Written: September 14, 2012
I have earlier characterized the proposed Constitutional Amendment that will be on the November 6 ballot as "catastrophic". Here is why: From my perspective as a Professor of Law at the John Marshall Law School since 1975, and as a member of the research staff during the 1970 Constitutional Convention, my conclusions are:
1. The Amendment is very long and includes a number of new concepts and terms which have not been interpreted by anyone.
2. The greatly increased volume of litigation would further burden our judicial system and cause uncertainty.
3. The three-fifths required for pension decisions for all local units of government, including all school districts, imposes an unnecessary mandate on them, and I do not see how compliance for 7,000 governmental entities could be recorded or provide any precedent value. This issue is so immense that a new bureaucracy would have to be hired to monitor, referee and record countless votes, meetings and issues.
4. There is a very adroitly constructed sentence in the Amendment which would allow the General Assembly to further restrict the ability to provide a "benefit increase", "emolument increase", or "beneficial determination". It is unclear what this portends.
5. Article XIII, Section 5 of our Constitution (adopted in 1970) had as its purpose the safeguarding of the pensions of public employees. The above underlined change being proposed by this Amendment appears to be an attempt to circumvent or abolish those protections. For example, it is possible that a cost-of-living adjustment could be eliminated if this Amendment passes. In conclusion, this proposed Constitutional Amendment does nothing for the State's pension-funding problem. However, it creates many new problems and, if approved, would, in my opinion, be a catastrophe for Illinois. It should be rejected by the voters of our State.