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home : local news : local news

10/26/2012 1:06:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Voters to decide on amendment to state constitution
LAWRENCEVILLE - Casting a ballot on Nov. 6 is not all about voting for a person.

When Lawrence County voters go to the polls, anytime between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., they will asked to vote yes or no on a proposed amendment to the 1970 constitution.

The proposed amendment adds a section to the Illinois Constitution requiring a three-fifths majority vote to approve any pension or retirement benefit increase for public employees and officials.

The proposed addition of Section 5.1 to Article XIII of the Illinois Constitution requires a three-fifths vote of each chamber of the General Assembly (the Senate and the House of Representatives) for a bill that provides a pension benefit increase, except for appropriation bills.

"Benefit increase" means a change to any pension or other law that results in a member of a pension or retirement system receiving a new benefit or an enhancement, including any changes that (i) increase the amount of a member's pension, or (ii) reduce or eliminate the eligibility requirements or other terms or conditions a member must meet to receive a pension. It also means a change to any pension or other law that expands the class of persons who may become members of any pension or retirement system. An increase in salary or wage level, by itself, does not constitute a "benefit increase," unless the increase exceeds limitations provided by law.

The proposed amendment would also require a two-thirds vote for lawmakers to override a governor's veto or accept a governor's proposed changes in a rewrite of pension increase legislation. Currently, it takes a three-fifths vote to override a veto and only a simple majority to accept a governor's changes.

The proposed amendment requires approval of three-fifths of the members of the governing body of a unit of local government or school district for any ordinance, resolution, rule, or other action that provides an enhancement or emolument increase to an employee or officer that has the effect of increasing the pension of that employee or officer. "Emolument increase" means the creation of a new, or enhancement of an existing, advantage, profit, or gain that an official or employee receives by virtue of holding office or employment, which includes compensated time off, bonuses, incentives, or other forms of compensation. An increase in salary or wage level, by itself, does not constitute an "emolument increase," unless the increase exceeds limitations provided by law.

The proposed amendment requires approval of three-fifths of the members of the governing body of a pension or retirement system for any action that results in a "beneficial determination." A "beneficial determination" is an interpretation or application of law that reverses or supersedes a previous decision if that interpretation or application (i) results in an increase in the overall amount of pension benefits received by a member or (ii) results in a person becoming eligible to receive a pension. "Beneficial determination" does not include a final decision mandated by the courts.

Voters who believe the Illinois Constitution should be amended to require a three-fifths majority vote to approve any pension or retirement benefit increase for public employees and officials should vote "YES" on the question. Three-fifths of those voting on the question, or a majority of those voting in the election, must vote "YES" in order for the amendment to become effective.

Voters who believe the Illinois Constitution should not be amended to require a three-fifths majority vote to approve any pension or retirement benefit increase for public employees and officials should vote "NO" on the question.

According to a pamphlet published by the Illinois Secretary of State's office, arguments in favor of the proposed amendment are:

- A higher vote requirement would help prevent unfunded future liability for pension benefits.

- Requiring a three-fifths vote would provide better accountability.

- A three-fifths vote requires greater consensus among parties.

The pamphlet also listed three arguments against the proposed amendment:

- A higher vote requirement may limit the bargaining power of employers and employees.

- There is the possibility of disagreement on what constitutes a benefit increase.

- Requiring a supermajority for pension benefit increases could make it more difficult to recruit the best people to work in government service.

Should the proposed amendment be approved, it would take effect on Jan. 9, 2013, and add a new section to the General Provisions Article of the Illinois Constitution.





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