Illinois General Assembly – Session Wrap Up –
Attacks on collective bargaining –
HB 1673 would have reformed the factors that arbitrators must consider when making a decision to resolve a collective bargaining impasse. The bill would require arbitrators to consider only existing municipal revenues and budgets when making contract decisions that are binding on municipal governments. The fundamental idea behind the bill is that arbitrators “should not be telling municipal governments that they can impose this tax or that fee in order to pay for the arbitrator’s contract award.” HB 1673 was debated in the House Labor Committee, but was not allowed a vote.
A second collective bargaining reform pushed by municipal and county employers would enhance management rights by providing that municipalities cannot be compelled to submit to binding arbitration over manning levels in police and fire departments. The House Cities and Villages Committee sided with labor and HB 3044 (Rep. Bellock, R-Westmont) never made it to the House Floor.
The General Assembly approved a major education reform bill that was enacted into law by the Governor as P.A. 97-0008. The new law makes it easier to fire ineffective teachers, makes it harder for teachers to strike, and carves out a longer school day for students in Chicago.
An unsuccessful effort was made on the last day of session to pass legislation through both chambers that would have forestalled pending state employee union membership requests while decertifying a number of existing union positions with the State. House Amendment #2 to SB 1556 (Rep. Currie, D-Chicago) was introduced to address concerns by state leaders that the state workforce is on the precipice of being 97% unionized. The Amendment was an effort to seperate out employees whose duties are managerial or supervisory in nature from the wide multitude of the workforce allowed to collectively bargain. An estimated 10,100 state employees have joined unions since 2003. SB 1556 as amended was approved by the House but has not yet been voted on in the Senate. This issue may arise again during the Fall Veto Session.
Pensions & Disability Benefits –
SB 1831 (Sen. Raoul, D-Chicago and Rep. May, D-Highwood) makes several changes to the IMRF article of the Illinois Pension Code. The impetus behind the bill was an action by the Park District Board in Highland Park to approve contracts that ultimately spiked the pensions of several employees. The bill includes a multitude of provisions related to addressing perceived instances of “pension abuse,” as well as separate provisions that were sought by IMRF. Some of these other IMRF provisions were sent to the Governor within other bills.
Due to our success in the WE ARE ONE campaign our foes were unable to find enough support in the House for an historic pension reform bill. This victory prompted the decision to forestall the effort until the Fall Veto Session. SB 512 (Representative Cross, R-Plainfield) would have altered benefits for current employees of the 5 state-funded pension systems, as well as some Cook County and Chicago non-public safety pension funds. At this time IMRF and the downstate police and firefighter funds are not included in the bill.
Under the bill, current employees would be required to choose to: (1) continue earning their present benefit levels (tier 1) in exchange for an employee contribution increase; (2) earn lesser benefits (tier 2) and have their employee contribution rates remain the same; or (3) enroll in a self-managed plan for the remainder of their service. Once again, these choices would only apply to service not yet earned and the downstate and suburban municipal pension systems are not affected.
Municipal employers also pursued SB 2014 (Sen. Haine, D-Alton) in an effort to thwart suspected abuse under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA). PSEBA provides police officers and firefighters with lifetime municipally-funded health insurance premiums for themselves, their spouse and any children until majority age is reached or the end of the year in which the child turns twenty-five if the child is either a dependent, part-time or full-time student. According to the Municipal League, “PSEBA is an expensive benefit and, under current law, is awarded indiscriminately to individuals eligible for a duty-disability benefit regardless of the severity of their injury.” Of course they produce little more than anecdotal and unsubstantiated instances of perceived abuse to support their position. Fortunately, the bill did not advance. However the IML has promised to continue working on a PSEBA bill that will reduce employers’ PSEBA costs and win sufficient votes for passage regardless of actual merit.
HB 2925 (Rep. Pihos, R-Glen Ellyn) is another Municipal League initiative to remove police and firefighters from the Public Employees Disability Act (PEDA). PEDA provides police officers and firefighters with their full salary for up to one year for a duty-related disability. This bill failed to gain passage during a hearing of the House Cities and Villages Committee.
False Complaints Against Police Officers –
Thanks to the efforts of Representative John D’Amico (D-Chicago) HB 1985 passed both houses and is headed to Governor Quinn for signature. HB 1985 mandates that municipal police agencies (cities and counties) that receive false complaints filed against law enforcement officers forward those cases to the appropriate State’s Attorney for review and prosecution. While current law requires complaints against police officers to be supported by a sworn affidavit many departments do not send cases of false complaint cases for prosecution.
We appreciate Rep. D’Amico’s diligence in moving this legislation through the process on behalf of Illinois’ Finest.
Sean M. Smoot
Director & Chief Legal Counsel
PB & PA of Illinois