 2404 was first introduced around last October, it did not include retirees. NOW...the new SB 2404 INCLUDES the retirees, therefore unconstitutional. If the Senate and House take parts from both bills and put them into one bill for passage, you can count on the bill being unconstitutional. Gov. Quinn will sign it and it will go to court. What will happen in court is....there will be several things in it that will be unconstitutional, BUT they will take one of them out....which means, they'll "interpret" one of the unconstitutional parts TO NOW BE constitutional. Thus, the court system will circumvent the guarantees to the constitution for us! Then....they will keep chip, chip and chipping away at our pensions over the next ? years.

  3. I'm in an interesting position. My husband and I have been retired three years; he has started receiving COLA, but I have not. With either bill, COLA will be reduced/postponed/abolished. I'm 6 years away from getting Medicare. With SB2404, health benefits will be "guaranteed" - but for how long? If I lose that benefit, I and many others will be scrambling for health care. My state senator doesn't particularly like SB2404 because of the pain it causes retirees, but my state representative is all for SB1. I'm scared about a court battle, especially after reading Anonymous's comments. IRTA and IEA (and I belong to both) don't agree and everyone wants me to call my legislators. Frankly, I don't know what to believe any more...but I'm losing faith in it all.

  4. I like that tactic: "We don't negotiate with terrorists."

  5. As they say, war is the continuation of politics by other means, but in Illinois politics is the continuation of (class) war by other means.

  6. If we must except what might be passed then all the political people have to get the same things that they want us to accept.. a reduced and staggered COLA, choosing between money and health care, etc.

  7. they prevented these people from paying into soc sec and medicare with the promise of an equivalent package--now they are changing the contract they made with these people--people why don't we all sue the state for the money we had to pay into this stupid system and then we can take care of ourselves--oh, that would reduce the paychecks of the fools in the capitol, oh, never mind.

  8. The "one size fits all" pension bills are unconstitutional and a breech of contract. Each retirement system is slightly different. SURS employees already pay an additional 1 percent of their pay specifically to fund the cost of living adjustments. They also pay an extra half percent plus the employer pays a half percent towards retiree health care. The shortfall in funding is caused by the GA and Governors misappropriation of the pension funds-NO OTHER REASON!