* From a press release…
Yesterday, the We Are One Illinois coalition, along with other plaintiffs, filed a motion in Sangamon County urging the Circuit Court to enter judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor on the State’s affirmative defense in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Kanerva v. Weems. The We Are One Illinois coalition and other plaintiffs assert that the Kanerva decision confirms that the Pension Protection Clause in the Illinois Constitution is absolute and without exception, even with respect to the fiscal circumstances alleged by the State in its defense.
The following quote may be attributed to We Are One Illinois:
“The Kanerva decision confirms what we have always argued, that the state’s constitutional language guards against any diminishment or impairment of pension benefits that Senate Bill 1 imposes. We believe, then, that the State’s defense is without merit and so have asked the Court in this motion to rule in our favor on the State’s defense that seeks to justify Senate Bill 1. We maintain that the constitution protects the hard-earned and promised retirement savings of our members and remain ready to work with any legislator willing to develop a fair and legal solution to our state’s challenges.”
The full motion can be found here.
In a decisive 6-1 vote this July, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in Kanerva v. Weems that the State’s provision of health insurance premium subsidies for retired state workers is a constitutionally protected pension benefit that the State is precluded from diminishing or impairing. The Court wrote:
“[I]t is clear that if something qualifies as a benefit of the enforceable contractual relationship resulting from membership in one of the State’s pension or retirement systems, it cannot be diminished or impaired … Giving the language of article XIII, section 5, its plain and ordinary meaning, all of these benefits, including subsidized health care, must be considered to be benefits of membership in a pension or retirement system of the State and, therefore, within that provision’s protections.”
Justice Charles Freeman, author of the Kanerva decision, noted:
“We may not rewrite the pension protection clause to include restrictions and limitations that the drafters did not express and the citizens of Illinois did not approve.”
* A reader sent me this brief explanation last night…
Here is the motion filed (in the Pension law case) by the plaintiff today asking that the State’s affirmative defense (i.e. the use of police power or “reserved sovereign powers”) be stricken.
Basically, the Kanerva ruling is used to plea for the striking of the affirmative defense. In so doing, this would gut the State’s defense. The judge would be saying, as the Kanerva decision has said, that the Pension Protection is absolute. That the State has no authority, be it reserved sovereign power or anything else, to disregard the Constitution by diminishing or impairing pension benefits. […]
There is no response from the State, yet, as this was just filed today. I can only imagine that they will try to argue:
1. The reserved sovereign power is absolute and can alter constitutional provisions.
2. That those benefits that have been reduced (such as the annual increase , or COLA) are not protected by the constitution since - the State will claim - they are not “core” benefits of the pension code.
Neither argument is compelling.
Again, the full motion is here.