Chief Justice (retired) New Hampshire Supreme Court: States Must Honor Public Pension Contracts.

"I grew up in a world where a deal was a deal.  If public retirement benefits are changed or withdrawn for employees already in the system, we will lose our ability to attract new employees to public jobs. Uncertainty is not our friend."

"Other states have addressed this concern by making changes prospectively; that is, only having them apply to employees who join the public work force after changes are adopted into law.  At least that puts people on notice and honors expectations."

"At the end of the day, I don't think it's fair or just to change the rules after the game begins.  New Hampshire is a special place where public commitments have meanings.  We should honor them."

"John Broderick Jr., a former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, notes that the views expressed above are his own and not necessarily those of the University of New Hampshire Law School, where he serves as dean."

http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20140513-OPINION-405130358

Colorado PERA officials in written testimony to the Joint Budget Committee (December 16, 2009): “The General Assembly cannot decrease the COLA (absent actuarial necessity) because it is part of the contractual obligations that accrue under a pension plan protected under the Colorado Constitution Article II, Section 11 and the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 10 for vested contractual rights.”

http://www.kentlambert.com/Files/PERA_JBC_Hearing_Responses-12-16-2009_Final.pdf

Colorado Supreme Court, in Denver Police Pension and Relief Board, 1961:  When conditions are satisfied for retirement . . . . "at that time retirement pay becomes a vested right of which the person entitled thereto cannot be deprived; it has ripened into a full contractual obligation." "Whether it be in the field of sports or in the halls of the legislature it is not consonant with American traditions of fairness and justice to change the ground rules in the middle of the game."

Colorado Court of Appeal's Decision in Justus v. State (October 11, 2012): “We consider McPhail and Bills dispositive (indisputably bringing to a conclusion a legal controversy) of whether plaintiffs here have a contractual right to a particular COLA.”

Support the Rule of Law in Colorado at saveperacola.com

Corporate-Driven Education Reform Experiments Failing in Denver and Around the Country

I decided to add to my recent articles about the Colorado State Board of Education primary in Denver after reading an article today in Chalkbeat Colorado, a national non-profit education news agency. In the article "8 struggling schools opt in to Colorado's new turnaround network."  Ashley Jochim, research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Publication Education and one of the policy experts advising the states the following: 


                                                                                                                                                   Stacey Jocim, CRPE

"But Jochim said the resources will only be fruitful if principals are allowed to adopt the best ideas, even if they run counter to district policies – something that could be a challenge when it comes to personnel, budget, and curriculum. 

If Colorado stumbles, it won't be alone, Jochim said.

 "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right,"* she said.

*Bold added for emphasis.                                                                                       Link:  http://tinyurl.com/okb5gdp

 


Since the beginning of the now-Senator Michael Bennet's term as DPS superintendent, Denver Public Schools administration has pursued an aggressive approach to public schools that includes firing and displacing teachers, closing schools, and privatizing public schools by putting control in the hand of private companies that use public and private funds to run those schools. Bennet hired Mr. Boasberg to be the COO of DPS by attracting him away from his position as the VP of Corporate Affiairs at a multi-billion dollar corporation (a background much like Bennet's). In addition Boasberg chooses to reside and Boulder and will not send his own children to the District he oversees.  

 

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg                                Boasberg and Senator Michael Bennet

                              


What is Turnaround?

For a background on Turnaround, Turnaround is a status that is granted through US Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan's landmark education policy, Race to the Top. Much of Race to the Top included money to backfill the budgets of states, districts, and schools who were suffering devastating cuts during the Great Recession. Another component was school turnarounds to be funded under the School Improvement Grants. In order to receive funding for Turnarounds, a school must be in the lowest 5% of rankings on high-stakes standardized tests like CSAPTCAP, and PARCC. The federal government promised $5 billion dollars over 5 years. It just happens to be that these schools are primarily. 

 

                                                                                                                                       US Secretary of Education,                                                                                                                                                          Arnie Duncan

There are 4 Turnaround models in the federal guidelines:

  1. Turnaround Model – Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50% of the school’s staff, adopt a new governance structure, and implement a research-based vertically aligned instructional program. 
  2. Restart Model – Transfer control of or close and reopen a school under a School Management Organization (SMO) or school operator that has been selected through a rigorous review process. 
  3. School Closure – Close the school and enroll students in other, higher-achieving schools. 
  4. Transformation Model – Develop teacher/principal effectiveness (including replacing the principal), implement comprehensive instructional reform, extend learning and teacher planning time, create a community-orientation, and provide operating flexibility and sustained support

Link:  http://tinyurl.com/prel32m

 

Translated into normal  English:  

  1. Turnaround ModelFire or displace at least half of the staff and the principal.
  2. Restart Model – Create a charter or give the existing school a privately-run and publicly-funded charter school.
  3. School Closure – No need to explain. See Chicago Public Schools or DC Public Schools.  
  4. Transformation - Fire the principal and invest. Only model that doesn't fire and displace effective teachers. 

DPS most commonly chooses the Turnaround model. This is not the case nationwide. Once again, I want to reiterate the quote that "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right."


What does this mean for DPS?

According to this Colorado Department of Education website, DPS has used federal Turnaround grants at least 14 times over 3 years, receiving millions in federal money. 

Link:  http://www.cde.state.co.us/fedprograms/tieredinterventiongrantresources

  1. Montbello High School (Close)
  2. North High School
  3. Noel Middle School
  4. Philips (Close)
  5. Rishel (Close)
  6. Lake
  7. Skyland (Close)
  8. Greenlee 
  9. Gilpin 
  10. Trevista 
  11. Charles M. Schenk 
  12. Smith
  13. West
  14. Bruce Randolph

 

The list above does not include schools that went through a similar process called "Redesign". These schools did not qualify for the School Improvement Grants, happened prior to SIG, or are outside of the CDE reporting. This following list may be missing additional schools, but the redesign and closed schools that I can recall outside of the SIG grants are:

  1. Remington Elementary (Closed)
  2. Smedley Elementary (Closed)
  3. Horace Mann Middle School
  4. Del Pueblo Elementary (Closed)
  5. Wyman Elementary (Closed)
  6. Gilpin
  7. Polaris (Closed)
  8. Manual High School (Twice:  resulting in many students, predominantly of color, never graduating high school)
  9. Kunsmiller Middle School
  10. Grant Middle School
  11. Oakland Elementary (Twice:  turned into SOAR Oakland charter school and then closed again)
  12. McGlone Elementary
  13. Green Valley Ranch Elementary
  14. Centennial K-8
  15. Fairmont K-8
  16. Ashley Elementary
  17. Smiley Middle School (Closed)
  18. Kepner Middle School (Coming in 2015-2016)

 

Denver Public Schools currently has two Turnaround networks of schools managed by their own Instruction Superindent, Deputy Superintendent, and support staff. The current networks are the West Denver Network (WDN) and the Denver Summit Schools Network (DSSN). They are in process of establishing a new turnaround network including Cheltenham Elementary, Columbine Elementary, Fairview Elementary, and Valverde Elementary. This network is flagged for Redesign or Turnaround if improvement is not made soon.  

 

 

DPS has already redesigned or turned around 17 schools on its own and 14 more with the support federal money to aid their programs. This makes 31 schools in Denver where students were displaced, teachers and other staff were fired. 

 

What is the result?

 

The Achievement Gap Is Growing.

Denver Public Schools consists of 77% minority students. 58% of those students are Latino, and 14% Black. As the District administration continues to fail to address the achievement gap, it continues to fail the majority of Denver students. Furthermore, these schools all predominantly serve or served students of color. Two of Denver's iconic schools that successfully served African American students, Montbello and Manual High Schools, have been tinkered with with little success. DPS eventually shut down Montbello and is trying to decide what to do with Manual. Similar Turnarounds and closures are happening at Latino schools like West High School and Kepner Middle School. Tom Boasberg has even admitted that while the achievement gap is shrinking statewide, it is getting worse in Denver, 

"While we're seeing significant gains across all demographic groups, we are not seeing our gaps close and this is very concerning," Boasberg said. "As we move forward, clearly we need to improve the effectiveness of our efforts to close the achievement gaps."

Citation:  "Latino students in Colroado Slowly closing gaps on achievement tests." Denver Post

 

​​Articles:

 

Massive Layoffs and Firings of Effective Teachers.

The vast majority of these schools implemented a process that either shuttered the school or required the staff to reapply for their jobs despite positive performance evaluations. The district is then able to displace or layoff teachers without any cause when they had been performing effectively. 

Articles

 

Fewer Teachers of Color in Denver Schools

  • It is a well-known fact that Denver Public Schools is losing more teachers of color than they are attracting. ​According to Colorado Public Radio reported Jenny Brundin in an article in February 2014, only 4% of teachers in Denver are black while 14% of the student body is black. The gap worsens with Latinos with a 17% Latino teachers and 58% Latino students. Link – "Race Matters in the Classroom:  Why are all of my teachers white?http://www.cpr.org/news/story/race-matters-classroom-why-are-all-my-teachers-white

Articles:

 

Major Funding for Politicians (Democrats for Education Reform) and Republicans Who Support this Model. 

 

2009

2011

​​2013

 

Maybe this will help explain why the NEA's body of over 8,000 education employee delegates vote in support of a request to ask US Secretary of State Arnie Duncan to resign. School boards are getting more and more funding from national corporate and special interests that are working to privatize public education and bust teacher and other public employee unions (one of the strongest checks on corporations and Republicans). 

We are now seeing this in Douglas County, Jefferson County, Big Thompson School District, and District 12 as well. It is time to get educated and get organized to preserve one of the major pillars of American prosperity. 

Another Political Reporter Leaves The Denver Post

(Promoted by Colorado Pols — this could have a direct impact on Colorado politics because Lee was covering CD-6 for the Post)

Denver Post political reporter Kurtis Lee announced via Twitter today that he'll be leaving The Post Wednesday for a job covering politics on the Los Angeles Times' new real-time news desk.

"It's been a great three years here at The Post," Lee told me via email. "I'm so grateful to have worked with so many amazingly talented reporters, editors and photographers–and to do it for a newspaper I grew up reading has been awesome. The Post will always be a must read for me."

Lee's new job is focused on online journalism, but Lee will work across platforms, he said.

Lee, who was born and raised in Colorado Springs, started at The Post in Feb 2011. His work was quickly thrust under the microscope, as he covered the state legislature, the contested 6th Congressional District race, the 212 presidential campaign, the Aurora massacre, and other political flashpoints in Colorado.

In a memo to staff, The Post's Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett praised Lee's reporting and wrote that Lee has been on the "leading edge of The Post's efforts to function as a 24/7 news organization. His use of social media, blog posts and video journalism is as powerful as the best in the business."

"I applaud the good sense of the LAT in snaring Kurtis Lee," wrote Plunkett, "and regret that I will be deprived of working with this promising young journalist going forward. But we are lucky in that we work in an industry that wishes to see its players do well. And this move should be a great opportunity for Kurtis to do just that."

Strong Economic Growth in Colorado Great News for Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper-Head

As the Denver Post reports, Colorado's economic growth is outpacing earlier forecasts:

Colorado is on track to add 68,000 net new jobs this year rather than the 61,300 the Colorado Business Economic Outlook in December predicted it would gain, according to a midyear update from the University of Colorado.

"We are seeing broad-based growth in the whole economy, not just energy," said Rich Wobbekind, the CU economist who puts together the closely watched forecast, which is in its 49th year…

The biggest unexpected employment gains, however, are coming in leisure and hospitality, which has added 13,000 jobs on a year-over-year basis in May compared with the annual gain of 7,500 the Outlook predicted in December.

"It is largely tourism-driven, on the accommodations side," Wobbekind said.

Other areas with stronger-than-expected hiring are professional and business services, health care, and local and state governments.

You don't need James Carville to explain why this is good news for Gov. John Hickenlooper. There are plenty of other issues that will be debated in advance of the November election, but from a practical political perspective (say that three times fast), there's really no way that Hickenlooper loses his bid for re-election if Colorado's economy continues to grow in the coming months. First and foremost, Hickenlooper has always tried to position himself as a leader when it comes to economic and employment growth, and he can use this issue to trump virtually every attack from Republican opponent Bob Beauprez.

Even without strong economic news, Hickenlooper has several potential paths to victory in November. The same cannot be said of Beauprez; if he is forced to try to argue that Hickenlooper should not get credit for Colorado's economic growth, he's already lost.

Thank you, Charles and David Koch, for improving Colorado’s health care coverage

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Law of Unintended Consequences:

The hundreds of millions of dollars spent on anti-Obamacare ads may have inadvertently encouraged enrollment, a Brookings Institution study released Wednesday found.

In a state-by-state look at spending on ads attacking the Affordable Care Act, Brookings found that increased ad spending per capita was tied to declining enrollment in red states but linked with increasing enrollment in blue states.

“This implies that anti-ACA ads may unintentionally increase the public awareness about the existence of a governmentally subsidized service and its benefits for the uninsured,” wrote Brookings Institution fellow Niam Yaraghi, noting that anti-Obamacare ads may have encouraged people to sign up by making them think it might be a limited-time offer.

“In the states where more anti-ACA ads are aired, residents were on average more likely to believe that Congress will repeal the ACA in the near future,” he said. “People who believe that subsidized health insurance may soon disappear could have a greater willingness to take advantage of this one time opportunity.”

Of the more than $445 million spent on ads mentioning Obamacare, negative ads outspent positive ones 15-to-1, a Kantar Media CMAG report found in May.

What do you know about that, "Americans for Prosperity"?

(more…)

Gardner un-cosponsored legislation in 2011, showing how he can un-cosponsor federal personhood bill now

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

One of the biggest election-year hypocrisies hanging out there, waiting for a civic-minded reporter to jump on, is the fact that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner remains a cosponsor of federal personhood legislation, even though he's told the world, both in interviews and even in a paid advertisement, that he's "learned more" about "personhood" and changed his mind about supporting it.

To un-cosponsor the federal personhood bill, the Life at Conception Act, Gardner must give a speech from the floor of the House of Representatives. Why hasn't he done this?

Now is the time for the aforementioned civic-minded reporter to jump in and remind Gardner that he's trotted down to the floor of House and un-cosponsored at least one bill before.

Back in 2011, Gardner, along with fellow Colorado Congressmen Coffman and Tipton, cosponsored legislation offering tax credits for natural-gas-powered vehicles.

But the oil-loving Koch brothers caught wind of the legislation, and pressured co-sponsors of the bill to withdraw their names.

As the Sunlight Foundation reported at the time:

But some companies, led by the oil refining conglomerate owned by the politically influential Koch brothers, have campaigned against the legislation, according to a report in The Hill newspaper. Their efforts have resulted in 14 members of Congress withdrawing their support for the bill.

Gardner, Coffman, and Tipton apparently felt the Koch pressure, and speaking from the floor of the House, one by one, they asked that their cosponsorship of the natural-gas bill (HR 1380) be ended. Click at the bottom of the page here, on "Show cosponsors who withdrew."

(more…)

Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional!

POLS UPDATE: The Denver Post reports:

Judge C. Scott Crabtree pulled no punches in his 49-page ruling, saying the state's voter-approved ban "bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest."

The ruling makes Colorado the latest in a string of 16 states that have seen their bans on same-sex marriages tossed out by state and federal judges.

The ruling came as another judge in Boulder County considered a request by Attorney General John Suthers to stop a county clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. And last week, attorneys filed a federal lawsuit seeking to challenge Colorado's gay marriage ban.

—–

Today in Adams County, Judge Scott Crabtree, an Owens appointee and former DA declared Colorado's gay marriage ban unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses of the US Constitution.  Unfortunately he stayed his opinion pending appeal.

Interestingly his opinion held that the recent passage of civil unions was just another discriminatory act by Colorado against gays.  He held that the right to marry is a fundamental right as many courts dating back to 1888 have so ruled.  He ruled that the argument that prohibiting gay marriage was to protect the state's interest in pro-creating was a pretext for discrimination.  He then goes on to quote Mark Paschall and Doug Dean (to of the most notorious right wing fruitcakes in the legislature) making outrageous remarks as further support for the fact that these new arguments are a pretext, calling them a "fabrication."

He found that the states interest in pro-creation was "post hoc in response to litigation."

He also dismissed the personal claims against Hickenlooper under the Federal 1983 act for continuing to enforce the law.

Congrats to all marriage supporters.

Beauprez says 47-percent comment was a lament and “consumption tax” would be more fair

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In what appears to be his first non-spokesperson explanation in the media of his comment that "we've got almost half the population perfectly happy that somebody else is paying" income tax, Beauprez said on a Colorado Springs radio show Saturday that in his 2010 Rotary-Club speech, he was "lamenting" that more people couldn't be like Beauprez's father, who fought his way out of poverty, when he paid no income tax, and later made enough money to achieve "some degree of success and prosperity" and to pay "part of the load to carry this state and this great nation."

Beauprez went on to suggest that it would be more fair to throw out the current income tax code and replace it with a consumption tax.

"I think taxing consumption is a whole lot better idea than taxing work, or the income from work," Beauprez told KVOR host Ed Jones July 5. "And I think it is more equitable and more fair. So yeah, I think we ought to move that direction. I wrote a book, published in 2009, and I said we ought to take the entire tax code –the whole thing– light it on fire and start all over. And if we start over with that kind of a tax system, I think we’d be far better off and really stimulate this economy.

Jones, substituting for regular host Jeff Crank, did not ask Beauprez how his father's story squares with Beauprez's comment that almost half the population is "perfectly happy" not to pay tax. Judging from Beauprez's story, Beauprez's father didn't seem happy at all not to pay income tax, much less perfectly happy.

Neither did Jones ask Romney for details on how his proposed consumption tax, typically applied to the sale goods and services.

(more…)

Bob Beauprez Breeds Idiocy

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

There was a school of thought leading into the June Primary that Democrats were better off with Tom Tancredo as the Republican nominee for Governor, mostly because Tancredo was thought to be particularly poisonous for Republicans across the ballot. While we certainly understood the logic behind that premise, we'd always believed that Bob Beauprez was just as problematic for Republicans, if not more so, because of his incredible penchant for saying ridiculously stupid things. For all of Tancredo's problems as a candidate, he at least seemed to have figured out how to keep his own feet out of his mouth lately.

Beauprez? Not so much.

As the Denver Post reports today, Beauprez's foolhardy nature seems to infect everyone around him; his campaign can't even put out a prepared statement that doesn't say something dumb:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez on Tuesday said calling a special legislative session to forge a compromise on local control over oil and gas drilling in Colorado is not in the best interests of the state.

In a statement sent in response to Denver Post questions, Beauprez called on his incumbent opponent Gov. John Hickenlooper to " reject calls for a special legislative session that would serve as little more than a tool to force ill-advised policies on the people of our state without debate, deliberation, or discussion."…

…Beauprez wrote that the issue should be resolved during the normal legislative session.

"The governor and the legislature have 180 days to deal with issues they determine to be important enough to warrant new laws. [Pols emphasis] The Colorado taxpayer should not have to finance a special session, just so a bill can be passed that would strip citizens' property rights, and create a chaotic patchwork of different regulatory environments around the state, which would remove any remaining shred of certainty — especially on the heels of six consecutive years of rule changes."

Colorado's normal legislative session is 120 days. [Pols emphasis]

As Post reporter Bruce Finley noted, Colorado's legislature is not in session for 180 days — or anywhere close to that number. The normal legislative session runs from early January to early May, but in recent years has been concluded early as legislative leaders seek to save the state a little money.

How on earth does Beauprez's campaign make such a stupid mistake? It's not like this is just Beauprez talking off the cuff and saying something ridiculous, as he is wont to do. This is a prepared statement that included a foolish error that went completely unnoticed by anyone on Beauprez's staff. This is the Republican nominee for Governor who seems clueless to something as simple as how often the legislature convenes.

Is Beauprez's own peculiar brand of idiocy just infecting everyone around him? Has he had trouble finding staff who actually live in Colorado? What's going on here?

Obama Likes LoDo, LoDo Likes Him Right Back

UPDATE #2: FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports on the President's just-concluded speech:

“We have come farther and recovered faster than almost any advanced nation on Earth,” Obama said. “We know we’ve still got a long way to go.

“More jobs have been created in the first half of this year since 1999, but many families barely earn what they earned in the nineties. Too much improvement goes to the folks at the top, and not enough of it is making a difference in the lives of regular Americans.”

As he has since his State of the Union address in January, Obama positioned himself as a president of action who’s done waiting for a do-nothing Congress.

“These days, basic common sense ideas cannot get through Congress,” he said. “They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage. They’ve said no to equal pay so women can get paid the same as men. They’ve said no to unemployment insurance for working Americans. Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system.

“If Congress won’t act, I will.”

—–

UPDATE: Watch President Barack Obama's Denver speech today in its entirety:

—–

obamahickpool

Photos via White House photographer Pete Souza

obamalodo

The Denver Post reports, apparently Gov. John Hickenlooper isn't afraid to be seen with Barack Obama after all! Though we haven't heard who won their game of pool:

President Barack Obama opened his Denver trip Tuesday evening by dining with five Colorado residents who wrote the White House and shared their stories of trying to make it in today's economy.

Then he strolled Lower Downtown, shaking hands and eventually playing pool with Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The conversations over pizza at the Wazee Supper Club in LoDo are meant to reinforce the main thrust of a speech Obama is expected to deliver Wednesday in Cheesman Park — that Congress, in particular Republicans, aren't doing enough to "expand opportunities for the middle class," said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, in an interview.

Despite President Obama's warm reception in Lower Downtown Denver last night, the media remains focused on the question of whether local Democrats are "steering clear of the President" due to Obama's soft approval ratings going into his second midterm election. The AP reports that Sen. Mark Udall, in a last-minute change, is remaining in Washington today in order to vote on the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Udall was already going to miss Obama's speech this morning in Cheesman Park, but this latest announcement has led to yet another round of speculation that Udall is "afraid" of getting his picture taken with Obama.

This would seem to ignore the fact that cameras aren't allowed at the fundraiser, but don't let that get in the way of a good story.

We'll say this much: if these scheduling conflicts were intended to put distance between Obama and local Democrats, the strategy failed dismally–drawing more press speculation and Republican crowing to this event than would have existed had they simply appeared at Cheesman Park. But isn't it just possible that Udall and anybody else who can't make it really were already booked? Obama's Cheesman Park speech was only arranged last Monday according to all news reports, and it's not like the business of the U.S. Senate stops for a fundraiser. There's at least enough of a chance that the mundane explanation is right to reasonably consider the possibility.

But especially in an election year, nobody wants to read mundane explanations.

Beauprez favors Arizona-style action on immigration, if feds don’t respond to his demands, lawsuit

(Making best buddy Tom Tancredo proud! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

In wide-ranging thoughts on immigration policy delivered over the weekend on a Denver radio station, Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez said states should enforce federal immigration law themselves, in the absence of federal action, "as Jan Brewer tried to do in Arizona."

The Arizona law, backed by Brewer, allowing police to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant, was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. It's widely believed that the law would have led to harassment and discrimination of legal and undocumented immigrants.

Beauprez said that before he'd take immigration matters in his own hands if elected governor, he'd join with other governors and sue the federal government to "secure our borders."

Beauprez made the comments on KOA 850-AM, a Denver radio station, Saturday in response to a question from guest radio host Doug Kellet, who asked Beauprez about the young undocumented immigrants captured recently along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"I was with a group of people the day before yesterday, and several of them were from our southern cities, Pueblo specifically," said Beauprez on air. "And they said, if buses show up, they will be in the streets to block them. I think you are going to see what happened in California start happening everywhere."

Beauprez also said: "It’s going to affect all the states out here, and the President is trying to gloss over it and tell us all the wonderful things we’re doing as a nation to accept all these people. He doesn’t tell us the impact on the people who are already here and are going to pay the bill."

Kellet didn't ask Beauprez if he'd participate in the street protests himself.

(more…)

Sad Rural Republicans Suspend Sad Plan to Change Legislature

State of Northern Colorado

It’s not over yet, non-rural people.

The Grand Junction Sentinel follows up on a press release sent over the weekend announcing that the "Restoring Colorado" (Secession 2.0) movement was being suspended on account of nobody cares.

Ballot Initiative #111 sought to re-allocate seats for the State House on the basis of land size — rather than the far-more appropriate method of population size — but organizers of "Restoring Colorado" announced in an email on Saturday that they were "suspending" the campaign. From "Restoring Colorado":

It is with a sad heart that we ask you to suspend your efforts to get Ballot Initiative #111 on the November 2014 ballot to redesign the Colorado House of Representatives.  Even taking into account our Fourth of July push, we simply do not have enough petitions out in the hands of volunteers to make the goal of 86,105 signatures in the next 26 days.

We had hoped, in late June, that parties might step up to fund paid circulators to get us over the top, but that did not materialize.  It will take time to build that financial foundation.

Since state statutes allow only tax issues on the ballot in 2015, our plan is to use the next eighteen months to build a stronger network across the entire state.  We welcome—and need—your help in that.  In January of 2016, we plan to go through the initiative process at the state level to begin the petition drive again, with much more time and a wider support base.  Our new goal is to have this issue on the November 2016 ballot. 

"Restoring Colorado" plans to return in 2016 with a similar ballot measure, though by then enough time will have passed since the 2013 Secession debacle that potential supporters may be inclined to just move along to something else. But that doesn't mean that this issue won't still have ramifications in 2014. Remember, Rep. Cory Gardner — the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate (in Colorado) — is one of the few Northern Colorado politicians who has somehow managed to avoid taking a position on the idea of seceding from Colorado. The Editorial Board of the Denver Post called out Gardner last November for repeatedly ducking the issue. As the Post wrote on Nov. 1:

"When asked about the 51st state initiative previously, Congressman Gardner has said that he loves Colorado," [Gardner spokesman Alex] Siciliano added.

OK, but does he love Colorado enough to stay a part of it?

By choosing to "suspend" its campaign rather than just give it up altogether, "Restoring Colorado" is leaving this big 'ol matza ball hanging in the air for Gardner. The discontent among rural Republicans with their "big city" neighbors continues to fester, with State Sen. Ellen Roberts recently bemoaning the plight of rural Coloradans. And in an interview on KOA's Mike Rosen Show in late June. "Restoring Colorado" organizer Randy Schafer (who is also a Phillips County administrator), really upped the rhetoric:

"Rural people are the new disenfranchised minority."

          — Randy Schafer, on the Mike Rosen Show in June 2014.

Last November's vote on secession failed miserably, and ever since, the 51st State movement has become increasingly absurd. But they haven't yet become irrelevant — not when the Republican candidate for Senate is still silent on whether or not he would prefer to serve as Colorado's Senator or as the first Senator of a new Northern Colorado state. It's worth noting, after all, that the man who will succeed Gardner in Congress — Ken Buck was openly opposed to the idea of secession even before ballots were cast last fall.

Complete email announcement from "Restoring Colorado" follows after the jump.

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Beauprez tries to “manufacture” economic issue

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

According to the Denver Post this morning, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez said one thing during the primary campaign and is just now attempting to verify his unfounded statements. In spite of Colorado's booming economy, like 2006, Beauprez has launched his campaign based on a message that rules and regulations promulgated by state agencies plus state taxes have held back Colorado's economy. Last week the reporter on Colorado Public Radio asked him which regulations he is talking about. His responded by saying Utah's governor had reduced the number of state regulations by 300+. Of course that didn't answer the question which Colorado regulations is he talking about. For taxes he doesn't have any better answer except he would eliminate the personal property tax which of course will be a financial disaster for county governments in places like Routt (Steamboat Springs) and Moffat (Craig) counties.

Now this morning,via the Post it is clear Beauprez doesn't have a clue about which tax policy or regulations to repeal. He's made these statements about both before having any evidence to back them up. Do we really want someone as our governor who paints himself into a corner before having the facts.

Beauprez told the Post his meetings with entrepreneurs and captains of industry will be private.In other words, after the meetings, he will craft a general statement about all the bad regulations and taxes we have but he'd better be ready to talk about the consequences of cutting taxes, especially on higher education tuition and transportation projects, both of which are key drivers of our long term economic health. Also, and just as importantly, he'd better be ready to speak to the consequences and trade-offs if a regulation is repealed. So far his campaign boils down to this: He shoots off his mouth first and then tries to find evidence to support his unfounded statements. An inauspicious beginning for his general election campaign. 

Udall And Obama: Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t

President Barack Obama, with close ally Satan (right).

President Barack Obama, with close ally Satan (right).

As 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman reports, the non-troversy over President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Colorado this week goes on–at least in the minds of Republicans, desperate to extract larger meaning from, well, any silly little thing they can:

When Air Force One touches down in Denver on Tuesday night, Sen. Mark Udall won't be on board nor will he be on the tarmac to greet the president.

Likewise, the Udall campaign told 9NEWS the senator will not attend an official speech the president plans to give Wednesday, which will be open to the Denver news media.

Instead, Udall will be on a flight from Washington DC that's scheduled to land in time for the senator to attend a closed-door fundraiser for his re-election campaign, headlined by the president.

"The public is not only barred from attending the president's speech in Denver, but now Sen. Udall has announced he will not appear with the president either," said Alex Siciliano, spokesman for congressman Cory Gardner, Udall's Republican challenger. "Sen. Udall's message to the president is clear: help me rake in campaign cash behind closed doors, keep the media from capturing photos of us together and avoid real Coloradans at all costs."

Yes, everyone HATES Obama. We know.

Yes, everyone HATES Obama. We had not heard that recently.

​​To some extent, Sen. Mark Udall earned the extra bit of scrutiny over relations with President Obama when he bungled the response to questions about whether Obama would be a good choice to campaign with in January. That said, the speculation about whether Udall would fundraise with Obama was always silly in our view, because even with approval ratings for President Obama a little underwater, he's still quite valuable to Democrats for motivating the party's base. Obama's "toxicity" is, more than anyone in either the GOP or the media wants to admit today, a myth of hyped partisan predisposition–and outside a conservative core that will never vote for Democrats anyway, its existence should not be presumed. The last time it was, in 2012, the mythmakers were proven wrong.

And in the case of Obama's visit to Colorado this week, there's actually a simple and entirely reasonable explanation for why Udall won't be on hand until later in the day on Wednesday:

Udall has votes to take on Tuesday in the Senate and will catch a morning flight to Denver on Wednesday. [Pols emphasis]

"We're happy to have [President Obama,]" Udall campaign spokesman Chris Harris told 9NEWS. "I think too much has been placed on the minutiae here."

Think about this, folks: if Udall had flown home early to appear with President Obama in Cheesman Park Wednesday, Cory Gardner's surrogates would have a field day with Udall "skipping votes to campaign." But with Sen. Udall staying in Washington to cast his votes Tuesday, which most constituents would agree is the better decision, he's "avoiding President Obama!" If you're starting to think that no matter what Udall does, Republicans will find a way to claim it portends disaster, you may be closest to the truth.

We realize that won't even slow our local talk radio hosts down, but somebody needed to say it.

Illinois Supreme Court Refuses to Let Politicians Gut Pensions. Will the Colorado PERA Contract Breach Survive?

Chicago Sun Times:

"A final note: For all those outraged with the (Illinois) Supreme Court Justices, save your fire.  Their job is to interpret the law and the Constitution."

An Illinois' teacher's response to this Chicago Sun Times editorial:

"The Court made clear that our Constitution still functions as a guide to civic behavior; that it is not merely an irksome obstruction around which to craft clever legislative end runs."

"For decades, we Illinois citizens have enjoyed cut-rate public services at least partially subsidized by the willful, cynical stiffing of pension funds.  Let’s fix our money problems without demonizing and punishing public sector citizens/retirees who have done their part, through many decades of teaching and protecting their neighbors, to make Illinois strong."

(My comment: On August 11, 2009, at the Denver meeting of the Colorado PERA “Listening Tour” Colorado PERA’s General Counsel Greg Smith blamed the Colorado General Assembly for the decline in PERA’s actuarial funded ratio: “We have not been paid what’s called the actuarially required contribution.” “We’ve not been receiving that full contribution in any of our divisions for many years . . . seven years to be specific.”

http://www.copera.org/pera/about/listeningtour.htm)

In 2010, Colorado state legislators passed a bill (SB10-001) breaking Colorado PERA pension contracts.  Since then, politically connected lawyers hired by Colorado PERA have struggled to create legal contrivances designed to support the Colorado Legislature's "end run" around those Colorado public pension contracts.

http://coloradopols.com/diary/59115/colorado-pera-pensioners-expose-deception-by-pera-lawyers-at-the-colorado-supreme-court

http://coloradopols.com/diary/59208/pressing-questions-relating-to-the-colorado-pera-public-pension-lawsuit-justus-v-state

On June 4, 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case addressing the Colorado PERA pension contract breach, Justus v. State.  A lawyer hired by Colorado PERA, and the Colorado Solicitor General presented their latest legal contrivance supporting the Colorado Legislature's planned "end run" around pension contracts.

The latest Colorado PERA contrivance is that, although the statutory language establishing the Colorado PERA "base benefit" and the Colorado PERA "COLA benefit" is identical, statutory language in another Part of the Colorado PERA statues supports the PERA "base benefit," but not the PERA "COLA benefit."  That Part of the PERA statutes sets forth choices for delivery of the lifetime PERA annuity and states that the PERA annuity is "paid for a lifetime."  Why are Colorado PERA's lawyers surprised that the statute setting forth options for payment of PERA benefits for a lifetime states that Colorado PERA pension benefits are "paid for a lifetime"?  They are lifetime annuities.

Why do Colorado PERA's lawyers believe that this language in the Part of the PERA statutes providing options for payment of the PERA annuity supports the PERA "base benefit," but not the PERA COLA benefit?  There is no basis for this claim.  It is purely a contrivance designed to allow Colorado state and local governments a means of escaping their legal debts.

Since the Colorado Court of Appeals has rejected the prior contrivances of Colorado PERA's lawyers in the case Justus v. State, the creativity of Colorado PERA's lawyers has been taxed.  The arguments of Colorado PERA's lawyers now desperately cling to gossamer threads.  (I am amazed that Colorado PERA pension members are forced to pay for the crafting of such legal contrivances out of their own trust funds.)

During the June 4, 2014 oral arguments Colorado PERA's lawyers presented the latest Colorado PERA legal contrivance:

"If you look at the language of the PERA statute . . . Section 801.1, of the PERA statutes, says that the monthly benefit is payable for the lifetime of the beneficiary."  "COLAs are instated in Part 10 of the PERA statutes . . . "  "The COLA statutes in Part 10 simply don't.  That language is conspicuously absent from the COLA statutes."

Apparently, Colorado PERA's lawyers are not troubled by the fact that this "durational language" is also "conspicuously absent" from the statute creating the PERA base benefit contract (Part 6) which they agree creates a contractual obligation.

Here is the response of the retiree's attorney Rosenblatt during the oral arguments:

"First of all, I want to disagree with my colleagues as to what creates the base contract, the base pension contract, it is 24-51-602, which reads, that members . . . SHALL upon written application and approval of the board, receive service retirement benefits pursuant to a benefit formula . . ."  "So, it's 'SHALL RECEIVE' is the language that creates the contract for the base pension, which they (defendant's attorneys) agree is a contract."  "And, the COLA statute says "SHALL," uses the same mandatory language."  "The durational language that they speak of is under a section that sets forth options for payment of lesser amounts if the retiree wants the benefit to cover the life of a spouse."  "The actual creation of the (base benefit) contract is based on the mandatory language 'SHALL RECEIVE" in 24-51-602 and I would submit that the mandatory language is the same as the mandatory language in the COLA."

It should be noted that the Colorado Supreme Court (like the Illinois Supreme Court) has determined that any ambiguity in public pension statutes shall be liberally construed in favor of the rights of the pension member (Endsley.)  This only makes sense.  What justice would there be in allowing state governments to casually break their contracts with public employees who have given thirty years of service?  Further, the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed that any attempt by a state government to escape its financial obligations shall receive heightened scrutiny.  No discovery or trial has yet occurred in this case, Justus v. State.

Colorado Law – Section 24-51-1002 (1), Colorado Revised Statutes, “ . . .the cumulative increase applied to benefits paid SHALL be recalculated annually as of March 1 and SHALL be the total percent derived by multiplying three and one-half percent, compounded annually, times the number of years such benefit has been effective . . .”

Under Colorado law, members of Colorado PERA who purchase PERA service credit SHALL receive Colorado PERA pension benefits in effect at the time of the purchase:

Colorado Law – Section 24-51-502 (3), Colorado Revised Statutes, “Service credit purchased by members . . . SHALL be subject to the benefit provisions in effect for the existing member contribution account.”)

Colorado Supreme Court (in the case, Bills):

“. . . until an employee has earned his retirement pay, or until the time arrives when he may retire, his retirement pay is but an inchoate right; but when the conditions are satisfied, at that time retirement pay becomes a vested right of which the person entitled thereto cannot be deprived; it is ripened into a full contractual obligation.”

Here is a link to the June 4, 2014 Colorado Supreme Court Oral Arguments in the Colorado PERA retiree lawsuit, Justus v. State:

http://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Supreme_Court/Oral_Arguments/Index.cfm

In 2010, when Colorado PERA and Colorado legislators began to plot the SB10-001 COLA taking they admitted that the COLA was a Colorado PERA contractual obligation (See comments of SB10-001 sponsor Senator Josh Penry.)  Their plan, at that time, was to admit to the contract, but argue that it was "actuarially necessary" to break the contract.

Today, their legal strategy is to deny the existence of the PERA COLA contractual obligation.  But, it's too late to change the legal strategy, they have already acknowledged their contractual obligations to pay the PERA COLA benefit.  Just as Colorado PERA administrators cannot retroactively take accrued PERA COLA benefits, they cannot retroactively change their legal strategy to take accrued PERA COLA benefits.

Thus, Colorado PERA's lawyers have a difficult task.  The evidence of the Colorado PERA COLA contract includes admissions of its existence by all parties.  There is no question that the PERA COLA is a contractual obligation.  The Colorado PERA COLA contractual relationship under discussion has been confirmed in written testimony provided by Colorado PERA's lawyers to the JBC in 2009, and by the sponsor of SB10-001, Senator Josh Penry, and by members of the Legislature during floor debate of SB10-001, and by PERA's representative Rob Gray at the inception of the "automatic" PERA COLA benefit (a Colorado PERA "liability,") and by PERA's current Executive Director in a public statement, and by PERA's hired actuaries.  Further, the contractual obligation is clear in Colorado PERA statutes, and it has been confirmed in a Colorado Attorney General's Opinion.  All involved parties agree, on the record, that the PERA COLA is a contractual obligation.  Colorado PERA's lawyers are currently trying to persuade the Colorado Supreme Court to don the blinders and ignore the many acknowledgements of the PERA COLA contract by Colorado PERA and state officials.  Their latest Clintonesque undertaking is to persuade the Colorado Supreme Court that "shall" does not mean "shall."  Colorado PERA's lawyers created this new contrivance to feed to the Colorado Supreme Court judges.  They hope the judges will swallow it whole and allow Colorado governments to engage in what is, in my opinion "theft."

In Colorado, public pension contracts are strongly supported in case law.  Colorado is one of the states in which courts follow the strict "California Rule" of public pension jurisprudence.  For 60 years, the Colorado Supreme Court has recognized the contractual public pension relationship, including the specific right to the pension "escalator" (COLA or ABI.)  This makes sense.  Otherwise, Colorado governments would be free to retroactively take the earnings of their employees.  Colorado governments would be free to include an "automatic" COLA provision in a public pension plan, force their employees to fund that COLA benefit, underfund their pension plan, and then take and use employee consideration supporting the COLA to pay off plan unfunded liabilities.

Newspapers editorialize on the recent Illinois Supreme Court Decision, Chicago Sun Times:

"By ruling that the subsidized health care benefits of retired state employees are protected by the Illinois Constitution, the court raised the unpleasant specter that there may be only one way out of the pension mess facing the state as well as local governments.  That is: come up with the money, no matter how painful."

"At every turn and in the strongest of language, the high court seemed to go out of its way to uphold the ironclad sanctity of the 1970 Illinois Constitution’s 'pension protection' clause for public employees."

Quoting from the Illinois Decision:

“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.”

"Others noted Thursday’s ruling did not directly deal with the two main legal arguments raised in defense of the state’s pension-reform legislation.  One is that the state faces a financial emergency that allows it to do what it needs to protect the welfare of its citizens.  The other is that state employees are receiving 'consideration' for their reduced benefits in the form of lower contributions."

(My comment: Colorado PERA Board Trustee [and judge] Casebolt assured PERA retirees present at the August 11, 2009 Colorado PERA Denver “Listening Tour” meeting that: “PERA faces no immediate danger of being unable to pay benefits, in fact, PERA can pay benefits for many years to come, based on our current funding and our benefit structure coupled with over $30 billion in assets, at present market value.”

Link: http://www.copera.org/pera/about/listeningtour.htm)

http://www.suntimes.com/news/brown/28462666-452/supreme-court-throws-wet-rag-on-pension-plan.html#.U7rD7WcU8dc

From chicagobusiness.com:

"Cash-strapped government budget makers 'cannot write (the Illinois Constitution) to include restrictions and limitations that the drafters did not express and the citizens of Illinois did not approve,' said a more restrained but equally decisive Illinois Senate President John Cullerton."

"The court ruled that retiree health insurance benefits for state workers mandated by the Legislature deserve the same level of protection as pensions, which according to the constitution 'cannot be diminished or impaired.'"

"'If the justices can read the pension clause of the constitution to protect health benefits, they certainly would use it to protect pension benefits,' former state Budget Director Steve Schnorf said."

(My comment: Colorado's state budget director, Henry Sobanet was "intimately involved" in crafting SB10-001, the 2010 Colorado PERA "COLA-taking" legislation.  Henry Sobanet has also worked as a "consultant," and a "policy advisor" for the business group "Colorado Concern" that supported the bill, SB10-001, with its hired lobbyists in 2010.  From the Colorado Association of School Boards: "Sobanet also served under former Gov. Bill Owens and was intimately involved in the crafting of SB 10-001, the bill passed in 2010 to shore up PERA."

http://www.casb.org/event/casb-annual-convention/saturday-sessions

Henry Sobanet's employment history includes: "Consultant: Colorado Concern, Economic and Policy Advisor: Colorado Concern, Director: Colorado Office of State Planning and Budgeting."

Link:
http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Henry-Sobanet/58878975)

Chicagobusiness.com:

"'This bodes very, very ill' for the pension cuts the Legislature approved for state workers, and for a similar set of trims Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants for his workforce, he added."

"Time after time, without finally resolving the issue, the court seemed to go out of its way to knock down any changes not agreed to by workers unions, and perhaps by each individual worker."

(My comment: Why do Colorado PERA administrators cite union support for the SB10-001 PERA pension contract breach?  These unions have no authority to relinquish the contractual rights of any individual Colorado PERA member.  Most PERA members do not belong to these unions.)

Chicagobusiness.com:

"But, said the court, 'In light of the constitutional debates, we have concluded that the (pension) provision was aimed at protecting the right to receive the promised retirement benefits, not the adequacy of the funding to pay for them.'"

"But, ruled the court, '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.'"

"So, the current 3 percent guaranteed annual COLA would appear to be here to stay."

"'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,' AFSCME said in a statement."

"I wouldn't be at all surprised if House Speaker Michael Madigan revives his campaign to force local units of government, particularly school districts, to pick up pension costs that the state now pays."

(An online comment was made on this Chicagobusiness.com article: "The politicians that crafted this legislation knew all along they were going against the constitution.  They proceeded anyway thinking nobody would challenge it.")

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140704/BLOGS02/140709915

Chicago Tribune:

"The Supreme Court has come close to declaring that whatever retirement benefits were in place on THE FIRST DAY (my emphasis) of a worker's public job can't be reduced for however many decades he or she is alive."

(My comment: Here the Chicago Tribune refers to the "California Rule" of public pension jurisprudence.  Recall that Professor Amy Monahan in the article “Statutes as Contracts? The ‘California Rule’ and Its Impact on Public Pension Reform,” (Iowa Law Review article) expresses her surprise at the Denver District Court's initial decision in the case Justus v. State:

“The court’s ruling is surprising both because the court broke from the previously endorsed [by Colorado courts] California Rule, under which it is clear that detrimental changes to the benefits of current employees are only permissible where they are offset with comparable new advantages, and because the change at issue is one that could be characterized as a retroactive change to benefits, which is the type of change that invites the most scrutiny under a contract clause analysis.”

Public pension Legal Scholar Professor Amy Monahan in yet another law review:

"The (Denver District) court’s ruling is surprising both because the court appeared to break from earlier Colorado decisions that found pension benefits to be contractually protected prior to retirement and because the change could be characterized as a retroactive change to benefits, which is the type of change that invites the most scrutiny under a contract clause analysis.")

The Chicago Tribune cites language from the Illinois Supreme Court Decision:

"(W)e 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."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-health-care-pension-ruling-edit-20140703,0,2677793.story

On-line responses to the Chicago Tribune editorial:

"There is no public pension crisis.  States have the money to fully fund their pension obligations, but they would rather spend it on corporate subsidies.  U.S. public pensions face a 30-year shortfall of $1.38 trillion, or $46 billion dollars on a annual basis. This is dwarfed by the $80 billion a year states and cities spend on corporate subsidies."

"The war on public pensions is a distraction to prevent citizens from seeing the real cost of entitlement programs for corporations.  The money the states should have been contributing to pensions have been going to subsidize corporate tax breaks.  End the corporate tax breaks, and states will save $80 billion dollars a year.  That is almost double what they need to fulfill their pension obligations."

"The charge against public pensions is being lead by a former Enron trader.  His mission is two-fold.  Protect corporate entitlement programs and change public pensions from Defined Benefit (DB) to Defined Contribution (DC).  If he is successful in changing public pensions from DB to a DC model, Wall Street will rake in trillions in fees while all the risk falls upon public retirees."

"Write to your state representatives.  Let them know that you know the real problem is entitlement programs for corporations, and that these tax breaks have to end.  To read more about this subject, read David Sirota’s article: “The Plot Against Pensions”.

"Exactly, and that's the thing people don't talk about.  You can't compare public to private workers because private sector workers don't just have their 401(k)s, they have Social Security. Public workers have only their pensions to look to for retirement."

"Politicians failed to follow up on the terms of the contract and now the state wants to punish the employees.  I guess the Supreme Court of Illinois is good at interpreting a contract."

"Let's not paint with such a broad brush of blame, levels of government didn't cause this problem.  Elected officials who failed to do their job with integrity are to blame."

"This is progress.  The Court has ruled that it is not its responsibility to bail out the legislators, governors, aldermen, and mayors who got us into this mess.  Anybody waiting for the pension fairy to wave her magic wand is out of luck."

"Finally!  Back to you, lawmakers – see to it that all public pensions are fully funded – do your jobs!"

"It was the State of Illinois that chose not to allow state employees to be in Social Security.  That was because then the State would have been forced to make contributions and could not divert the payments to roads, welfare and other expenditures."

Chicago Sun Times;

"The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday said loudly, clearly and ominously that public employee pension benefits in the state cannot be cut."

"That can mean only one thing: State and local lawmakers had better get working on a Plan B. Illinois needs alternatives to the state pension-reform law passed in December and to the Chicago pension-reform law passed in May."

"In this case, the justices ruled that subsidized health care for retired state employees is protected under the Illinois Constitution and can’t be cut, just like pension benefits."

"Just like pension benefits."

"No one ever thought a pension-reform law would breeze through the Supreme Court; the Constitution prohibits benefits from being 'diminished or impaired.'  State lawmakers took that into account in drafting the reform bill, looking high and low for ways to inoculate the bill constitutionally.  In the state worker bill, for example, employees will get a state funding guarantee and a reduction in their annual contributions in exchange for reduced benefits."

"A final note: For all those outraged with the Supreme Court justices, save your fire. Their job is to interpret the law and the Constitution."

http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/28456548-474/time-for-pension-reform-20.html#.U7rTUWcU8dc

A Teacher Responds to the Sun Times Editorial. 

Illinois blogger Glen Brown draws attention to a teacher's response to the Sun Times editorial in his blog post today.  Here are a few excerpts:

"Dear Editors:

"As a retired teacher, I resent the relentless and often cavalier attacks on my pension and its relationship with state government."

"Yes, the Illinois Supreme Court reiterated what has been crystal-clear all along.  Our teacher/public worker health benefits are a contractual obligation, freely entered into by all parties, enforceable by Constitutional law, and supported by the time-honored American values of ethics and fairness."

"The Court made clear that our Constitution still functions as a guide to civic behavior; that it is not merely an irksome obstruction around which to craft clever legislative end runs."

"In following your false premise to its (necessarily) illogical conclusions, your editorial staff has failed to struggle with the larger, more germane issue: Illinois has an antiquated and unsustainable tax structure.  Revenues are only remotely correlated with the demand for public services.  Corporations and wealthy individuals are offended by the idea that they should pay more because they have more."

"It’s time for ethics, fairness, and justice to take the floor in Springfield.  For decades, we Illinois citizens have enjoyed cut-rate public services at least partially subsidized by the willful, cynical stiffing of pension funds.  Let’s fix our money problems without demonizing and punishing public sector citizens/retirees who have done their part, through many decades of teaching and protecting their neighbors, to make Illinois strong."

Jane Artabasy

http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/

Support the Rule of Law in Colorado at saveperacola.com.