A Sangamon County Judge set Nov. 20 for a key hearing on pension changes that were approved by lawmakers late last year, but have been put on hold while the court considers the constitutionality of the law.
Judge John Belz said he will hear arguments that the state’s pension funding problems are so serious that constitutional protections for pension benefits can be set aside under the state’s sovereign or “police” powers.
Both sides of the debate over pension changes have said that the constitutionality of the pension changes contained in SB 1 are likely to hinge on the police powers argument. Earlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court declared unconstitutional another pension change – that sought to take away a health insurance subsidy for retirees based on length of service.
That ruling set a high bar for the SB 1 pension changes to meet, but did not address the issue of police powers. Most legal experts say that if the Judge, and later the Supreme Court, rejects the police powers argument the pension changes are likely to also be declared unconstitutional.