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.

(more…)

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.

Woods: Become a fake Republican and vote in GOP primary!

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Laura Woods.

Laura Woods.

The day before the Republican primary, in which Republican Laura Woods triumphed over Lang Sias for the right to take on Democratic State Senator Rachel Zenzinger, Woods made the following comment on the KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado:

WOODS: “…tomorrow, if you’re an unaffiliated voter, and you don’t want more of the same, go down to the polling place, change to a Republican for a day or two, fill out a ballot, and then after the primary, if you don’t want to stay a Republican, you don’t have to stay. You can unaffiliate again. But you can be a part of the change right now by electing somebody who is going to stand up for the Constitution.”

Listen to Woods suggest unaffiliated voters briefly switch parties to help her win GOP primary 6-23-14

There's nothing illegal about Woods' suggestion, but the folks down at KLZ, including host Kristina Cook, are all about "principles."

How principled is it to try to win a Republican primary with the votes of fake Republicans? It doesn't appear that Woods' suggestion made any difference in the election, but if I were running the show at Grassroots Radio Colorado, I would have asked Woods about her idea that unaffiliated voters should join the GOP for "a day or two."

Or maybe Jon Caldara will invite her on his KHOW show and compare notes. In any case, it's done now.

“The GOP’s worst deja vu ever”

Last week, while most of us were getting ready for the long holiday weekend, the Denver Post dropped a bombshell story on ex-Congressman Bob Beauprez. This could be the beginning of the end for Beauprez's campaign for governor.

You might remember back in 2012, when presidential candidate Mitt Romney was caught on tape writing off nearly half of Americans–47% to be precise–saying "my job is not to worry about those people." Many political experts believe these remarks helped ensure Romney's defeat, casting Romney as out of touch with the needs of ordinary Americans.

According to the Denver Post, Romney may well have gotten those talking points from Bob Beauprez. The Post reports that Beauprez gave a speech two years before Romney's where Beauprez said:

"I'm guessing that most of you in this room are not in that 47 percent–God bless you–but what that tells me is that we've got almost half the population perfectly happy that somebody else is paying the bill."

Last week, Beauprez's speech made national news. Salon calls it "the GOP's worst deja vu ever." [1] What do you think of Beauprez's "47%" remarks? Click here to send us your thoughts. We'll share your names and comments with Beauprez's campaign and the press.

I believe that Colorado needs leaders who unite us, not divide us. The job of a governor is to represent the interests of 100% of the people, not half of them. If you agree, let's stand up for those values–and show that our state is better than Bob Beauprez's divisive rhetoric.

Sincerely

Amy Runyon-Harms

Congratulations, Again, To Rep. Jared Polis

Rep. Jared Polis and partner Marlon Reis welcome the latest member of their family this holiday weekend, Cora Barucha, via Facebook (photo right). The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reports:

The couple already has a son, Caspian Julius, who is 2½ years old and is nicknamed “CJ.”

As with CJ’s birth, Polis is revealing few details, saying the birth would remain a private family matter.

Rep. Polis’ sister Jordanna Schutz explains the origins of the family name “Barucha”:

My great-great aunt, Kasha Barucha, fled to the U.S. to protect her family after being active in the movement for increased civil rights & liberties and democratic representation during the 1905 Russian Revolution. Barucha means blessing. It is a good day to celebrate two blessings: my new niece, and the promise of “Inalienable Rights” to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”- Happy 4th!*

*(To Boston people, happy belated 3rd!)

Congratulations to Rep. Polis and his growing family. We’d send flowers, but being the 3rd wealthiest member of Congress (and founder of ProFlowers.com), they’re probably good to go.

Illinois Supreme Court Affirms the “Cardinal Principle” of Public Pension Legal Rights.

Comments of an Illinois state retiree and former Marine on Illinois' pension contract breach:

"As I did when I volunteered as a United States Marine Corps service member, when I volunteered for state service, I relied on citizens to have my back.  While they seem to support my service in the U.S. Armed Forces, I’m dismayed that my state service is regarded with such enmity.  Had I known, I would have eschewed state employment for the increased immediate benefits of private sector employment.  Instead of relying on our representative democracy to adhere to the rule of law and keep the promises that were made during my 34 years of state employment, I would have obtained a job in the private sector, demanded and received a much larger salary for my educational level and job requirements . . ."

"I will never forget the abandonment that I’ve felt, nor will I forget the foolishness of my naive trust in the ultimate 'I’ve got your back' attitude of every one of us here in the greatest country on Earth."

Illinois Supreme Court, last Thursday:

“Moreover . . . to the extent there is any question as to legislative intent and the clarity of the language of a pension statute, it MUST (my emphasis) be liberally construed in favor of the rights of the pensioner.” (Prazen v. Schoop.)

"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." 

"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."

http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115811.pdf

Colorado Supreme Court:

“As was noted in Endsley v. Public Employees Retirement Association . . . (1974) ambiguities appearing in statutes regulating pension and retirement funds are construed favorably toward the employee.” (Colorado Supreme Court in Taylor v. PERA, November 17, 1975.)

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=11856628789716288634&q=Taylor+v.PERA&hl=en&as_sdt=2,6

Colorado Attorney General Duane Woodard in an Opinion of the Attorney General: “In resolving this question, I am guided by the cardinal principle that ambiguities in statutes regulating pension and retirement funds are to be construed in favor of the employee." (August 14, 1984)

http://www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/ag_opinions/1984/no_84_14_ag_alpha_no_pa_pe_aganf_august_14_1984

For some reason, the Colorado Supreme Court's "cardinal principle" of Colorado public pension contractual rights has gone unnoticed in the current litigation of the Colorado public pension contractual rights case, Justus v. State.  (The State of Colorado and its pension-administering arm, Colorado PERA, are currently attempting to escape contractual obligations to pay for accrued COLA benefits in the PERA pension system.  That is, the State of Colorado does not want to pay its debts.)

Has this "cardinal principle" of Colorado public pension jurisprudence been abandoned?  If so, when did Colorado courts abandon this "cardinal principle"?  If a "cardinal principle" exists in an area of Colorado jurisprudence, should that "cardinal principle" not be a factor in court decisions in that area of jurisprudence? 

What is the typical lifespan of a Colorado Supreme Court "cardinal principle"?

(Keynes has noted, "There is nothing a government hates more than to be well-informed; for it makes the process of arriving at decisions much more complicated and difficult.")

On Thursday, the Illinois Supreme Court (in a case relating to retiree health benefits) confirmed that contractual public pension benefits in Illinois cannot be retroactively diminished or impaired.

The State of Illinois has some of the worst funded public pension systems in the nation.  Nevertheless, the Illinois Supreme Court will not let Illinois politicians off the hook for their past pension system mismanagement.  (If they allowed this, moral hazard would certainly be introduced into legislative pension management.)

The Illinois Legislature, like the Colorado Legislature, has not paid its full public pension bills (ARC) for many years, and like Colorado, Illinois has racked up its public pension debt.  Also, like many Colorado state legislators, a majority of Illinois state legislators want to escape state debts through breach of public pension contracts.

This recent Illinois Supreme Court decision was surprising to many in Illinois who were under the impression that Illinois' Speaker of the House Madigan, through political influence, had four of the members of the Illinois Supreme Court in his back pocket. 

MADIGAN: "Madigan sounds confident it (the Illinois pension contract breach) will work.  'I think that there will be at least four members of the Illinois Supreme Court that will approve the bill,' he said."

http://wuisnews.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/justice-no-pension-cuts-for-illinois-judges/
http://www.suntimes.com/19841734-418/analysis-madigan-pushes-pension-plan-unions-balk-senate-vote-uncertain.html#.U7cJ-2cU-14
https://will.illinois.edu/news/story/no-pension-cuts-for-illinois-judges

Part of the legal strategy in Illinois was exclusion of judges from the enacted pension contract breach.  (I don't know if Colorado legislators considered, and rejected, this tactic when plotting Colorado's attempt at a Colorado PERA pension contract breach in 2010.)

A few on-line comments on the Illinois Supreme Court Decision:

"If federal funds were used to pay part of any state employee’s salary and benefits, (this) might be grounds for a federal appeal case on impairment of contracts even if ISC were to rule in favor of SB1."

"I think we had to go through this exercise too, and I have to say that I’m gratified that the judiciary has proven itself independent of Madigan’s chilling statement of claiming to be able to get 4 on his side.  The fat lady is tuning up on SB1."

"Finally, it looks like the ISC decided they didn’t want to be made the scapegoat for the pension problems and decided to be clear about the General Assembly’s fault in the whole mess."

(My response: August 16, 2010, “Asked why states are taking the risky strategy of aiming at current retirees, Robert Klausner, a Florida attorney who specializes in public pension law, says many state officials believe they have less to lose in the courtroom by challenging pension protections than taking no action at all. ‘The belief is that if the employer [the state] prevails, it will have been worth the political risk,’ Klausner says.  ‘And if they lose, they will be no worse off than before.’  Klausner adds that legislatures are taking the politically-difficult step and letting the courts be the ‘bad guy’ if they overturn the law.”

http://www.governing.com/news/state/States-Test-Whether-Public-Pension-Benefits-Given-Can-Be-Taken-Away.html)

Illinois pension rights blogger Fred Klonskey:

"Yesterday’s Illinois Supreme Court decision is cause for celebration.  Six of the seven judges agreed that the pension protection clause of the state’s constitution meant what it said. Contractual pension benefits between the state and all government bodies in the state cannot be diminished or impaired."

"Legal opinions suggest that (Illinois gubernatorial candidate) Rauner’s plan would not pass constitutional muster based on yesterday’s 6-1 ruling."

"But it’s bad news for (Governor) Quinn as well.  Aside from his friend Justice Ann Burke (wife of Democratic Machine boss and alderman, Fast Eddie Burke), no member of the court agrees with his plan for pension theft."

http://preaprez.wordpress.com/

From ChicagoBusiness.com:

"Pension reform dealt blow by Illinois Supreme Court."

"Pension reform, RIP?"

"In a case with ominous implications for the state's pension reform law, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled today that the state constitution prevents any diminishment of health care benefits for retired state employees."

"According to the 6-1 decision, the pension protection clause — which says that retirement benefits are a contractual agreement that 'cannot be diminished or impaired' — applies to other retirement benefits, not just pensions.  That overrode the state's argument that its emergency powers, in dealing with its budget crisis, justified an increase in what retirees must pay for their health benefits."

“'This is a major victory for members of state retirement systems,' said John Fitzgerald, a partner at Chicago law firm Tabet DiVito & Rothstein LLC who represents retired state teachers and school administrators.  'I expect it will have a very significant effect on pending litigation' over the state's pension reform law.  'It means that the Illinois Supreme Court is giving the pension protection clause the broad and liberal interpretation that the drafters intended.'”

"In an opinion written Justice Charles Freeman, a Chicago Democrat, the court indicated that it would not take a deferential approach.  The court said any changes to a pension statute 'must be liberally construed in favor of the rights of the pensioner,' quoting one of its own opinions, written in 2013, that involved a dispute over early retirement between an electrical department supervisor and the downstate city of Peru."

(My comment: An earlier observation by Gino L. DiVito comes to mind: “ . . . a short-lived pension reform that is invalidated by court order after protracted litigation . . . would be a disservice to the taxpayers.”)

"In one key paragraph, the court rejected the idea that the state's budget crisis could justify a change in retiree benefits."

"'In the challenges to the overhaul of pensions for state workers and schoolteachers outside Chicago, the state has argued that changes in the cost of living allowance are not protected by the pension clause because they are not a core retirement benefit."

“'This definitely shuts down the argument that the COLA isn't part of the benefit,' said Amanda Kass, budget director and pension specialist at the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a nonprofit advocacy group in Chicago."

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140703/NEWS02/140709930/pension-reform-dealt-blow-by-illinois-supreme-court#

Illinois State Senator Chapin Rose:

"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.."

http://pension-vocabulary.blogspot.com/2014/07/supreme-court-of-illinois-backs-pension.html

From the Chicago Tribune:

"Supreme Court ruling signals trouble for state, Chicago."

"The Illinois Supreme Court ruled today that subsidized health care premiums for retired state employees are protected under the Illinois Constitution, signaling potential trouble for an overhaul of pension benefits that’s also being challenged in court."

"Retired workers sued, arguing the changes violated a provision in the state constitution that declares pension benefits 'shall not be diminished or impaired.'  Attorneys for the state argued the constitution did not specifically declare health care benefits were protected."

"In Thursday’s ruling, the justices argued 'there is nothing in the text of the Constitution that warrants such a limitation.'”

“'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 the Constitution) and therefore the General Assembly was precluded from diminishing or impairing that benefit,' justices wrote in their opinion."

"The same constitutional clause protecting pension benefits is at the heart of several lawsuits challenging broader pension changes lawmakers passed in December.  That measure reduces costs-of-living increases and raises retirement ages, among other changes."

"The high court did not settle that debate in the healthcare case today, but the language in the majority opinion seemed to support the contention that pension benefits cannot be reduced."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-court-state-cant-cut-subsidies-for-retirees-health-care-premiums-20140703,0,6383829.story

From Forbes:

"Illinois Supreme Court Delivers Huge Fiscal Blow To Taxpayers."
(My comment: I would not describe a requirement that one pay one's debts as a "fiscal blow.")

"The Illinois Supreme Court issued an opinion this morning that is a godsend to retired public employees, but a huge blow to the state’s taxpayers and creditors.  The ruling concludes that retiree health insurance falls under the protection of the state’s constitutional non-impairment clause.  In addition to overturning the attempt to save state taxpayers money on retiree health insurance for public employees, the even bigger implication is what this may say about the constitutionality of the state’s recent pension overhaul."

"In December 2013, the state passed a controversial pension overhaul bill that was set to take effect earlier this week, but the implementation of which was delayed by a judicial stay, pending various constitutional challenges."

"Notably the court said today that: '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.'”

"This is as clear of a statement as I have seen on the subject.  Essentially, it says to the state that 'we do not care whether or not you have the money to pay for pensions and health care – you are required to pay them.'  Now it is up to our elected officials to figure out if and how we can afford to do this."

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffreybrown/2014/07/03/illinois-supreme-court-delivers-huge-fiscal-blow-to-taxpayers/

From Reuters:

"Christopher Mooney, director of the Illinois Institute of Government & Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, said before the ruling that a reversal of Nardulli's decision would indicate the pension reform law could be ruled unconstitutional."

"'If you can't do health insurance, you can't do pensions either,' Mooney said."

"The preamble to Illinois' pension reform law concludes that the state's fiscal problems cannot be solved without changes to the retirement system.  But Mooney said the argument is 'not going to fly' because the state could raise revenue rather than cut benefits."

(My comment: As we have seen, Colorado state and local governments currently give away thirteen percent of their revenue in the form of corporate welfare.)

"Judge John Belz, who is hearing the consolidated lawsuits, in May stopped the pension law from taking effect on June 1 until the challenges were resolved."

"Illinois has had the worst-funded pension system among all U.S. states after decades of skipping or skimping on pension payments."

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/03/usa-illinois-retiree-healthcare-idUSL2N0PE10720140703

From Bloomberg:

"The Illinois Supreme Court, in a 6-1 decision today, ruled the health-insurance premium subsidies are pension benefits protected by the state’s constitution that can’t be diminished or impaired, as Illinois lawmakers tried to do with a 2012 law that let an administrator determine the level of contributions."

"Protection of pension benefits is the same provision in the Illinois constitution retirees are relying on in challenging Quinn’s plan to cut the pension shortfall with reductions in cost-of-living adjustments and increasing the retirement age for workers who are now 45 or younger."

"The ruling supports the argument that 'retirement security, including affordable health care and a modest pension, cannot be revoked by politicians,' Henry Bayer, executive director of the Illinois chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said in a statement."

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-03/illinois-pension-reform-in-question-on-insurance-ruling.html

From Illinois Issues Blog:

"Kent Redfield, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, said that while the ruling pertains to a different case, the language used is clear. 'You could find some way to parse some of it, but it’s really, really difficult.  There’s no logical way to get to upholding Senate Bill 1 (the pension reform legislation) based on the clear content of this ruling and the way they’ve construed the pensions clause.'”

"Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has advocated for moving employees’ future benefits to a system that looks more like a 401-K.  That plan would go even further than SB1, so it is unlikely that it would be upheld if SB 1 were rejected.  But it is possible that the court’s ruling might strengthen his case for offering a defined contribution plan to newly-hired employees."

http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/2014/07/options-for-pension-reform-plan-b-may.html

Excerpts from the July 3, 2014 Illinois Supreme Court Decision:

"Each of the complaints alleged that Public Act 97-695 violates the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII, § 5).  Two of the complaints alleged a violation of the contracts clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 16), and one complaint alleged a violation of the separation of powers clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. II, § 1)."

"The Kanerva v. Weems plaintiffs further claim that Public Act 97-695 violates the contracts clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 16), which provides that '[n]o ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts *** shall be passed.'”

"As to that subset of now-retired employees, they allege that the State promised participants in that program that they would receive free health insurance if they established at least 20 years of creditable service and that the subset of plaintiffs who took early retirement reasonably and detrimentally relied on the State’s promise by, among other things, retiring from state service AND MAKING CASH PAYMENTS TO OBTAIN ADDITIONAL SERVICE CREDITS (my emphasis).  That subset of plaintiffs claim that, under these circumstances, the State should not be permitted to renege on its promise and should be enjoined from withholding health insurance premiums from the annuity payments owed to the early retirees."

(My comment: Many Colorado PERA retirees have purchased service credit in the PERA pension system.  I believe that these separate public pension contracts have also been violated under SB10-001.  The Colorado PERA service credit statute requires that the benefits in place at the time of purchase of the service credit must be provided.)

"The complaint in the Bauer v. Weems case also challenges Public Act 97-695 on the ground that it constitutes an impermissible impairment of contract in violation of the contracts clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 16)."

“Moreover . . . to the extent 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.” (Prazen v. Schoop.)

" . . . 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."

"Delegates were also mindful that in the past, appropriations to cover state pension obligations had 'been made a political football' and 'the party in power would just use the amount of the state contribution to help balance budgets,' jeopardizing the resources available to meet the State’s obligations to participants in its pension systems in the future."

"It does so, he explained, in order to protect 'public employees who are beginning to lose faith in the ability of the state and its political subdivisions to meet these benefit payments' and to address the 'insecurity on the part of the public employees [which] is really defeating the very purpose for which the retirement system was established."

"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."

"Defendants observe that health care costs and benefits are governed by a different set of calculations than retirement annuities.  While that is unquestionably true, it is also legally irrelevant."

"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."

From the dissent of one Justice hearing the case:

"Stated otherwise, by its plain language, the pension protection clause prohibits legislative action that diminishes or impairs pension benefits by altering the terms of the contract governing the pension."

"The pension protection clause protects pensions, not subsidized health care premiums."

http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115811.pdf

Statement of Illinois Senate President John Cullerton on the Illinois Supreme Court Decision:

"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."

Statement from AFSCME:

“'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.'”

Here are a few selected comments, from the many, that have been posted about the Supreme Court Decision at the Illinois political news site, Capitol Fax:

"Even though (Senate President) Cullerton’s plan was agreed to by a lot of people, it wasn’t in compliance with the contract clause or the pension clause.  It would have been found unconstitutional also, maybe just not with as many votes."

"Sounds like the Supreme Court decision for SB1 is embedded within this ruling. '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."

"Keep in mind the Pension system does not need to be funded 90% like the legislature and Quinn have pushed for.  In fact most Pension Systems are not even close to that number."

(My comment: The proponents of SB10-001 in Colorado propose that their contract breach achieve an unnecessary standard of 100 percent PERA pension funding.  This level of funding has been achieved only twice in PERA's history.)

"This really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  Don’t make promises you don’t intend on keeping."

Comments of an Illinois state retiree and former Marine:

"As I did when I volunteered as a United States Marine Corps service member, when I volunteered for state service, I relied on citizens to have my back.  While they seem to support my service in the U.S. Armed Forces, I’m dismayed that my state service is regarded with such enmity.  Had I known, I would have eschewed state employment for the increased immediate benefits of private sector employment.  Instead of relying on our representative democracy to adhere to the rule of law and keep the promises that were made during my 34 years of state employment, I would have obtained a job in the private sector, demanded and received a much larger salary for my educational level and job requirements . . ."

"I’m a veteran of the USMC, and I appreciate all the gratitude that I get for that service.  Is state service comparable?  Absolutely not.  I risked my life in service of my country as a Marine.  I never expected to be accorded the same level of appreciation for my service to the state, but I did expect our representatives, and by proxy of your vote for them, to keep their promises, whether they were constitutionally protected, or not."

"Instead, now I have been relegated to being one of 'them.'  Abandoned by many who feel that they have no stake in the malfeasance of their representatives, and who expect me, alone, to shoulder the burden of their incompetence."

"I’m a United States Marine.  I don’t give up.  And while I will always support the United States, I will never again support those who feel that any minor impairment of their financial condition takes precedence over the slow financial death of my family and I."

"I will never forget the abandonment that I’ve felt, nor will I forget the foolishness of my naive trust in the ultimate 'I’ve got your back' attitude of every one of us here in the greatest country on Earth."

"I’ll pass that on to my friends and family.  I’ll also recommend that anyone working for the state, get everything up front in wages and salary because, ultimately, you cannot trust that anyone 'has your back.'”

The following comment called to mind the fact that Colorado's public sector unions (our "union bosses") supported the 2010 Colorado PERA pension contract breach in SB10-001.  Pensioners no longer pay union dues:

"The problems of the state fiscal are not the problems of the pensioners.  Any 'Union Boss' negotiating any retreat or surrender is clueless at this point moving forward."

"'Where are Madigan’s 4 votes?': 'I’m sorry, but this is flat-out offensive to me.  Madigan owns no one on this court.  Anyone who knows any of these justices or follows the Court is fully aware of that."

"I’m not sure if state employees/retirees will ever be out of the spotlight that we never wanted to be in."

"Completely agree with you . . . We as retirees or current state employees never asked for all of this negative attention or to be blamed for the state’s fiscal problems when we in fact have never been the cause of the problem.  I have been a lifelong IL resident and also worry greatly about our state’s future, but please lay the blame for our current problems where it deserves to be and not on us retirees."

"Once the conditions of the contract are fulfilled, you can’t unilaterally change the contract terms retroactively."

"There are ways to legally change a contract retroactively, but it normally requires the agreement of BOTH parties to the contract, and it usually also requires a payment (or other valuable consideration) by one of the parties to the other party."

"Think of it like a fixed rate car loan or fixed rate mortgage, where the bank wants to change the terms of the deal after you’ve been paying on the loan for years.  Law says you can’t do it unless you have violated the terms of the loan (contract) that you signed."

"For those that are upset and make claims of unfairness to other citizens of the state, know that this a legal decision, and in my view the decision was proper.  If the state makes commitments, it needs to keep them.  If the constitution has plain-language protections, that’s how you read them. The pols have for too long pandered for votes and power with taxpayer money.  Now, maybe some of the pandering will be stopped."

"Thanks to AFSCME, IFT, and IEA for continuing to fight for public employees and retirees while other unions and many liberal Democratic legislators failed to do so."

(My comment: Again, in Colorado, public sector unions tossed their retired members under the bus and supported the breach of Colorado PERA pensioner contracts in 2010.  This act sullied the U.S. Labor Movement.)

"The terms going forward were already changed in 2011 … it’s called 'Tier 2'″.

"We may still be a land of laws… a big win for every citizen of Illinois."

"The court ruled that Healthcare is definitely a benefit of membership in the pension system. Certainly, current annuitants relied on that in making an irrevocable decision to retire.  I see no reason to assume that the AAI, which is much more related to the pension itself than is healthcare premiums, will not be ruled a pension benefit too."

"This is the correct decision.  It is also the Supreme Court declining to give the General Assembly a pass for years of mismanagement and the lack of political will to raise taxes."

(My comment: The historical mismanagement of the Colorado PERA pension system by Colorado state legislators and Colorado PERA trustees has been documented at the website, saveperacola.com and at ColoradoPols.com.)

"After reading Burke’s dissent, I think she would also vote against SB1, which would make a decision against it unanimous."

"The constitution can be changed, but the changes cannot be applied retroactively."

"Cullerton's deal is off the table.  The unions won’t budge after this ruling.  Woulda shoulda coulda."

"The contract is between the state and me, and the state and you, and the state and thousands of other individuals.  Cullerton, nor any other politician can negotiate with 'the unions' about the contract between the state and me.  I think the decision today clearly upholds those thousands of individual commitments.  None of which involves a union."

"It’s hard as a beneficiary to not cheer this ruling, but it’s equally hard as a citizen and taxpayer to not grieve for lost opportunity, or at least lost time."

"Now generally I am against tax increases of any kind regardless of income level.  But I am also a state employee and I didn’t start this fight.  The millionaires of the Chicago Civic Club started it.  So, a graduated tax on people like Rauner who want to buy the Governor’s office?  I would be happy to vote for that."

"I totally agree, but the supporters of SB1 used going through this exercise in futility as an excuse for passing these onerous bills in the first place.  They’ve received the ISC’s answer. They threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the Supremes to see what would stick, and I would argue that very little, and most likely none of it will ultimately stick."

"Throughout all this, I’ve been an Illinois citizen and taxpayer.  As a member of that unfortunate club, it's time to get down to the business of properly funding the state’s priorities going forward. We’re in for some hurt brought to us by 60 years of political incompetence on both sides of the aisle.  But, as we were when this started, we’re all in this together, and equally so.  We better all get back to solving the state’s big problems in a constitutional way, and the sooner the better.  I’ll vote for any candidate that lays out an equitable plan to do so, and stops with the political hedging that both side’s politicians think they can get away with."

"These 'new tier' programs are the only ones that seem to constitutionally survive."

"All the State workers reading Cap Fax instead of doing their job… REJOICE!!!"

"SB1 is road kill that just got run over by a steamroller: '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.' (again, emphasis in caps.)"

"Haven’t prior S Ct cases indicated that one becomes a member of a pension system upon being hired (not just upon retirement) and that the terms of the system upon the date of hire can’t be diminished?  I thought so, and that this was why the Tier 2 class was structured as applying to those hired on or after that certain date."

"The bill is due, it’s not about how we can screw retirees and current workers anymore–it’s how do we pay them what they were promised and the Court has guaranteed."

"You become a member of a retirement system when you start paying into it."

"We’re going to have to have a sales tax on as many services as Indiana does.  What is it currently?  17 vs. 51 services?  We’re also going to have to pass the Fair graduated income tax."

"I was drawing a parallel with the various arguments Madiar presented in his pension analysis with what the ISC came down with here.  Yes, Eric (Madiar) never really addressed the issue of health care being protected, but he touched on all the relevant cases that the ISC touched on in this opinion.  To me, there is something like an 85% – 90% parallel."

(My comment: Senator Cullerton's legal aid Eric Madiar believes that Colorado's recent theft of fully-vested, accrued public pension COLA benefits is likely unconstitutional.  So, why did Cullerton going down that path in Illinois?  From “Public Pension Benefits Under Siege”:

“The adoption of the contractual approach by Colorado . . . however, make(s) it more likely that pension reform efforts (the COLA provisions of SB 10-001) will be found unconstitutional.”

A PDF of the Madiar paper is available on the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures at the following link:

http://www.ncsl.org/home/search-results.aspx?zoom_query=madiar%20public%20pensions)

"One could argue that Illinois, as a large progressive state, has had lower than expected taxes for its spending levels, since some of its 'revenue' (since 1939) was 'borrowed' from mandated (but unpaid) state pension fund contributions."

"It can’t be fixed by a constitutional amendment not due to ex post facto law limits (technically, that only applies to criminal laws), but due to the analogous 'impairment of contract' and due process considerations.  Same basic concept, but different legal doctrine categories."

"I’m glad the rule of law and plain language was upheld, but I expected more wiggle room; guess the ISC wanted to put this issue to bed once and not have to revisit it any time soon."

Link to Illinois Supreme Court Decision:
http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115811.pdf

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

KOA’s Rosen says he’d be “fair” if he moderated a Hickenlooper-Beauprez debate

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

CORRECTION: This post incorrectly states that most journalists consider themselves Democrats. Over half of journalists in a recent survey self-identify as having no party affiliation. About 7 percent said they were Republicans, and 28 percent Democrats. My point about Rosen is unchanged.
—–
From: Jason Salzman
To: [KOA Radio Host] Mike Rosen
Subject: question for my blog

Hi Mike –

I hope all’s well.

I noticed you told Bob Beauprez the other day that you’re hoping to moderate a debate between him and Hick.

You said, “By the way, even though I’m a partisan Republican, I’ve moderated these debates before, and I can set that aside and be fair in a head-to-head debate.”

How does this square with your belief that journalism is biased toward the Democrats because more reporters are registered Dems?

Thanks for considering a response.

From: Mike Rosen
To: Jason
Subject: RE: question for my blog

Moderating a debate is different from reporting. I’m not a reporter. I admit my bias when doing commentary and set it aside when I moderate a debate. Too many liberal “reporters” don’t admit their bias (some may not even recognize it) but infuse it either intentionally or unintentionally in their news stories or so-called analysis.

(more…)

The faux-outrage of deficit reduction and spending.

Question: what does deficit reduction have in common with local control ( and free-markets to some degree)?

Answer: Most people only support it when it benefits them.

 

All too often deficit reduction is what the party out of power uses to attack the party in power, rather than to have a constructive dialog about balancing the budget: e.g. Democrats citing the deficit to oppose the Iraq War, Republicans citing the deficit to oppose the Affordable Care Act, etc.

When the Republicans are ready to accept the reality that defense spending needs to come down and more revenue needs to come in (along with entitlement reforms of course), I’ll take their calls to reduce the deficit and outrage of spending seriously. The same goes for the Democrats: you’re going to have swallow the bitter pill of entitlement reforms—reductions in defense spending and more revenue won’t balance the budget alone.

 

Both parties have a credibility problem on the deficit. Anyone expressing outrage over spending, who is unwilling or unable to come clean about what really needs to be done (i.e. reductions in both entitlement and defense spending, along with bringing in more revenue, is nothing more than a cheap hustler looking for a backdoor way to cut or eliminate programs they oppose, rather than having an honest conversation about balancing the budget.    
 

Sarah Palin and Friends: A Star-Studded Gala of Crazy at the 2014 Western Conservative Summit

The Centennial Institute, which bills itself as Colorado Christian University’s “think tank,” is hosting a veritable who’s who of the conservative glitterati at this year’s Western Conservative Summit. In the past, the WCS has featured such luminaries as Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders and conspiracy theorizing right wing uberpundit Glenn Beck. The WCS is reliably well to the right of the political mainstream, and that’s by design.

This year’s roster of conservative stars, from ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin right on down, is sure to make poor Ryan Call blush as well:

We hadn’t heard that Ralph Reed had been rehabilitated yet from the Jack Abramoff era, but there you go! Put all of these trash talking conservative icons in one room, and if news doesn’t come out–probably bad news for local Republicans in a general election–it’s just because nobody is paying attention.

So naturally, Democrats ought to be paying attention.

Colorado Pols, Pinterest, and Yard Signs

Pols on Pinterest!

Pols on Pinterest!

Several years ago, we posted a bunch of yard signs from around the state that were emailed to us by Pols readers. It was fun to compare and contrast various yard signs and to attempt to rank them in order of effectiveness…but it got to be a little too time-consuming.

Thanks to the Internet Tubes and social media, we're going to give the Yard Signs Database another try using Pinterest.

Please keep taking those yard sign pictures, but instead of emailing them to Pols, follow us on Pinterest and we'll invite you to pin images to our yard sign collection page. Remember, you have to follow Colorado Pols' Pinterest page before we can invite you to pin images to our page; but as soon as you do that, we'll send you the invitation and we can once again get down to building an entertaining montage of political yard signs from Colorado. Hooray!

Follow Colorado Pols on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/coloradopols/

Check Out Our Yard Signs Page: http://www.pinterest.com/coloradopols/political-yard-signs/

Beauprez accuses Obama of dumping undocumented immigrants in Arizona for political revenge

(This is pretty gross. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

Undocumented children are literally dying along the U.S. border, in the desert, and radio-host Mike Rosen and gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez are accusing Obama of dumping undocumented kids in Arizona, as a form of political revenge against Arizona governor Jan Brewer:

ROSEN: You suppose that there could be any spiteful motivations on President Obama’s part for dumping a lot of those unaccompanied—

BEAUPREZ: (sarcastically) Surely not. You’re not that cynical, are you?

ROSEN: — teenage immigrants into the state of Arizona because he doesn’t like [Republican Governor] Jan Brewer?

BEAUPREZ: [laughing loudly] Yeah, it’s perhaps more than coincidental.

ROSEN: Hmmmm. Hmmm

It's moments like this when you wish SuperTalker from above would float into the KOA studios, bop Rosen on the head, and say, "Shut up, Mike. And you, Bob, want to be governor? What kind of governor makes ugly and bizarre accusations, like this, based on no evidence at all. And you're laughing about it, at the expense of the poorest, most vulnerable kids? It doesn't get much worse."

Then SuperTalker would tell KOA listeners that he's placed Rosen in timeout for a few days and asked him to think about whether it would be right, on any planet, to say such things, as kids are caught in the immigration nightmare that we've created.

(more…)

Democrats Continue to Outraise Republicans in State Senate Races

With the Primary Election behind us, focus can now turn fully to the key General Election matchups that will determine control of the State Legislature. According to a press release from the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund (DSCF), Democratic candidates in key State Senate races are significantly outperforming Republican counterparts in fundraising.

You can read the full press release after the jump, but take a look at the comparisons of some top races below:

SD 5
Kerry Donovan (D)
DEM COH: $45,840.31
Dem Total Raised: $59,473.00
Don Suppes (R)
R COH: $20,760.92
R Total Raised: $32620.63
Edward Mulcahy (Libertarian)
Lib COH: $1,430.95
Lib Total Raised: $1,475.00

SD 16
Jeanne Nicholson (D)
DEM COH: $62,653.88
Dem Total Raised: $103,445.10
Tim Neville (R)
R COH: $64,106.04
R Total Raised: $74,457.70

SD 19
Rachel Zenzinger (D)
DEM COH: $56,615.35
Dem Total Raised: $69,573.65
Laura Woods (R)
R COH: $2,596.67
R Total Raised: $45,644.00
Gregg Miller (Libertarian)
Lib COH: $0
Lib Total Raised: $0

SD 22
Andy Kerr (D)
DEM COH: $56,342.53
Dem Total Raised: $91,895.31
Tony Sanchez (R)
R COH: $15,122.16
R Total Raised: $39,651.52

 

These fundraising totals are certainly not all-encompassing in terms of the amount of money that will ultimately be spent by third party groups, but they nevertheless give a good indication of how successful candidates have been at appealing to supporters.

(more…)