May 29, 2014

Injunction Temporarily Stops Pension Reform Act…

THE WE Are One Illinois union coalition, the State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA), and plaintiffs filed a motion for injunctive relief in Sangamon County Circuit Court that seeks to stop the implementation of pension reform legislation, Senate Bill 1, Public Act 98-599, by seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction until a final resolution on the bill’s merits is reached.

CIRCUIT JUDGE John Belz granted the temporary injunction May 14.

THE ACT makes cuts to the pensions of working and retired members of the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) Teachers' Retirement System, and State Employees' Retirement System. It reduces the value of retirement benefits through cutting cost-of-living adjustments. It also caps the amount of salary that earns a pension.

MICHAEL T. CARRIGAN, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO, made the following statement to the media explaining why an injunction is critical:

“The pension theft bill must not be implemented before the courts have ruled. The fair and proper thing to do is not to allow this legislation to cause any damage until the courts have spoken on its constitutionality. Otherwise, teachers, first responders, nurses, and other state and university employees and retirees will be irreparably harmed. People are being forced to make irrevocable, life-altering retirement decisions. Yet they face these decisions in an uncertain economic environment while awaiting a court ruling. The pension theft bill should -- and, we believe, will -- be overturned, but the decision to retire cannot be undone. A complete stay of the bill's implementation is necessary to avoid irreparably harming active and retired teachers and state and university employees.”

THE JUDGE’S action stays the legislation in its entirety so that the pension systems and other defendants are enjoined from implementing or administering any provisions of the act until the court issues a final ruling on the merits of the act’s constitutionality or until further order of the court. In other words, the injunction will remain in effect until a determination is made on the law’s constitutionality, unless the court takes further action on the injunction prior to that time.

THE COURT found that plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their contention that Public Act 98-599 violates the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution.

“THIS IS an important first step in our efforts to overturn this unfair, unconstitutional law and to protect retirement security for working and retired Illinois families," said Carrigan. "We are pleased the court prudently chose to halt implementation of these sweeping changes, which have caused so much fear and uncertainty and are likely to be overturned."

IN ADDITION to its injunctive efforts, the coalition will continue to seek to overturn SB 1 through a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the bill.

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