Letter to the Editor: Vote 'No' on Proposed Constitutional Amendment 49
Illinois voters will decide whether a three-fifths majority vote should be required for any state governing body to increase public pension benefits.
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, any governing body of a unit of local government, school district, or pension or retirement system to increase a benefit under any public pension or retirement system is sought.
The League of Women Voters of Illinois is opposed to proposed Constitutional Amendment 49.
Its opposition rests solely on the three-fifths majority requirement as well as its belief that an amendment to the Constitution is not the appropriate vehicle for addressing the pension issue.
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 where 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 majority (41%) to block a measure than does a simple majority (51%). The League agrees with the Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure that “whenever a vote of more than a majority is required to take an action, control is taken from the majority and given to the minority. The higher the vote required, the smaller the minority to which control passes.
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 which 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 [1870 Constitution], then amendment need not be too easy and indeed should not permit fast and emotional response to an isolated instance.”
An Emotional Response to Pension Reform
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 to vote on the amendment because the outcome will depend on turnout.
There are two ways to determine the results:
(1) either three-fifths of the those voting on the question (if, for example 10,000 are voting on the amendment, 6,000 'yes' votes would be needed to pass; or
(2) a majority of those voting in the election (if, for example, 20,000 people voted in the election, 10,001 would be needed to pass amendment).
Remember ballots not marked with a 'yes' or 'no' will be considered 'no' votes.
It is most important that every registered voter vote either via early voting: Oct. 22—Nov. 3 or on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Joan Ziegler, League of Women Voters of Glenview
Lali Watt, League of Women Voters of Wilmette
Susan Black, League of Women Voters of Evanston
Joan Fragen, Nancy Marcus and Charlene Shryer, League of Women Voters of Winnetka-Northfield-Kenilworth