Wednesday, June 1, 2011

UIC SUAA President's Perspective

Author: Merill Gassman
Title: President’s Perspective
Publication: UIC UNITED Newsletter

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” This famous quote, attributed to Winston Churchill, comes to mind as I consider the political situation in Illinois. As citizens of our various governmental democracies, we exercise our right to petition our elected representatives by writing or calling to persuade, demand, cajole, etc. as we attempt to influence their votes on legislative matters of concern to us.

Does it work? Well, thanks to the petition drive organized by Michael Moss and our colleagues in the UIC Academic Professional Advisory Committee (APAC), as well as the efforts of the member organizations of the Illinois Higher Education Legislative Coalition (HELC), we were able to forestall the passage of two bills that would have been deleterious to the interests of state annuitants.

SB512,which would have diminished the retirement benefits of current state employees, and SB175,which would have imposed health insurance premiums on state annuitants, did not reach the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives for a vote in the regular spring session that ended on May 31st. UIC UNITED and SUAA called upon its members to make their feelings on these bills known to their legislators, and this lobbying effort paid off.

SB512 passed out of the Personnel and Pensions Committee of the House with two Democratic members and one Republican member voting “No” and one Democratic member voting “Present.” I take pride in the fact that Rep. Dan Biss (D-17), a freshman legislator from my own district, was the Democrat voting “Present.”Despite the fact that this bill was being championed by the two party leaders in the House, Michael Madigan (D) and Tom Cross (R), it was not called for a vote. Similarly, SB175, led by Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-9), did not make it to the Senate floor for action. Yet, we should not be complacent: there are strong indications that these bills will be resurrected during the fall veto session in late October. Comments by legislative experts—lobbyists and journalists—at the recent annual SUAA meeting in Springfield suggest that these bills will not go away, and that state employees and annuitants might have to come up with alternative approaches to satisfy the main thrust of the bills

Should SB512 or a similar bill become law, there is a strong likelihood that its constitutionality will be challenged in the courts. SUAA is already anticipating the need to make this challenge in concert with its partners in the HELC and will be forming a legal defense fund to provide the necessary resources. You should have received a request from SUAA for contributions to this fund.

Remember that the SUAA staff in Springfield is working in your interests. Our contract lobbyist, Richard Lockhart, the dean of Springfield lobbyists, is highly respected among the legislators as well as his peers.UIC UNITED and SUAA will contact you should your intervention be needed once again. SUAAction, our political action division, has been effective in raising the visibility of SUAA in the state capitol and in establishing lines of communication with the members of the General Assembly. Please consider making a donation to SUAAction at P.O. Box 1770, Springfield, Illinois 62705.

On a different note, I am pleased to inform you that, thanks to the efforts of SUAA Executive Director Linda Brookhart, U. of I. employees will soon be able to deduct SUAA dues from paychecks. The officers of the UIUC chapter collaborated with those of our chapter to move this issue forward through negotiations with the university’s central administration. Watch your e-mail
inbox and the UIC UNITED website for more information.

Finally, if you have a specific question or wish to express your feelings about an issue of concern, feel free to send an email to the office at And I would be happy to respond as best I can to any inquiry or comment. In the meantime, do visit our webpages often: UICUNITED, at, and SUAA, at And, if you haven’t been receiving the periodic email messages that I send, please give me your current email address.

With best wishes,

Merrill L. Gassman, PhD, President and Webmaster
Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences, UIC

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