Voters in Illinois will find a constitutional amendment on the 2012 General Election ballot on which they will be asked to vote yes or no. The amendment, passed by the Illinois General Assembly in the Spring of 2012, must be voted on by Illinois voters and would amend the General Provisions Article of the Illinois Constitution to require a three-fifths majority vote of the Illinois General Assembly to approve any pension or retirement benefit increase for public employees and officials.
The League of Women Voters of Illinois is opposed to proposed Constitutional Amendment 49.
The three-fifths majority requirement to effect a narrowly defined purpose — in this case voting to increase a pension benefit — places power in the hands of a very few. LWVIL believes the legislature, city councils and schools boards are deliberative bodies convened to formulate public policy and every elected member is accorded an equal say in the decision-making process.
LWVIL supports open and transparent government that is representative, accountable and responsive. A three-fifths majority allows a smaller percentage (41%) to block a measure than does a simple majority (51%).
LWVIL’s position on the circumstances under which a constitution should be amended is rooted in our longstanding view that:
A state constitution should be fairly easy to amend but that the ease or difficulty of amendment should depend on the flexibility of the constitution itself. If the document is really a basic one that grants broad and general powers and does not rely on restrictive details which can become outmoded as have so many in the present Illinois Constitution , then amendment need not be too easy and indeed should not permit fast and emotional response to an isolated instance.
The League views HJRCA 49 as a proposal to impose restrictions that are an emotional response to a particular situation, the pension reform issue.
The League believes that it is more appropriate to address this issue through changes in the state’s statutes, not by amending the constitution. Notwithstanding this amendment, a legislature must still introduce a bill and pass it to increase a pension benefit.
Voters are encouraged by LWVIL to vote “no” on the amendment. Ballots not marked with a “yes” or “no” will be considered “no” votes. To read a full statement of the League’s position and to read the full text of the amendment visit our website at: tinyurl.com/LWV-vote-no-HJRCA49.
Peggy Kell and Sarah Shirk
Co-presidents, League of Women Voters of Oak Park-River Forest