* One of the arguments being made in support of Speaker Madigan’s pension reforms is that the General Assembly has certain “police powers” in the event of a crisis. The GA has long had the latitude to pass bills which, um, stretch the limits, shall we say, of the Constitution when a crisis is at hand.
The Illinois Supreme Court has addressed police powers in quite a few cases, and talked about that history just three years ago when ruling on a lawsuit that sought to overturn a comprehensive medical malpractice reform law…
In a related vein, the Attorney General posits that section 2–1706.5 is but one part of a massive “multidimensional” response to the health-care crisis which requires all interested parties–insurers, medical professionals and health-care consumers–to make tradeoffs and sacrifices. According to the Attorney General, the Act, through a number of interrelated measures, constitutes an equitable means of ensuring that everyone who stands to benefit from a resolution of the health-care crisis contributes to its resolution.
The Attorney General cites to the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2008)) as an example of a multidimensional exercise of the General Assembly’s police power which, although modifying the common law, has been upheld by this court in a long line of cases. See Duley v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 44 Ill. 2d 15 (1969); Moushon v. National Garages, Inc., 9 Ill. 2d 407 (1956); Grand Trunk Western Ry. Co. v. Industrial Comm’n, 291 Ill. 167 (1919); Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Co. v. Industrial Board, 284 Ill. 378 (1918). The Attorney General argues that section 2–1706.1, like the Workers’ Compensation Act, constitutes a legitimate exercise of the General Assembly’s police power.
* But the Supreme Court ruled against the police powers argument in the med-mal case. A couple of prominent medical malpractice defense attorneys penned this analysis…
The Lebron Court also addressed the argument posited by the State Attorney General in an amicus curiae brief that the legislation amounted to a proper exercise of the state’s police power because it appropriately balanced the benefits and burdens of resolving the health care crisis among multiple stakeholders, including insurers, health care providers and patients.
The Court was not persuaded. Instead, the Court noted that because it was not resting its decision on the special legislation analysis of Best, the fact that the act may have served to address a legitimate legislative goal or may have addressed that goal in a balanced and equitable manner would not cure the statute of the constitutional infirmity.
The Court also noted that while the legislature is permitted to alter the common law and change or limit available remedies, that power is not absolute and must be exercised within constitutional bounds. [Emphasis added.]
This is just one more reason to exclude judges from the pension bill because including them could easily prompt a separation of powers argument similar to the med-mal case.
But, more importantly, the Lebron decision gives opponents of Madigan’s pension bill a very powerful argument.