Supreme Court of Illinois Backs Pension Clause Intent!
(Re-post of John Dillon’s excellent Pension Vocabulary blog of Sen. Chapin Rose letter.)
PENSION REFORM LAWS ALMOST CERTAINLY DOOMED
HEALTH INSURANCE RULING IS CRYSTAL CLEAR .
Today the Illinois Supreme Court issued a major ruling on the rights of state employees with respect to their healthcare benefits in retirement. This is a “procedural” ruling only that simply returns the case back to the local trial court for further proceeding. However, it cannot be understated because it also references pension issues in its findings related to healthcare and gives you a glimpse into, ultimately, how the Justices view the so-called “non-diminishment” clause in the Illinois Constitution regarding retiree benefits. From the opinion:
“[W]e conclude that the State’s provision of health insurance premium subsidies for retirees is a benefit of membership in a pension or retirement system within the meaning of Article XIII, section 5, of the Illinois Constitution, and the General Assembly was precluded from diminishing or impairing that benefit … .” Further, “[i]f they had intended to protect only core pension annuity benefits and to exclude the various other benefits state employees were and are entitled to receive as a result of membership in the State’s pensions systems, the drafters could have so specified. But they did not.”
Again, I stress that this ruling related to the trial court’s decision to dismiss the healthcare case and the Supreme Court was ordering it to be reinstated. Nonetheless that the fact that Court’s opinion was issued by a 6-1 majority of the Justices with such strong language protecting both healthcare and pension benefits gives us a very direct insight into how they view the core issue of statutorily diminished benefits itself.
I might add, that the reasoning of the 6-1 majority is one of the primary reasons why I voted against both the pension bill and the healthcare bill: because any “plain reading” of the Illinois Constitution is in line with the Justice’s comments today.
State Senator Chapin Rose
MORE FROM IRTA
The State of Illinois Supreme Court ruled on the case regarding State Retiree Health Insurance, Kanerva vs. Weems, UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
- IRTA applauds the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling today in Kanerva v. Weems. The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted a broad interpretation of the Pension Protection Clause that fully supports the interpretation advanced in Heaton v. Quinn.
- The Illinois Supreme Court has held yet again that, under the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution, pension benefits shall not be diminished or impaired. This is entirely consistent with Illinois Supreme Court precedent dating back several decades. We believe that the Illinois Supreme Court’s consistent enforcement of the Pension Protection Clause merits serious attention from our political leaders.
- In Kanerva, the Court reaffirmed that “it 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.”
IRTA will continue to keep our members updated in the coming months.