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A Request and an Invitation

The request:

Don’t forget a donation to the SUAA legal fund. There is a link to donate at www.suaa.org. We had some good pension news last week with the Supreme Court’s ruling, but we have not won yet. A donation can help save our pensions.

The invitation:

Monday, July 21st  at 12 noon
Harper College  Performing Arts Center
WILLIAM MABE, Executive Director of SURS presents:

“SURS Update and Pension Reform Recap.”  Serving over 208,000 active and inactive members throughout the world, the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) employs 120+ people in its Champaign office to secure and deliver members’ retirement and other benefits.  Hosted by the Harper College Annuitants Association and on Harper’s campus, Executive Director William Mabe will provide updates on SURS’ forecasted financial health and provide his expert’s recap on pension reform.  HCAA also welcomes chapter members from other colleges and universities to attend this special seminar.

Seminar and parking are FREE.

 
 

Good News on Health Care

This morning, the Illinois Supreme Court (ISC) issued its opinion in the case claiming that retiree healthcare charges are unconstitutional. The case is Kanerva vs. Weems, and the suits were filed in response to SB1313, which allowed CMS to implement a premium structure for retiree healthcare.

My impression is that this ruling is not only a victory for retirees in regard to healthcare premiums, but also a very positive indicator that the pending suits over pension reform may also be decided in our favor Let me caution, however, that the healthcare case is being returned to the lower court that was overruled by the ISC, so the outcome is not yet final. In other words, don’t count on seeing the charges for healthcare premiums removed from your monthly benefit check just yet.

Here are some key excerpts from the ISC opinion, compliments of Capitol Fax.

"Given 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."

Referring to the pension protection clause itself and the intent of its authors, the opinion continues:

"…If 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….the drafters chose expansive language that goes beyond annuities and the terms of the Pension Code, defining the range of protected benefits broadly to encompass those attendant to membership in the State’s retirement systems. Then, as now, subsidized health care was one of those benefits. For us to hold that such benefits are not among the benefits of membership protected by the constitution would require us to construe article XIII, section 5, in a way that the plain language of the provision does not support. 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."

Furthermore,

"In light of the constitutional debates, we have concluded that the provision was aimed at protecting the right to receive the promised retirement benefits, not the adequacy of the funding to pay for them." (emphasis added by Capitol Fax, along with this comment — "The new pension law sure appears dead to me."

"For the foregoing reasons, we 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 for those employees, annuitants, and survivors whose rights were governed by the version of section 10 of the Group Insurance Act that was in effect prior to the enactment of Public Act 97-695. Accordingly, the circuit court erred in dismissing plaintiffs’ claims that Public Act 97-695 is void and unenforceable under article XIII, section 5."

And wrapping up,

"Finally, we point out again a fundamental principle noted at the outset of our discussion. Under settled Illinois law, where there is any question as to legislative intent and the clarity of the language of a pension statute, it must be liberally construed in favor of the rights of the pensioner. This rule of construction applies with equal force to our interpretation of the pension protection provisions set forth in article XIII, section 5. Accordingly, to the extent that there may be any remaining doubt regarding the meaning or effect of those provisions, we are obliged to resolve that doubt in favor of the members of the State’s public retirement systems."

Here’s the link to the full opinion — http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115811.pdf

By the time I learned of this encouraging development, others had already issued comments, some of which are of particular interest.

Amanda Kass, the speaker at our annual meeting two weeks ago, is quoted in Crain’s Chicago Business as saying that it seems unlikely that the court will not consider the COLA to be part of the pension and therefore covered by the constitutional protection clause.

From Senate President John Cullerton:
"Today, the Illinois Supreme Court made it very clear that the Pension Clause means what it says. The Court cannot rewrite the Pension Clause to include restrictions and limitations that the drafters did not express and the citizens of Illinois did not approve. The Clause was aimed at protecting the right of public employees and retirees to receive their promised benefits and insulate those benefits from diminishment or impairment by the General Assembly. If the Court’s decision is predictive, the challenge of reforming our pension systems will remain. As I have said from the beginning, I am committed to identifying solutions that adhere to the plain language of the constitution."

From AFSCME:
"AFSCME is very pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed with us that affordable health care in retirement, a promise made to tens of thousands of Illinois public servants in exchange for their service, is protected by the constitution."
“The Supreme Court ruled today that men and women who work to provide essential public services — protecting children from abuse, keeping criminals locked up, caring for the most vulnerable and more — can count on the Illinois Constitution to mean what it says,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said. “Retirement security, including affordable health care and a modest pension, cannot be revoked by politicians."

“Unions representing public employees and retirees have stood virtually alone against political and corporate-funded attacks on retirement security,” Bayer added. “Time and again we have urged legislators to respect the constitution they are sworn to uphold, and to work together with us to develop fair and constitutional solutions to the state’s very real fiscal challenges. We remain ready to work in good faith with anyone to do so.”

SUAA will provide further information after having time to review the entire opinion.

Today’s ruling should further brighten our celebration of our nation’s birthday tomorrow.

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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

CRAIN’S Article on the Court Decision

Crain’s Chicago Business on the ISC ruling today…

Pension Reform dealt blow by IL Supreme Court – Crain’s.pdf

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Illinois Supreme Court rules in favor of pension members!

Today the Illinois Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Kanerva v. Weems case. The ruling overturns the Sangamon County Circuit Court decision against the plaintiff members of the pension systems. Your retirement health benefits are protected by the Illinois Constitution as flowing from your membership in the pension system!

This is great and encouraging news for all SURS members. And this likely has some predictive value as we anticipate the Court’s ruling in future on other legislation that seeks to gut pension benefits.

Read the opinion at http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115811.pdf

 

 
 

Annual GSU SUAA Luncheon

If you have not already done so, please let us know no later than today, Monday, June 16, if you plan on attending the Annual GSU SUAA Luncheon sponsored by the Office of the President to be held on Thursday, June 19, in E Lounge at 12 noon. Our guest speaker is Amanda Kass from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

The business meeting will be held immediately before the luncheon at 11:30 am in the same location.

The original invitation to the luncheon and the business meeting was included in the GSU SUAA newsletter.

Please RSVP to: Lynne Hostetter at lhostetter or call 708-534-8043. Thank you.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

SUAA Mini Briefing 06.10.14

RECEIVED BY EMAIL

To All Members and Friends!

First I want to thank all of you for responding to emails from me as we looked for people who fit certain criteria for our attorneys to interview. You definitely made a tremendous difference in the content of the SUAA Lawsuit. If you weren’t contacted, that doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be contacted. Your email comments were helpful too.

Please take 15 minutes to watch this interview with Aaron Maduff:
.

While the last month of session seemed uneventful, we can assure you there is still much work to be done in preparation for what might come next. A walk around the Capitol during May left most of us somewhat dismayed. It was too quiet. Just what work was being done behind closed doors?

The lawsuit continues; the need for money to fund the lawsuit continues. Ask your co-workers and others affected to help us out. We are just beginning!

SUAAction began their campaign. Yes, we know another attempt to drain you pockets. But it is important to have visibility! Please make your contribution today.

Enjoy the summer!

Click Here to read the Mini Briefing

Click Here to Donate to the Legal Fund

Click Here to Donate to SUAAction

Linda L. Brookhart
Executive Director
State Universities Annuitants Association

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Reminder: GSU SUAA Luncheon

If you have not already RSVP’d, please do so as soon as possible. If you are not a State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA) member, please come to the luncheon and sign up at that time. We would love to have you be a part of our organization. Thanks!

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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