CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A little-publicized amendment to the Illinois Constitution on this November’s ballot could have a big impact on the pensions and health care of state workers if Illinois voters approve it, a University of Illinois expert in legal policy says.
According to John Kindt, a professor emeritus of business and legal policy, Amendment 49 is a “cleverly crafted feat of legislative legerdemain” that’s designed to concentrate more money and power in the state capital.
“This is a potentially major change to the Illinois Constitution that has received very little publicity and has been the subject of almost no public discourse,” Kindt said. “In the interest of educating the public, we need to start talking about the consequences of Amendment 49, if voters pass it.”
Kindt, who has testified before Congress and state legislatures about business and legal policy issues, says Amendment 49 would overrule the protection clause in the Illinois Constitution that restricts eliminating or reducing earned benefits such as pensions for state workers and retirees.
Amendment 49 clocks in at more than 700 words, making it longer than the entire first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Kindt says.
“It’s 700 words of verbosity and obfuscation that cloak the true intent and impact of its last sentence, which is to override the current constitutional protections for teachers and retirees,” he said. “Many legislators who originally supported Amendment 49 probably did not realize that. But the offending sentence creates a constitutional blank check to override benefits accrued by state employees, including pensions and health care. It also was reportedly drafted outside the normal legislative procedures. That doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Kindt says that the ballot itself does not even include what people would be voting for or against.
“Currently, the certified ballot doesn’t even list the full text of the 700-word amendment,” Kindt said. “Experts believe the current ballot would not survive a legal challenge. The State Universities Annuitants Association also contends that Amendment 49 was drafted outside of normal processes.”
Although Amendment 49 was sped through the legislative process, Kindt says the Illinois public should be informed on the issues and not unwittingly eliminate their current constitutional safeguards because of 700 confusing words.