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ere the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at: http://www.dukesblotter.com/#sthash.gzOejJCT.dpuf
Where the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at: http://www.dukesblotter.com/#sthash.gzOejJCT.dpuf

Officer Down

Friday, September 30, 2011

NEWS: (Chicago) Top cop says city doesn't need more officers right now

--"I just can't in good conscience provide adequate back-up for my officers or promote public safety."
This is what McCarthy should say because it is what he is doing with these asinine comments.--
Duke

STORY AT CHICAGO TRIBUNE


By Jeremy Gorner and Kristen Mack
Tribune reporters
4:47 PM CDT, September 30, 2011

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the city doesn’t need more cops as it faces a $635 million budget gap.

“So far we're showing we can get the job done with less,”  McCarthy told the Tribune editorial board on Friday. “I just can’t in good conscious say that we need more when we’re not operating at peak efficiency.”

The department has moved almost 900 cops to beat patrols since the end of May, due primarily to the disbanding of two specialized units and the transfer of cops from desk jobs. The move has come following a campaign pledge made by McCarthy’s boss, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to put more than 1,000 officers on the streets. Critics contend he’s simply shuffling officers around.

But with the city experiencing tough economic times, McCarthy said it would be irresponsible to ask Emanuel for more officers without looking at every possible way to improve efficiency.

There are approximately 13,500 budgeted sworn positions in the Chicago Police Department, but roughly 1,400 of those jobs are vacant. Another 775 officers are on medical leave, according to the department.

McCarthy acknowledged he could cut the department’s $1.3 billion budget by eliminating the vacant posts. But he said he wants to hold on to those positions for when the economy turns around and replacements could be hired.

Reached in reaction to McCarthy’s comments, Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd, cautioned that the number of sworn-officer vacancies has nearly doubled in the past year and a half.

“We need to keep up the numbers (of officers) across the board and across the city to make sure that our citizens are safe in their homes and on the streets,” he said.

R.I.P.: Sergeant Paul Stuckey

ODMP 

Sergeant Paul Stuckey
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Louisiana
End of Watch: Friday, September 30, 2011

Biographical Info

Age: 47
Tour of Duty: 18 years
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details

Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: September 30, 2011
Weapon Used: Shotgun
Suspect Info: At large

Sergeant Paul Stuckey was shot and killed while responding to reports of night hunting in West Feliciana Parish.

Sergeant Stuckey had notified his supervisor at approximately 2:15 am that he had received a report that someone was hunting near St. Francisville. A fisherman located his body at daybreak at an old ferry landing along the banks of the Mississippi River suffering from a shotgun blast to the chest.

The suspect remains at large.

Sergeant Stuckey had served with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for 18 years. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Agency Contact Info

Colonel Winton Vidrine
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
2000 Quail Drive
PO Box 98000
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Phone: (225) 765-2989

Thursday, September 29, 2011

PENSION: (Ohio) Ex-cop gets disability pay for depression

STORY AT POLICEONE

September 29, 2011
   
Ohio Supreme Court: Disability benefits for officer who became depressed after learning of girlfriend's affair

By David Eggert
The Columbus Dispatch

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A former Cleveland-area police officer should receive disability benefits because he became severely depressed after his girlfriend told him she was having an affair, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.

Detective Thomas Tindira began experiencing psychiatric symptoms after the October 2006 breakup. In May 2007, he was placed on administrative leave by the Lakewood Police Department because of his deteriorating performance at work.

A year later, he resigned as part of a settlement involving accusations that he sent his ex-girlfriend threatening emails.

The Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund denied his application for disability benefits in 2008. The Franklin County Court of Appeals upheld the denial in 2010.

The high court, though, said state law authorizes benefits for temporary disabilities. The 6-1 ruling was handed down on Tuesday.

Tindira is eligible because he was a member of the pension fund for more than five years, incurred a disability not caused by his official duties as a police officer, is unable to perform his job as a police officer, and has a lower earning capacity because of the disability, the court said.

Justice Terrence O'Donnell dissented but didn't write an opinion.

Doctors diagnosed Tindira as suffering from a major depressive disorder with elements of delusional, post-traumatic stress and personality disorders. Despite four months of intensive psychotherapy, Tindira remained severely disturbed and delusional, according to a vocational consultant.

The court decision didn't get into specifics on what amount of money Tindira is owed.

The pension fund's executive director, William Estabrook, said yesterday that Tindira's conditions weren't found to be incapacitating.

"They were temporary in nature — OP&F only grants awards for permanently disabling conditions," he said in a statement.

PENSION: Senator Dick Durbin on Military Pensions

I contacted Senator Durbin in response to a request at the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association web page:


The following is the text of the e-mail I received in response from Senator Durbin. I post this because the exact same response was sent to the president of the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, James McNamee.

Guess we are only worthy of canned responses when contacting our elected officials.

September 26, 2011

Rev. Earl Filskov
Northlake, IL 60164-1457

Dear Rev. Filskov:

Thank you for contacting me about military retirement benefits. I appreciate hearing from you.

In the summer of 2011, the Defense Business Board (DBB) reported the findings of a task group called, "Modernizing the Military Retirement System." The task group was created to evaluate the current and future cost of the military retirement system. The DBB indicated that there are distinct benefits achieved by shifting to a 401k-type retirement plan.

Proponents of changing to a plan similar to a 401k argue that benefits could be extended to 83 percent of service members who do not currently receive retirement benefits because they did not serve for twenty years. Supporters also assert that eliminating the rigidity of the plan will enable service members to take their contributions with them if they leave the service before the twenty year minimum. Opponents are concerned that those who are close to retirement will not be able to retire after twenty years or will be forced to switch to a 401k in a period of increased stock market volatility.

Concern also has been raised based on a 2008 report. The President conducts a comprehensive review of the military compensation system every four years. The most recent review commission was convened by President Bush in August 2005 and submitted its final report in July 2008. The reviewers proposed a plan for the collection and disbursement of military retirement pay. The plan would, among other things, delay the age that a retired service member could collect his or her retirement. Currently, a military retiree can collect immediately upon retirement after twenty years of service. The proposed change would delay the retirement payment until the retiree is 57 years old or older. There is no measure or executive order pending that would delay payments to retirees.

Ensuring proper compensation for service members and veterans is an important hallmark of American society. I support cost of living adjustments for retired servicemembers and increased accessibility to education through the GI Bill. I will keep your thoughts in mind as the Senate debates this issue.

Thank you again for contacting me. Please feel free to keep in touch.

Sincerely,
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

RJD/cl

PENSION: COMMENTARY: State, local politicians must stop deceiving the people, workers and themselves about pension crisis

--It's about time somebody called these polidiots out on the pension issues.
Until the polidiots on all levels admit they caused these problems and decide to sit down with REAL EMPLOYEES and discuss REAL pension reforms these problems will not go away.--
Duke


Posted on September 28, 2011

By Frank Keegan — When even the most fiscally responsible governor of a state with the lowest hidden pension debt per household doesn’t know how bad it really is, the time has come to force honesty on all state and local governments. Dishonest accounting has taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars no matter what reforms states pass now. If the lying doesn’t stop, many states will sink into a pit of eternal debt.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said he favors proposed changes in accounting public pension debt during questions at an appearance here this week promoting his book, “Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans.”

“There’s a lot of subterfuge and self-deception that must stop,” Daniels said.

The best thing he can do to keep our Republic is pass that message along to the Government Accounting Standards Board and consider testifying at the Oct. 20 hearing in Chicago or at least write by the Oct. 14 comment deadline.

Maybe a governor whose state has tried for more than three decades to get its public pension crisis under control can convince rule makers to force politicians to stop lying to taxpayers, workers and themselves about how huge the catastrophe really is.

Asked about the GASB rules, Daniels thought for a moment and said, “Yes, in general, we must account honestly. I have no particular concern about Indiana. I think we’re at 92 percent funding, and I read somewhere that Indiana is the third lightest state in obligations.

“We’ll leave future generations a heritage of the lowest obligation in the country,” he said.

True enough. Actually, right now Indiana is the least worst in the nation, according to one study. Being the least worst in a bad bunch is not the same as being good.

It still means the average Hoosier household must pay $236 to $329 a year for 30 years in additional taxes for public pension obligations already owed.

In a state where real household income dropped more than 10 percent in a decade and unemployment hangs at about 10 percent, raising any taxes any amount to pay state pensions is going to generate public rage.

And a sincere governor incorrectly believing pensions might be sufficiently funded is not going to cover checks the state has to write to retirees every month for the next 30 years.

According to every method of calculation, Indiana is not going to have enough money to cover all those checks without squeezing more out of taxpayers.

Under existing government accounting standards, politicians don’t have to admit that when calculating what they insist on referring to as “balanced” budgets.

They get to lie about the true size of the debt and then hide the lie below the bottom line in financial reports they use to deceive the public and themselves when putting together state budgets and inflicting taxes.

Hidden below the bottom line in Indiana’s latest Comprehensive Annual Report — which has complete numbers only through July 1, 2009 — the state owed more than $11 billion to current and future retirees.

But even that is a lie. A recent Standard & Poor’s report put it at $12.3 billion even accepting official delusional assumptions.

An optimistic but still more accurate estimate of $36.9 billion is from the Pew Center on the States “Widening Gap” study. That is about 15 percent of total state gross domestic product, probably worse given recent market turmoil.

Even a report last month, Understanding Indiana’s Largest Pension System, compiled by the Indiana Public Retirement System itself, shows the system at only 64.5 percent funding and deteriorating steadily through at least 2017.

Remember, taxpayers, public workers and politicians, these are catastrophic numbers states and municipalities now do not even have to put on the books, but somebody must pay.

And Indiana is one of the best, most fiscally responsible states in the nation when it comes to getting ahead of the inexorable pension tsunami. The worst states are doomed already. Many more are on a sure path toward a fiscal event horizon of eternal debt if they do not act immediately.

Politicians never will act, as long as they can use accounting tricks to hide reality. The longer they hide it, the worse it is going to get.

One good governor who thought he helped solve his state’s pension crisis, but did not, can take this message to GASB and push for tough accounting standards as quickly as possible.

That would help in keeping the Republic, because impossible pension debt — at least $3 trillion — is the biggest factor in undermining our Founders’ intent that state sovereignty balance and check federal power.

States are becoming so dependent on federal funds they can’t say no.

According to a Government Accountability Office study ordered last year by Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-1st Congressional District, using data from before the Great Recession, states are in for at least 50 years of hard times so bad many will not be able to meet matching requirement mandates for federal money.

It means more and more future governors are going to grovel, unless tough accounting rules make state leaders face reality now and deal with it.

Daniels knows we can trust Americans, but we can’t trust politicians with our pension funds. Go tell that to GASB, governor.

Frank Keegan is a national editor for The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, watchdog.org and statehousenewsonline.com . Any disgusted public employee, journalist, activist organization or citizen watchdog who wants help exposing government waste, fraud and abuse may contact him at: frank.keegan@franklincenterhq.org

******

NEWS: (Cook County) Fitch downgrades Cook County bond rating

--Until the politicians come up with REAL pension reforms you see this continue.--
Duke


By Timothy Inklebarger
Published: September 21, 2011

Fitch Ratings downgraded the general obligation bond rating of Cook County, Illinois, to AA- from AA on Wednesday, citing short-term “diminished financial flexibility” with the county’s operating budget as well as its long-term pension liabilities.

As of December 2010, the $7.6 billion Cook County Annuity & Benefit Fund, Chicago, had an unfunded liability of $4 billion and a funded ratio of 63%, based on Fitch’s conservative annual return assumption of 7%, according to a Fitch news release.

The Fitch report notes that the county has not paid its full annual pension contribution for at least the last five years, although county officials are working to lower the unfunded liability.

“As a credit positive, the county implemented a two-tiered benefit plan for employees beginning January 2011, which should help moderate future liability growth,” according to the report.

Amy Laskey, a managing director at Fitch, said in a telephone interview that the funded ratio of the pension plan and the county’s ability to control it as time goes on will have a greater impact on its bond rating.

“The longer term is getting shorter all the time,” Ms. Laskey said. “The funding ratio now is sort of on the low end of adequate by our definition.”

Daniel R. Degnan, executive director of the fund, could not be reached for comment.

The downgrade is the county’s second this year after Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the county to Aa3 from Aa2 in June.

Police Blotters September 29, 2011

Click on the town you are interested in.









































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NEWS: (National) Crime-ridden NJ city to rehire 14 laid-off cops

--In a state where the murder rate is up 16% over the nation and the overall crime rate is up over the nation this isn't even a band-aid for their problems.
New Jersey is a prime example of sacrificing public safety for budget cuts.
And people want this governor to be president?--
Duke

STORY AT POLICEONE

September 28, 2011

Associated Press

CAMDEN, N.J. — New Jersey's most crime-ridden city is receiving federal grant money that will allow it to rehire 14 laid-off police officers.

Federal authorities said Wednesday that Camden is among 12 communities in the state that will share in nearly $21 million over three years to help restore police department cuts due to budget problems.

Camden laid off about half of its police force in January, along with one-third of its firefighters. It's receiving a $3.8 million grant.

The city had already secured state and other federal money to bring back 74 of the 168 officers who were laid off.

Authorities said the grant won't affect planning to reorganize the city's police force so that it becomes part of a countywide agency. Police unions oppose the plan.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

R.I.P.: Deputy Sheriff Bryan Sleeper

ODMP 

Deputy Sheriff Bryan Sleeper
Burleigh County Sheriff's Department, North Dakota
End of Watch: Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Biographical Info

Age: 39
Tour of Duty: 4 years
Badge Number: 4837

Incident Details

Cause of Death: Heart attack
Date of Incident: September 28, 2011
Weapon Used: Person
Suspect Info: In custody

Deputy Sheriff Bryan Sleeper suffered a fatal heart attack while assisting another deputy arrest a combative subject at about 12:45 am.

The other deputy had attempted to stop the man for speeding, but the suspect refused to stop and drove to his home. During the ensuing confrontation the man was tased twice before Deputy Sleeper could handcuff him.

Deputy Sleeper collapsed moments later. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Agency Contact Info

Sheriff Pat Heinert
Burleigh County Sheriff's Department
PO Box 1416
Bismarck, ND 58502
Phone: (701) 222-6651

PAROLE ALERT: Stop Parole of Convicted Cop Killer Marion Osborne

Help stop the parole  of convicted cop killer Marion Osborne (inmate #02899)

On Thursday, December 1, 1977, this inmate shot and killed Patrolman Mickey Johnson, of the
Belmont Police Department, with the officer's own weapon.


Officer Down Memorial Page

Patrolman Mickey Gene Johnson
Belmont Police Department, Mississippi
End of Watch: Thursday, December 1, 1977

Biographical Info

Age: 20
Tour of Duty: 2 years
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details

Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: December 1, 1977
Weapon Used: Officer's handgun
Suspect Info: Sentenced to life in prison

Patrolman Johnson was shot and killed with his own weapon while attempting to stop a man who was stealing a car.

The suspect was apprehended and sentenced to life in prison.

Patrolman Johnson had served with the Belmont Police Department two years.

PENSION: (Illinois) The constitutionality of Illinois public pension reform

ARTICLE AT OBKCG

Legal Insights for Pension Boards (Fall 2011)

by Donald R. Tyer

Illinois legislators have postponed the inevitable battle on pension reform for public employees until the General Assembly’s fall veto-session. Even though a bi-partisan sponsored reform package made it out of a House committee in May, it could not garner sufficient support on the floor to encourage its sponsors to attempt to push it through the General Assembly.

One fact everyone agrees on is that the Illinois public pension systems are critically underfunded, which some have estimated at $85 billion. Early last year, Governor Quinn signed into law a reform measure for public pensions decreasing the pension benefits of all public employees hired after the law took effect last year. Governor Quinn claims the law will save Illinois billions of dollars, but the projected savings will not be realized until many years down the road. The question now facing the General Assembly is whether the “Pension Clause” contained in the Illinois Constitution bars reforms that would decrease the benefits of current public employees.

Current retirees and public employees who will be retiring in the near future will place a tremendous strain on Illinois’ already underfunded pension systems. In an effort to ease this burden, the recently-tabled reform proposal planned to create a three-tiered pension benefit plan for some current public employees in the statewide pension systems. The reform proposal does not include fire or police pension funds, at this point. The first tier would preserve existing pension benefits by requiring higher employee contributions which would increase every three years. The second tier would offer reduced pension benefits for current employees, while the third tier would allow employees to opt in to a 401(k) type retirement plan with the state matching employee contributions.

All three options have the net effect of reducing benefits for employees who are currently contributing to the various state pension systems, and this, critics argue, is a violation of the Pension Clause in the Illinois Constitution.

The Pension Clause of the 1970 Illinois Constitution provides:

    Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired. (1970 Illinois Constitution, Article XIII, Section 5)

The Pension Clause establishes that a contractual relationship exists between a public employee who contributes to a public pension fund and the fund itself. Throughout the history of public pension systems in the United States, states have adopted a variety of protections for pension plan participants ranging from codifying the contractual nature of the relationship in the state constitution (as in Illinois) to using legal concepts such as promissory estoppel to define the rights and benefits of each employee (as in Minnesota).

Even though states choose different approaches to afford protections to public workers, funding problems are forcing legislators to explore ways to alter benefits. In some states pension reform has already been challenged in the court system. Recent pension reform court rulings in Minnesota and Colorado may be viewed as bellwethers to other states grappling with the same problems.

The Minnesota and Colorado pension reform cases involved reducing the cost of living adjustment (COLA) that pensioners in those states automatically received. In both cases, courts dismissed the lawsuits in favor of the state legislatures, allowing the reform measures to proceed. In Minnesota, the court found that the retirees did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that changes to pension benefits were unconstitutional. In Colorado, the court held that reducing pension benefits to strengthen the overall pension fund was not a violation of any constitutional protections. (Swanson v. State of Minnesota, No. 62-CV-10-5285 (Second Judicial District, Ramsey County, Minn., amended complaint filed July 2, 2010) and Justus v. State of Colorado, 2010 CV1589 (Denver, Colo. Dist. Ct. Sept. 13, 2010)) These two decisions are not binding precedent for other state courts facing similar pension reform lawsuits now or in the future. To proponents of pension reform, however, these decisions bolster their argument to pursue the reduction of current benefits even when those benefits are constitutionally protected.

Note that South Dakota is currently awaiting a decision in its COLA reduction lawsuit, and the governor of New Jersey signed legislation on June 28, 2011, suspending COLA increases for New Jersey’s public pensioners as part of a package of comprehensive pension reforms. (Tice v. South Dakota, 10-225 (Hughes, S.D.Cir.Ct. 2010), New Jersey Laws, Chapt. 78, P.L. 2011)

Public employee unions are the most vocal in the anti-reform movement. They argue that the Illinois Constitution’s Pension Clause is an iron-clad protection for public pension benefits and was drafted specifically for that very purpose. Eric Madiar, chief legal counsel to Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, also argued against pension reform in a comprehensive legal analysis of the issues and history surrounding the Pension Clause. (Eric Madiar, 2011, Is Welching on Public Pension Promises An Option of Illinois? An Analysis of Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution.)

In his analysis, Madiar pointed to the Pension Clause debates that took place during the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention as a starting point for his interpretation of the Pension Clause language that prohibits Illinois from reducing benefits at all. In 1970, the Pension Clause sponsors argued that the Illinois Constitution needed a codified protection for public employees, similar to a provision in the New York Constitution that declared the contractual nature of pension benefits and foreclosed the possibility of the state reducing or eliminating those benefits entirely.

According to Madiar’s brief, after the Pension Clause was sent to committee for editing prior to submission to the voters, the Pension Laws Commission attempted to change the language by adding a contingency clause that would give power to the General Assembly to “enact reasonable modifications in employee rates of contribution, minimum service requirements and other provisions pertaining to the fiscal soundness of the retirement systems . . .” This change (submitted by the Commission twice) was rejected prior to sending the Constitution in its final form to the voters. Anti-reformers point to this fact as evidence that the drafters of the Pension Clause clearly sought to prohibit the state from reducing or diminishing an employee’s benefits.

When the text of the Pension Clause was eventually sent to Illinois voters, it included an official explanation from the Convention. The explanation stated that under the Clause, “provisions of state and local governmental pension and retirement systems shall not have their benefits reduced” and that membership in these systems “shall be a valid contractual relationship.” Finally, the explanation stated that the clause was “self-explanatory.”

Anti-reformers argue that Illinois case law supports the proposition that public pension benefits may not be reduced by the state. The Illinois Supreme Court first analyzed the issue of reducing pension benefits in the 1974 decision, Peters v. City of Springfield, 57 Ill2d 142 (1974). In Peters the firefighters sued to enjoin the city from lowering the mandatory retirement age, arguing that if the retirement age was lowered from 63 to 60, their overall pension payment would be reduced as they would not receive the extra three years’ increase in their salaries. The court held that the Pension Clause, like its counterpart in New York, created a contractual relationship that protected the employees’ rights from being diminished or impaired, even though it upheld the ordinance lowering the retirement age. Anti-reformers point out that the Illinois Supreme Court interpreted the Pension Clause to be a protection against state or local governments diminishing benefits, but the Peters decision was hardly a resounding proclamation that benefit terms could never be touched.

In the 1979 case, Kraus v. Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of the Village of Niles, 72 Ill.App.3d 833 (1st Dist. 1979), the First District appellate court re-viewed a case involving the reduction of benefits to current public employees. In Kraus, a police officer on disability challenged changes made to the Illinois Pension Code while he was on disability and before he became eligible to collect his pension. The changes to the Code became the basis for the pension board’s decision to award Kraus a lower pension than he expected. In reviewing the case, the court conducted an exhaustive analysis of the Illinois Constitutional debates, the New York court decisions, as well as the Peters decision, and concluded that any direct legislative action to reduce benefits due to a pension member is unconstitutional. The court distinguished the Peters decision, finding that lowering the mandatory retirement age only indirectly affected pension benefits and thus did not trigger the protections of the Pension Clause. Importantly, the court also held that pension benefits were a contractual right that could be modified under established contract principles such as an exchange for valuable consideration.

In 1985, the Illinois Supreme Court revisited the Pension Clause in Felt v. Board of Trustees of the Judges Retirement System, 107 Ill.2d 158 (1985). In Felt, several judges sued the Judges Retirement System after it applied an amendment in the Illinois Pension Code that changed the formula to determine pension benefits. The new formula used an average of the last year’s salary rather than the salary on the last day of service to determine the annuity benefit. The plaintiffs argued that the Pension Clause protected their interest in having their benefits calculated by the rules in effect on their first day of service and that any change should only apply to new judges.

The court agreed, holding that the judges had a contract with their pension system and changing the formula amounted to an unconstitutional reduction of the benefits they were vested in from the day they joined the system. The court rejected the argument that the state could make these changes under its police power, characterizing the proposed change as a substantial impairment of benefits and not at all defensible as an exercise of the state’s police powers.

Anti-reformers use the Felt decision to illustrate their fundamental point: the Illinois Constitution codifies the relationship between public employees and the pension system as contractual with benefits that cannot be taken away without consideration. The question is what would constitute the kind of valuable consideration that would make benefit reductions constitutional. Pension reformers have an answer for that question.

The bi-partisan pension reform proposal that has been tabled until this fall would ultimately diminish pension benefits for some current public workers. The proposal seeks to change the annuity amounts that these workers would receive when they retire, based on the new three-tier system previously explained above.

Reformers agree that the Pension Clause clearly establishes that a contractual relationship exists between public employees and the pension system. However, reformers argue that the term “benefits” of membership in the system that shall not be diminished or impaired in the Pension Clause means the benefit is simply an employee’s right to receive an annuity upon retirement, but does not guarantee the amount of the annuity or the formula for calculating the annuity. While reformers acknowledge that the Pension Clause protects those benefits already earned, they cite their interpretation of the Convention debates, case law and common sense in support of pension reforms that reduce the benefits that employees may earn in the future, especially in consideration of not lowering salaries, eliminating positions, or allowing pension funds to collapse.

Reformers argue that during the convention debates, delegates mainly grappled with two important issues involving the Pension Clause. The first issue was whether the Pension Clause required state government to fully fund its public pensions. Delegates were concerned that they were adding a provision to the Constitution that would hamstring the state by forcing it to fully fund pensions that were woefully underfunded even prior to the convention. The second issue was whether eliminating COLA increases to annuitants would be considered a reduction in pension benefits.

Delegates Lyons and Kinney, co-sponsors of the Pension Clause, explained to the delegates that their proposed language was meant to establish contractual protection for pension rights and to “provide security to people . . . in the event that sweeping home rule powers are given to local governments.” Kinney went on to explain that the language of the clause was meant to guarantee that “people will have the rights that were in force at the time they entered into the agreement to become an employee” - that if their benefits were $100 a month when they started in 1970, then they should not be less than $100 a month in 1990.

Though this statement appears to support the premise that the Illinois Constitution prohibits decreasing future benefits, reformers point out that Kinney made this statement (and others like it) in the context of explaining to delegates that the Pension Clause did not require the state to provide cost of living increases. Reformers argue that Delegate Kinney was the only sponsor to articulate any viewpoint about changing prospective benefits, and if the other sponsors agreed with her, they could have made that clear during the debates.

At best, reformers argue, the delegates’ debates about the Pension Clause indicate there was uncertainty about the scope of its restrictions, a view shared by the Illinois Supreme Court in the Peters decision. Thus, the court held that the purpose of the Pension Clause was only to “prevent retroactive diminution of previously ‘earned’ benefits.” The Peters holding, though over thirty years old, has never been expressly overruled and is the cornerstone of the argument that the Illinois Constitution would not be violated if future pension benefits were somehow altered or diminished.

In the Felt decision, reformers argue the Illinois Supreme Court applied a balancing test in weighing the legislation changing the formula for calculating the judges’ pension benefits, with the need to remedy a chronically underfunded system. The court opined that the pension system’s woes were not the fault of too many judges retiring early and that changing the retirement formula would not fix the problem. Reformers point out the court did not expressly overrule its decision in Peters, and the Felt holding indicates the court could look at the present pension crisis, weigh it against the proposed changes to the system, and find that these changes are, in fact, a permissible exercise of the state’s police power unlike the circumstances in Felt.

Pension reformers interpret the Pension Clause and pertinent case law in a light that favors their most basic argument, which supports enacting legislation that begins the process of repairing the pension system, couching it in terms of modifying state employees’ contracts in consideration for not firing those employees or significantly reducing salaries, then let the courts determine whether this legislation is proper in light of the Illinois Constitution.

What becomes clear, after considering both viewpoints, is that the language of the Pension Clause is open to interpretation, and Illinois courts have not clearly delineated the limits of its protections for pensioners. As seen in the recent Colorado and Minnesota decisions, courts may begin to look for methods to square the need for reform with the language of each state’s constitution and the established protections of contract law. If pension reform is successfully adopted in Illinois, it will undoubtedly be promptly challenged in the court system. The courts will be called upon to determine whether the state can impose these changes as a contract modification or whether it is just a convenient argument for making an unconstitutional modification to its employees’ benefits.

PENSION: (Illinois) Report: Tax hike not enough to solve state's fiscal woes

--These people all need to get off their pension kicks. 
We get it.... The State of Illinois screwed up the pension funds. 
You cannot cut people's pensions or change their pensions or anything else without first guaranteeing that the politicians will pay the money meant for the pensions to them.
The underfunding is a direct result of political greed error NOT employee greed.
Everyone wants to sit around and blame the public pension system for all of our financial woes because they are supported by major private corporations who are feeling the heat because they screwed their employees out of defined benefit pensions and into 401(k)'s that are losing money to the tune of over $10,000 a week in the stock market.
If you want to fix the public pension systems then you need to sit down with the employees and not the bosses and discuss real pension reform.--
Duke


September 26, 2011 2:47 PM
By BENJAMIN YOUNT

SPRINGFIELD — Adam Andrzejewski says he’s not surprised by a new report showing that Illinois remains in a fiscal black hole despite a 67 percent personal income tax increase approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

"The state of Illinois needs to do three things," Andrzejewski said. "That is cut spending, cut spending, and cut spending."

Andrzejewski, a former GOP candidate for governor, now leads his own group, For the Good of Illinois, a 501(c)4 nonprofit that calls for "limited, accountable and transparent government" and conducts research on the state’s government. For the Good of Illinois also has a political action committee, For the Good of Illinois PAC.

Andrzejewski said lawmakers need to start cutting state spending by focusing on payroll, pensions and perks.

"The entire 67 percent (personal) income tax hike went to fund the pensions and payroll here in Illinois," Andrzejewski said. "There are 3,062 public employees that out-earned Governor Quinn. They’re at all levels of Illinois government. Collectively those 3,000 employees soak up $1 billion in total compensation."

Andrzejewski’s numbers include local, county and state workers. The compensation figures are based on salary, benefits and pension benefits.

Andrzejewski said most people who look at the state’s finances see that Illinois has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

Lawrence Msall, president of the Chicago based Civic Federation, which bills itself as a nonpartisan research group that focuses on improvements in government efficiency and tax policy, agreed with Andrzejewski.

"It’s a bad financial situation in Illinois. And the tax increase was not enough to solve the problem," Msall said. "There needs to be significant reductions in the (state’s) operating costs. That can only be achieved by the state getting its arms around the pension liability problem."

Msall said the report his group released Monday is not designed to tell Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers how to do solve the state’s financial problems, though he was quick to say Illinois will be crushed by its pension debt unless lawmakers change the costs of benefits for current employees.

"Seventeen percent of (Illinois’ $33.2 billion) budget is going for pensions and pension-related payments," Msall said.

While lawmakers in 2010 changed the cost of pension benefits for new state employees, Msall said changes for retirees are likely off limits. There was a proposal in May to change pension costs for state employees on the payroll, but that plan stalled in the General Assembly.

Both House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, pushed legislation to have state workers on the payroll either pay more to keep their defined-benefit pension benefits they have now, or switch to a less expensive defined-contribution package, similar to a 401(k).

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said he agrees there is a need for pension reform, but worries that reforms could lead to more budget trickery.

"The problem with pension reform, the real savings would not be for a number of years," Syverson said. "The fear is that Democrat leaders would try and take those savings out of this year’s payments. That is what got us into this situation."

State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said it is going to take years to get Illinois out of the hole.

"We were able to make our pension payment for the first time in many years. So you have to take the good with the bad," Jacobs said. "I think that we’re starting to turn the tide, but I think it will take us three years to get out of a jam that many Republicans and Democrats alike created."

Kelly Kraft, a spokeswoman for Quinn’s budget office, said the tax increases that passed in January were not designed to solve all of the state’s budget woes.

"Approximately $3 billion was generated from the income tax increase for FY11, an increase that has helped the state begin to address the decades of fiscal mismanagement that have taken place," Kraft said. "But, due to large underfunding of the pension and group insurance systems, more reforms are needed to return our state to sound financial footing."

Msall said the governor should get some credit for what he has done, but added there are no more easy choices.

"There is no magic or politically attractive scenario," Msall said. "The state is going to have to reduce its expenditures, not just its appropriations."

Illinois’ $33.2 billion budget is built largely on smaller appropriations. Lawmakers balanced the budget by stretching out payments to Medicaid providers from in many cases 30 days to 160 days. The General Assembly also decided to push more than $1 billion in past due bills from 2011 into 2012.

Andrzejewski said that shows the heart of the problem.

"I’ve been saying it for three years; Illinois needs to stop spending," he said.

Read more: http://www.thetelegraph.com/articles/hike-59832-woes-report.html#ixzz1ZGrkH8le

NEWS: (Illinois) 1,500 prisoners to be housed in gyms if Logan closes, department says

--Great idea Governor Bumblin' Stumblin' Quinn. 
Your ideas for saving money are shortsighted and irresponsible.--
Duke


By DOUG FINKE (doug.finke@sj-r.com)
The State Journal-Register
Posted Sep 27, 2011 @ 07:05 PM

Closing the Logan Correctional Center eventually will force Illinois’ jam-packed prison system to house 1,500 inmates in prison gymnasiums around the state, the Department of Corrections said in recently filed documents.

Also, up to 180 inmates from the medium-security prison at Lincoln would be transferred to the super-maximum-security prison in Tamms.

All 356 employees at the center could be offered other positions in the department because of vacancies, Corrections said. However, more than 160 employees probably would have to move out of the region to continue working for Corrections, and many others could face one-way commutes of up to 90 minutes.

The information is part of a facility closure report the department must file with the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability before the prison can be closed.

Gov. Pat Quinn has said Logan and six other state facilities have to be closed because the General Assembly did not appropriate enough money to keep them open for an entire year.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees, which represents most Corrections employees, said closing the prison will jeopardize the safety of both inmates and staff.

‘Outrageous, irresponsible’

“I’ve read closure documents before, but none so outrageous and irresponsible as the Logan prison plan,” said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall.

Corrections did not respond to AFSCME’s statement.

The Corrections document said 1,980 inmates are housed at Logan. It said 300-350 inmates will be moved to health care units and segregation units at other prisons. The move will use up nearly all of the state’s beds in health and segregation units, the department said.

Another 130 to 180 inmates will be “housed in available beds” at the super-max prison in Tamms.

“Given IDOC’s current bedspace challenges, approximately 1,500 minimum security inmates will likely be required to be housed in gymnasiums” at 11 other prisons, including in Taylorville, Jacksonville and Mt. Sterling, Corrections said.

“This shuffling of inmates throughout the system is irresponsible,” Lindall said. “The plan makes no mention of repercussions to the safety of staff or inmates. For the department to seriously propose to house 1,500 inmates in 11 prison gymnasiums is so irresponsible as to strain credulity. The state itself admits that its plan exposes DOC to the threat of a lawsuit.”

More employees

In the document, Corrections said that “while IDOC is prepared to face the challenges of providing mandated services in a less than ideal situation, an increased risk of legal exposure is an evident possibility. To assist in confronting these challenges, IDOC will be required to increase employee headcount at the facilities that will receive the additional inmate population.”

Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman said only Logan inmates are being considered for transfer at this time.

On its website, the John Howard Association, a prison oversight group, said that that unless the state takes steps to reduce its inmate population, “closing Logan will likely exacerbate DOC’s overcrowded condition, jeopardize the safety of inmates and staff and ultimately cost taxpayers more money.”

The Corrections document said 356 people work at Logan.

“There are enough positions available throughout the agency to ensure that each of these 356 employees is offered a position within the Department of Corrections,” the document said.

The department estimates that by the end of the year, there will be 192 positions available at other facilities within 90 minutes of Logan, but an estimated 164 employees “would likely have to relocate to another region of the state to remain with the department.”

Jobs lost to Lincoln

Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder said offering jobs that require a 90-minute commute probably won’t help Lincoln.

“With gas prices, a 90-minutes commute will encourage folks to relocate permanently,” Snyder said. “For Lincoln, those jobs will be lost.”

“It’s cavalier to imply that driving 90 minutes each way to your job is not imposing a hardship,” Lindall said.

Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said he doesn’t believe the employees will be offered other jobs.

“The largest cost of any entity is employees,’ Bomke said. “If their intent is to save money, it has to be through the layoff of employees. I don’t see where they will save money.”

COGFA must hold a public hearing before the closing can take place. COGFA executive director Dan Long said he wants to schedule the hearing when lawmakers return for the veto session, but a date has not been set. Lawmakers are due back October 25.

Quinn said Logan and other facilities can stay open if lawmakers reallocate money he vetoed from the budget last summer. House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has indicated he’s willing to consider that as long as the budget’s bottom line doesn’t increase.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527.

460 jobs, $73 million worth of economic activity

Closing the Logan Correctional Center will affect 460 jobs and more than $73 million of economic activity, according to a study prepared by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.

In addition to 356 jobs at the prison itself, 104 jobs would be affected indirectly, the study said.

“The numbers are staggering,” said Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder. “We knew the correctional center was obviously an important part of the economy. It might be our number three or four employer. It (closing) is a huge hit.”

Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said the area is only now recovering from the loss of the Lincoln Developmental Center a decade ago.

“This would have an absolutely devastating effect on the economy of Logan County,” Bomke said. “I’ll do what I can to prevent that from happening.”

Bomke said he’s willing to work with Gov. Pat Quinn during the upcoming veto session to find a way of keeping the Logan prison open.

“I made that commitment to his office,” Bomke said. “If it is a reallocation of money or a supplemental (budget), if the revenue warrants it, I’m willing to work with him.”

Snyder said Lincoln has begun a petition drive to convince Quinn to change his mind. Supporters are also planning a march from the correctional center to downtown followed by a rally on Oct. 13.

“We are going to be doing all we can to make the message loud and clear that (the closing) would be a significant blow to Lincoln and Logan County,” Snyder said.

AFSCME seeks hearings delay

CHICAGO (AP) — A major union is calling for more time for public input on Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed closure of a prison and other state facilities, saying the current schedule of public hearings will “depress turnout and stifle participation.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said citizens should have at least two weeks’ notice of public hearings that should take place in communities where the threatened facilities are located.

In a letter to lawmakers Monday, the union asked for a revised schedule and suggested that the meetings be held on evenings or Saturdays.

“We realize that it may not be COGFA’s intent to depress turnout or stifle participation at these public hearings, but that will certainly be the result if the hearings go forward as currently planned,” wrote AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer.

The commission’s director, Dan Long, said the union doesn’t understand the logistics involved or the timeline required by the state law.

“We only have 35 days to schedule a hearing,” Long said. “I don’t think we’re doing these too quickly at all.”

The first hearing Oct. 5 deals with Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford. Hearings on a youth detention center in Murphysboro and the Chester Mental Health Center in Chester are set for Oct. 12.

Hearings aren’t yet scheduled on three other facilities slated for closure — the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln and facilities for the developmentally disabled in Jacksonville and Dixon. 

NEWS: (Suburban) Sleeping girl dies after car rams Maywood apartment

--This is the same area as the weekend of violence a short time ago in Maywood.--
Duke

STORY AT CHICAGO TRIBUNE


Driver veers into building after being shot, police say

By Joseph Ruzich and William Lee, Chicago Tribune
September 28, 2011

Dominique Thomas was a happy, funny 14-year-old, but she was serious about her future, according to those who knew her.

The Proviso East freshman was enrolled in a local mentoring program aimed at helping kids in the Maywood community deal with everyday problems, and during the summer she learned about engineering and technology at a local college.

"She was on the right path," said Barbara Cole, director of the Maywood Youth Mentoring Program.

But early Tuesday, Dominique was sleeping on a sofa in her family's garden apartment in Maywood when a car came crashing through shortly after midnight, police said. She was killed and her brother was injured. Police said the driver had been shot in his car just blocks away and veered into the building.

The Cook County medical examiner's office said Dominique died of multiple injuries and classified her death a homicide. The driver and Dominique's brother were hospitalized. Police said a passenger in the car fled from the scene after the crash.

Maywood Police Chief Tim Curry said he doesn't know why someone shot at the car. He said no one in the apartment was targeted. "They were just innocent people," he said.

Earlier this month there were two fatal shootings within 24 hours in the 800 block of South 19th Avenue where Dominique's family lives.

"This just has to stop. It's senseless," Cole said. "There's been a lot of violence in the community lately. Obviously some kind of war is going on in the community. She was an innocent individual."

A family member said Dominique and one of her brothers slept on the couch in the living room because the one-bedroom apartment was too small for the family.

"I never expected that this would happen," said another brother, Jeremy Thomas, 28, who broke into tears upon learning of his sister's death when he arrived at the family home Tuesday morning.

But he said the family heard "a lot of shooting" in their neighborhood last week.

The family lived in the apartment for five years, Jeremy Thomas said.

"She was a smart girl and was funny," he said of Dominique. "She also liked to dance."

Latonya Wilson, a driver for People Cab in Bellwood, said she drives Dominique's family to places like church and the laundry several times a week.

"I can't believe it," Wilson said. "A little girl shouldn't have to die like that. I am devastated. That could happen to my child.

"I will always remember her happy face."

A teddy bear and flowers were left outside the family's apartment.

A spokeswoman for Proviso Township High School District 209 said Dominique showed "great promise and appeared to have a bright future ahead of her."

A crisis intervention center was set up for students at Proviso East to meet social workers and counselors, the spokeswoman said.

The police investigation was continuing. Curry said the driver was "speaking with officers on the scene." Police planned to interview him further. His condition and the condition of the brother were not known, but Curry said the brother "will be fine."

NEWS: (Elmwood Park) Former police chief honored for service

STORY AT PIONEER PRESS

BY DAVID POLLARD
dpollard@pioneerlocal.com
Last Modified: Sep 26, 2011 07:13PM

Former Elmwood Park Police Chief Tom Braglia was recognized last week by the village board as well as a few friends, including the head of the FBI in Chicago.

Braglia, who had been chief for 18 years, left the position after putting himself on administrative leave in June. His official last day was in Aug. 15. He has not spoken publicly about his reasons for leaving.

Dressed in a black suit and standing at attention at the Sept. 19 meeting, Braglia received praise from members of the village board as well as a standing ovation from the audience.

Elmwood Park Mayor Peter Silvestri presented him with a plaque on behalf of the board for his years of service to the community.

“He’s brought professionalism to the department,” Silvestri said. “We’re proud of the work he has done.”

“Thank you for your service,” said Trustee Carmen Forte. “We have an extreme debt of gratitude for your service and your guidance.”

“I did the best that I could,” Braglia said about his time as chief. “I know I gave 150 percent and sometimes 200.”

After the presentation of the plaque and quick picture with the mayor, Braglia asked for some time to introduce a few of his friends who were in the audience

One friend was Laurence Mulcrone, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Illinois State Police.

The other was Robert Grant, special agent in charge of Chicago Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, who came bearing gifts.

He brought a plaque as well and presented it to Braglia at the meeting after saying a few words.

Braglia’s wife, Debra, was in attendance as well saying her husband has come a long way.

“I’ve been there since he started his career,” she said. “It’s been a long journey.”

“There’s been long hours when he was not home, but he loved what he did,” she said. “He especially loved protecting the children of the community.”

Braglia said Elmwood Park is home.

“It’s still part of me,” he said of the village and his former profession. “I will miss it all and the people of this community. I loved serving them and it was my honor and privilege to do so.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

NEWS: (Suburban) Rosemont cop wins silver medal at world games

William Clark, left, owner of the pro shop at River Rand Bowl in Des Plaines, coached Dale Torii with the Rosemont Public Safety Department, who brought home silver and bronze medals for bowling at the World Police & Fire Games earlier this month in New York.
--CONGRATULATIONS Dale Torii!!!!! Great job!!!--
Duke

STORY AT DAILY HERALD

By Eileen O. Daday

Dale Torii already is certified in firefighting and in law enforcement as deputy superintendent of administration for the Rosemont Public Safety Department. However, now he holds another title as well: medal winner at the World Police & Fire Games in New York.

Torii won a silver medal in doubles bowling and a bronze for his combined score in 15 games. Overall, he averaged between 185-190 for the tournament.

“This was definitely a first for me,” he says.

One week before New York solemnly observed the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the city drew more than 15,000 police and firefighters to compete in 65 sports. It was the second largest sporting event in the world, behind only the Summer Olympics.

The timing was deliberate. Though the games are held every two years and at different cities around the world — the games take place in Belfast in 2013 — New York bid to host this year’s version as one more way to bring attention to first responders.

“The brotherhood was unreal,” Torii says, “knowing we all worked in either law enforcement or fire service. We had this incredible bond so that no matter how you finished, all you saw were smiles and camaraderie.”

A colleague in Rosemont’s department, Sgt. Sal Goodwin, urged to him to consider competing and representing the village. Goodwin has competed five times in weight lifting, and earned a gold medal, though his events were canceled this year because of Hurricane Irene.

Torii has bowled in competitive leagues for 20 years, but he concedes he never took his game seriously.

In preparation for the world games, he consulted with William Clark, who owns the pro shop at River Rand Bowl in Des Plaines.

Starting in January, they met one evening a week to refine his technique and sharpen his competitive bowling strategies. They even practiced the day before Torii left.

“Dale was a pretty good bowler when he came to me, but we tried to add more to his arsenal,” Clark says. “I tried to smooth out his delivery and make him more fluid, while adding more hooks to the ball and creating some angles going into the pocket.”

After working with Clark for nearly nine months, Torii added nearly 20 points to his average, Clark says.

“He improved not only my scores but my understanding of the game,” Torii says.” I now know how to make moves on the lanes and ball changes as the conditions present themselves.”

Torii says the world games left an impact on him that will stay long after his medals fade.

“Once we were in New York I realized that we were really representing our country,” he says. “It made me proud to wear our flag and be from the United States.”

NEWS: (Chicago) Ald. Burke: Police station closings should be on the table

RELATED STORY:




******************************************************************


STORY AT CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

BY FRAN SPIELMAN
City Hall Reporter
fspielman@suntimes.com
Last Modified: Sep 22, 2011 04:30PM

The chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee acknowledged Wednesday that Police Supt. Garry McCarthy could “unilaterally close police stations” without City Council approval and said Chicago’s financial crisis is “so dire” that the closings must be considered.

Politically, Mayor Rahm Emanuel needs aldermanic support if he hopes to sell residents on the idea that closing neighborhood police stations will not make them less safe.

Governmentally, it’s another story, according to Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th).

“”The police superintendent could unilaterally make the decision to close police stations. I don’t know that the City Council would play a role in that,” Burke told reporters after addressing a group of students in the City Council chambers.

Pressed on whether he could support such a move, Burke said, “The financial challenges of the city are so dire that nothing can be taken off the table. ... Everything has to be considered.”

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley once embraced a consultant’s proposal to close seven police stations to free 400 officers for community policing, only to abandon the idea and start building new police stations. Daley viewed police stations as community centers and anchors for neighborhood development.

On Wednesday, Burke shot down that notion.

“I don’t see the citizens going to the police station to have cake and coffee. They go there to report a crime. But, most of the reporting of crime is by telephone or other means,” he said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that McCarthy is exploring the politically volatile idea of closing district police stations to save millions and free scores of officers for street duty.

McCarthy is under the gun to cut at least $190 million from the Police Department’s $1.3 billion-a-year budget. He is under further pressure to put more police officers on beat patrol at a time when the city cannot afford to hire more officers.

Sources said fire station and library closings are also on the table as Emanuel struggles to erase the city’s $635.7 million shortfall without raising taxes, cutting police or using one-time revenues. That’s even though Daley’s building spree also included libraries and fire stations.

Asked Wednesday if Chicago has too many firefighters and paramedics, Burke harkened back to what happened in 1980 when then-Mayor Jane Byrne tried to take on the firefighters union.

“That would go down in the history books as one of the great political conflagrations of our history,” Burke said, referring to the bitter firefighters strike.

NEWS: (Illinois) DuPage GOP chief pleads guilty to DUI

RELATED STORY:




***********************************************************************


STORY AT CHICAGO TRIBUNE

By Clifford Ward
Special to the Tribune
10:35 AM CDT, September 26, 2011

State. Rep. Randy Ramey, the DuPage County Republican Party chairman, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor driving under the influence charge Monday court and was fined $1,750 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

Ramey, who became county party chairman this summer, also was placed on one year of supervision and was ordered to attend a victim impact panel.

“I pled guilty, and I’ll go forward,” he said following his appearance in a DuPage County courtroom. He declined to comment further.

His attorney, Scott Marquardt, said Ramey, 49, understood his mistake and accepted responsibility for his actions. The sentence was a typical one for a first-time DUI offense like Ramey’s, Marquardt said.

Ramey will not be able to count any political work to apply toward the community service part of his sentence, his attorney said.

Ramey was stopped by Carol Stream police at 2:10 a.m. on Aug. 28 near the intersection of Lies Road and Bedford Drive for improper lane usage, but subsequently failed four field sobriety tests, according to police.

A test at the police station showed Ramey’s blood-alcohol content was at 0.179, more than double the legal limit of 0.08.

The Carol Stream resident is the stepson of James “Pate” Philip, a former State Senate president, and a longtime former DuPage County Republican chairman.

Ramey has served in the General Assembly since 2005, and had previously served on the House Drivers Education and Safety Committee and Transportation and Motor vehicles committee.

He is also a previous employee of the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, which has advocated for tougher sentences for drunken driving.

NEWS: (Cook County) Training begins for first class of sheriff's police officers in 3 years

STORY AT CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Staff report
6:51 AM CDT, September 26, 2011

For the first time in three years, a new class of Cook County sheriff's police recruits will start training for open slots in a move that top officials hope will fill the department's depleted ranks.

The new class of 25 officers, which includes existing courtroom deputies and jail guards, is part of a plan by Sheriff Tom Dart to fill a hole of about 50 police officers. They begin their training today on the campus of Triton College in River Forest, sheriff's officials announced.

Dart's plan to allow his deputies and jail guards the chance to shift jobs arose from his inability to secure funding to hire.

The sheriff's office attributes the lower staff numbers to retirements and various leaves of absence such as those away on military deployment.

The 25 officers will train along side 23 cadets hoping to join several suburban departments.

In addition to patrolling county's unincorporated areas and investigating crimes for both the sheriff's and forest preserve departments, sheriff's police also patrol south suburban Ford Heights, whose own police force folded in 2008.

Sheriff’s police also loan out their evidence technicians for use by police departments in 41 Chicago area suburbs, officials said.

PENSION: (Editorial) Yes, this is corrupt.

--Hopefully, as we enter the Fall Veto Session of the Illinois Legislature, tax payers start seeing that the problems with the public pension systems is not the employees but is actually the bosses and the politicians.
For years politicians have used the money from tax payers that was collected for the purpose of pension funding to pay for their own personal projects to ensure reelection.
Union bosses, who played the political game were rewarded with perks that no employee could ever dream of seeing. 
All the while, pension funds throughout the state on all levels were left to dwindle down to dangerously low levels.
Now that we have reached a breaking point all these people who have benefited off the backs of the public employee now want to fix the problems on the backs of those same employees.--
Duke

EDITORIAL AT CHICAGO TRIBUNE


Pension rigging this egregious demands three investigations — and an Illinois Truth Commission.
September 25, 2011

As Chicago's 1991 municipal elections approached, Mayor Richard M. Daley was consolidating power for his first re-election campaign. In Springfield, two state senators — Daley's brother John and his political ally Jeremiah Joyce — introduced a "shell bill," an empty vessel into which lawmakers later would stuff an astonishing public pension giveaway to Chicago union officials.

That pension giveaway was among more than 100 provisions eventually added to the shell bill, but never debated by either chamber of the General Assembly. Instead, 10 members of a bicameral "conference committee" that evidently never held a meeting shaped the legislation to achieve their political goals. By the time the heavily larded bill was ready for passage by the two chambers, another Chicago Democrat, state Sen. Emil Jones, assured his colleagues that the bill wasn't controversial. "These provisions incorporated within this bill have been agreed to by the (city) administration and the pension system and the laborers," Jones told his Senate colleagues the day the bill passed in January 1991. "The people in the city of Chicago came together and agreed."

That wasn't true. As with most Illinois sweetheart deals, only the insiders who would benefit from this looting of city pension funds "came together and agreed." Nobody consulted "the people in the city" who, as taxpayers, would foot the exorbitant cost of this legislation for decades to come. Nor did anyone ask rank-and-file union members who someday would rely on city pension funds.

Twenty years later, as the Tribune and WGN-TV reported last week, 23 retired union officials from Chicago stand to collect about $56 million from two ailing city pension funds, thanks to the 1991 law. More union officials evidently are in the pipeline to receive the lavish benefits included in that legislation.

Sure enough, two days after the pension changes passed the Legislature — departing Gov. James Thompson signed it into law — the city's unions lined up to endorse Mayor Daley's re-election campaign. He would serve another 20 years with organized labor's support and acquiescence.

Always, though, the mayor would owe a debt for the 1991 legislation to his brother John, his pal Joyce and the 10 members of that conference committee: Senate Democrats John D'Arco, Emil Jones and Phil Rock; Senate Republicans John Friedland and Calvin Schuneman; House Democrats Ralph Capparelli, John Cullerton and Sam Wolf; and House Republicans Gene Hoffman and Terry Parke.

Only Cullerton, now president of the Illinois Senate, is in the Legislature today.

Pensions and political gain

That is the essence, but by no means the extent, of the cronyism that binds Illinois public officials and public employee union leaders. The officials — in Chicago, its suburban collar, downstate and in state government — have exploited public pension funds as huge pools of money that enable them to wield power. Many of those public officials have arranged enormous pension benefits for themselves and their peers in electoral politics from the executive, legislative and judicial branches. But buying labor peace, and labor union political support, also has been high on their priority list.

This is yet another classic saga of how Illinois power brokers take from the many to line the pockets of a chosen few. Legislators awarding free tuition at state universities to the children of their contributors, school boards inflating superintendents' late-career salaries to raise their pension calculations, politicians awarding one another pensions for part-time jobs — like those three traditional scams, this pension-rigging for union officials fits the definition of "corrupt": contaminated, morally unsound, debased, venal.

Calculating labor leaders' city pensions on their union salaries means Liberato "Al" Naimoli, president of Cement Workers Union Local 76, draws an annual city pension of $157,752 for a city job that paid him $15,264 a year. Then there's Dennis Gannon, former president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. He resigned from his city job, which topped out at $55,474, in 1993. But, because an accommodating Chicago City Hall rehired him for one day in 1994, he's drawing a city pension of $158,258.

Was this legal?

If you haven't read the Wednesday and Thursday news stories in which the Tribune's Jason Grotto explained how city and state lawmakers enabled these outrages, you'll find them at chicagotribune.com/pensions. Fascinating reads, don't miss them.

Grotto's stories may expose the tip of a deep and wide iceberg. There are indications that this pathology — taxpayer-funded pensions based on huge union salaries — extends well beyond 23 labor leaders from Chicago. We hope members of the affected unions note that, on average, these privileged few have accrued pension benefits nearly three times what typical retired city workers receive. Those workers ought to be furious that their leaders are raiding their funds. Just as taxpayers should be furious about union bosses depleting city pension coffers that are underfunded by $20 billion or more.

We on the Tribune editorial board don't practice criminal law; perhaps every action described in Grotto's stories was, and is, legal.

That said, the exposés suggest three avenues for investigators: FBI agents can assess whether any pensioner fraudulently claimed benefits in asserting his eligibility to qualify for this deal. The conduct of city pension fund officials — and of other city officials who directed payments into those funds — also is open to scrutiny. Separately, the office of Chicago's inspector general has authority to explore the use, and potential misuse, of city funds. And the U.S. Department of Labor has responsibility to help protect union pension funds. Any improper claim on those funds not only diminishes what remains for other retirees; withdrawn assets also deprive the funds of future growth possibilities.

For Mayor Emanuel …

Chicago's current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, didn't cause this pension debacle, but he can begin to address it. City Hall needs to reform policies that permit labor leaders to take essentially indefinite leaves of absence from city jobs, one factor permitting big city pensions for the long-departed. He also should be asking why nobody in city government, or at the pension funds, blew a loud whistle over these egregious practices.

But Emanuel is correct that Illinois needs thorough, rather than scattershot, pension reforms. To that end:

In Springfield, House Republican Leader Tom Cross plans to push for a repeal of the 1991 law that allowed this particular abuse. Cross also says he will explore strengthening enforcement of provisions against fraudulently claiming eligibility for public pensions.

And Cullerton, who says the pension law he helped pass is a relic from a bygone era, has instructed his staff to draft legislation "that would address the concerns that have been the focus of these media reports." Cullerton says the Legislature should address the problems in the fall veto session or in January.

Let's make that the fall veto session, Senator.

We hope House Speaker Michael Madigan will aggressively contribute. He was in full control of his chamber in, yes, 1991, when this noxious bill was approved.

… and for Illinois:

Citizens awakened to pension scandals at many levels of governance in this state deserve an Illinois Truth Commission to investigate all that's wrong and how lawmakers can correct it. Nobody will fight this idea more than the lawmakers, who have incredibly sweet pension deals themselves, and who have awarded generous deals to others. (Question from Illinois Pensions 101: Why do legislators give fantastic pension perks to judges? Answer: A lot of the actions legislators take wind up being challenged and then … evaluated by judges.)

At every turn, we the people are learning about insider deals and, yes, corruption. We realize that suggesting formation of an investigative panel risks a customary Illinois fate: Public officials here love to bury their problems in committees. But a group headed by, say, a former federal judge or prosecutor could unearth the many special deals that suffuse Illinois pension laws. A model here might be the so-called CLEAR Commission, which has been streamlining and updating the state's criminal code. Its distinguished members have done good work while largely avoiding politics.

A Truth Commission, then, could cast light on these rampant abuses by pols and union leaders of rank-and-file workers and Illinois taxpayers. Then the rest of us taxpayers can apply whatever heat is necessary to enact significant reforms.

PENSION: (Illinois) Watchdog group: State deficit to grow to $5 billion

--The Civic Federation is one of the most partisan groups there is.
It is made of of mostly rich, private sector CEO's who are interested in nothing more than making sure they make more money.
They want public employees frozen out so that they can continue to take advantage of their employees to ensure bigger profits and bigger bones for them.--
Duke

STORY AT PIONEER PRESS

By Dave McKinney
Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief
dmckinney@suntimes.com
Last Modified: Sep 26, 2011 02:09AM

SPRINGFIELD — Despite an infusion of new tax dollars and budget cuts, state government’s deficit will grow to $5 billion by next July because of added pension and debt costs, a government watchdog group warned in a report being released Monday.

The Civic Federation said the jump in this year’s net operating deficit from $4.6 billion last year demonstrates why Illinois lawmakers need to wring pension concessions from existing state workers, an untried, constitutionally questionable proposition that could be on the General Assembly’s fall agenda.

“In spite of a tax increase, we’re actually losing ground under this budget,” said Laurence Msall, president of the non-partisan budgetary think tank.

The actual operating gap between revenues and expenditures dropped this year to $454 million from $3.9 billion last year because of the January increase in the state income tax, the group found.

But that improved financial position does not tell the whole story because the budget that Democratic lawmakers crafted and Gov. Pat Quinn enacted underfunds the state’s Medicaid health-care program for the poor by $1.7 billion, pushing those costs into next year, and did not include enough to pay off tax refunds owed to businesses, the group contended.

And even though the state has cut spending by $298 million over 2008 levels, those reductions will be more than offset by the need to spend $1.98 billion more in pension contributions and $1.14 billion more in increased borrowing costs.

“This doesn’t surprise us a lot in what we found. We warned against this. But when you see it put together and do the projections, these are staggering financial challenges the state faces,” Msall said. “It’s an incredible indictment to the state’s fiscal instability.”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

NEWS: (National) Hells Angels Leader Dead and Two Injured in Shooting in Nevada Casino

In this Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 photo, officers keep an eye on handcuffed men at the east entrance to John Ascuaga's Nugget after a shooting in Sparks, Nev. (The Reno Gazette-Journal/AP Photo)

--Maybe someday people will realize what this dumb life is all about.
Street gangs,  criminal motorcycle gangs (not clubs) all have the same results. You go out in a body bag.--
Duke

STORY AT ABC NEWS

By OLIVIA KATRANDJIAN
Sept. 25, 2011

A Hells Angels leader was shot dead and two members of the rival Vagos motorcycle club were injured, in a shooting at Nevada casino, authorities said.

Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew, 51, the president of the San Jose chapter of the Hell's Angels motorcycle club, was killed at John Ascuaga's Nugget hotel-casino in Sparks, Nev. late Friday.

Two members from of the Vagos motorcycle club, Leonard Ramirez, 45, and Diego Garcia, 28, of California were injured.

Police say their injuries are non-life-threatening.

Just before 11:30 p.m. Friday, a fight broke out involving members of the rival Hell's Angels and Vagos motorcycle clubs.

Shots were fired near Trader Dick's bar inside the casino. No employees or Nugget guests were injured, according to police.

One Hells Angels member, Cesar Villagrana, 36, of Calif., has been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a stolen firearm. According to the police report, Villagrana was observed on videotape shooting into the crowd during the incident, but police don't believe he fired the shot that killed Pettigrew.

Witnesses are still being questioned in connection with the incident.

Second Shooting in Sparks Prompts State of Emergency

On Saturday, around 11 a.m., a second shooting occurred in Sparks. Police are investigating any possible links with the Nugget shooting Friday.

One person, a motorcyclist, was shot in the stomach by a person driving by in a BMW with tinted windows but is expected to live, authorities said.

The driver sped away after the shooting, and is still being sought.

The second shooting prompted the city to declare a state of emergency.

"We don't want to alarm our residents," said Sparks Mayor Geno Martini according to the Associated Press. "The declaration merely provides some tools and tactics our city can and should use if it comes to that."

The state of emergency allows the city to use private property for city use, declare a curfew and use state resources if necessary.

"In light of a shooting involving rival members of motorcycle clubs at a Spark Casino Friday night, and a subsequent drive-by shooting on Victorian Avenue in Sparks this morning, a state-of-emergency has been declared by the City. It is expected the Governor will also declare a state-of-emergency on behalf of the City of Sparks. Pursuant to the police powers vested in the City of Sparks, the Street Vibrations motorcycle event in Sparks will be cancelled for the remainder of the weekend," according to a statement from the city.

Both Sparks and the neighboring city of Reno increased police presence through the weekend.

"The safety and security of the public is our number one priority," said Martini.

"We don't expect further violence, but we must be prepared," he added.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

PENSION: (National) How state lawmakers pump up pensions in ways you can't

--The politicians rape the system and the tax payers and then they try and lay the blame on the public employees. Everyone of these thieves should be arrested for violating 'honest services' statutes.--
Duke

STORY AT USA TODAY


By Thomas Frank
USA TODAY

At age 55, South Carolina state Sen. David Thomas began collecting a pension for his legislative service without leaving office.

Most workers must retire from their jobs before getting retirement benefits. But Thomas used a one-sentence law that he and his colleagues passed in 2002 to let legislators receive a
taxpayer-funded pension instead of a salary after serving for 30 years.

INTERACTIVE: How state legislators inflate pensions

MORE: State-by-state pension rules and methodology

Thomas' $32,390 annual retirement benefit — paid for the rest of his life — is more than triple the $10,400 salary he gave up. His pension exceeds the salary because of another perk: Lawmakers voted to count their expenses in the salary used to calculate their pensions.
No other South Carolina state workers get those perks.

Since January 2005, Thomas, a Republican, has made $148,435 more than a legislative salary would have paid, his financial-disclosure records show. At least four other South Carolina lawmakers are getting pensions instead of salaries, netting an extra $292,000 since 2005, records show.
Pension perks aren't unique to legislators in South Carolina.

More than 4,100 legislators in 33 states are positioned to benefit from special retirement laws that they and their predecessors have enacted to boost their pensions by up to $100,000 a year, a USA TODAY investigation found. Even as legislators cut basic state services and slash benefits for police, teachers and other workers, they have preserved pension laws that grant themselves perks unavailable to voters they serve or workers they direct.

In some states, lawmakers add expenses, per diem allowances and stipends to their base salaries. That inflates the compensation that's used to calculate retirement benefits, which are typically a percentage of final pay. In other states, legislators have written a special definition of salary that applies only to their pensions. Additional tactics include:

•Basing pensions on salaries legislators are not paid or were paid in non-legislative jobs.

•Collecting state pensions while also collecting legislative paychecks.

•Retiring earlier — at a younger age or after fewer years — than other state workers, or with richer benefits.

"It's mind-blowing hypocrisy," says state Rep. Stephen Webber, a Democrat from Missouri. State lawmakers there meet for roughly five months a year and are paid slightly more on average than a state worker, but records show a typical lawmaker's pension averages 30% more than a state worker's. The reason: rules legislators wrote for themselves.

"The whole two-tiered system really encapsulates how we've operated here in Missouri and in the rest of the country," he says. "Lawmakers treat themselves differently."

The generous systems mean that at least 570 lawmakers in 19 states have qualified for pensions that will pay them as much as — or in one case 17 times more than — their base legislative salaries, USA TODAY found.

That represents nearly 10% of the 5,900 lawmakers in the 40 states with legislative pensions. About 450 are lawmakers in Mississippi, Kansas, South Carolina, Texas and New Mexico, a state where lawmakers receive no salary but can get a pension with five years of service.

More than 100 other lawmakers have collected about $15million total in state pensions while holding office, USA TODAY found. They serve in states that allow "double dipping" for legislators but bar or restrict other workers from getting state pensions while holding state or municipal jobs. Most of those lawmakers have retired from jobs such as state police officer or public school teacher, but others are drawing pensions solely for their legislative service.

For South Carolina's Thomas, the choice to trade a legislative salary for a legislative pension was easy.

"You get paid more," he says.

Perks are not always obvious

Most 55-year-olds don't have pensions. Just 26% of people older than 55 get a retirement benefit from a former employer, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The average pension in 2009 was $13,007 for private-sector retirees and $25,286 for public retirees.

In Congress, retiring lawmakers get pensions worth up to 80% of their $174,000 salary — or $139,200 — if they serve 32 years. The average pension for 455 retired federal lawmakers is $57,590, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Discerning the state lawmakers' pensions isn't so easy.

Legislators must reach a certain age — generally from 55 to 65 — or serve a certain number of years to get a pension. Many states deem an individual's retirement records confidential, however, and will not release details about payouts.

Lacking that information, USA TODAY reviewed thousands of pages of laws from 40 states to understand how legislative salaries and pensions are computed. The newspaper calculated how much every legislator in the 40 states would get for a pension if he or she retired this year. Ten states do not pay lawmaker pensions.

Several states let lawmakers start collecting their retirement benefits while still in office.
Six years before he left the New York state Senate in December, Republican George Winner began collecting a pension for his legislative service. He was 55 when the pension began adding $80,000 to the roughly $90,000 salary he was getting to represent New York's 53rd Senate District, state records show. In his final six years in office, Winner received $1 million in pension and salary.

New York state has barred legislators elected after 1994 from getting legislative pensions while in office. Nonetheless, 15 lawmakers who took office before 1995 are collecting a legislative pension and salary, state records show. Their earnings average $154,000 a year.

Other perks are shrouded in the minutiae of state law: Kentucky legislators add their annual allowance for stationery — up to $1,500 for senators and $750 for House members — plus another $15,000 to $17,000 a year in expense payments to the salary on which pensions are based. Mississippi legislators get two pensions that on average add up to 165% of their salary. Connecticut lawmakers can increase their pensions up to 50% by including mileage reimbursements that add as much as $15,500 a year to the salaries used to calculate their pensions.

"That's just a small example of what's wrong with the (pension) system and why it's become unsustainable," says Connecticut Rep. Lawrence Cafero, House Republican leader. The expense payments, mileage and leadership stipend he received in 2008-10 will add $26,341 to the $28,000 legislator's salary used to calculate his pension, state records show.

In Illinois, lawmakers who move to lucrative state jobs can apply the higher salary to their legislative pension, which pays richer benefits than pensions for state workers. In July, Democratic former House member Gary Hannig began collecting a $123,057 legislative pension, even though his legislative salary was $86,902 when he left office in 2009. His pension, however, is based on his $150,228 salary as state Transportation director after leaving the Legislature.

"It's legal corruption," says Bill Zettler of Chicago-based Taxpayers United of America. At least 42 of 139 Illinois legislators retiring since 2000 have boosted their legislative pensions by taking higher-paying government jobs, USA TODAY found.

Some states play make-believe. Kansas calculates lawmakers' pensions as if they were paid 372 days a year.

Texas pension calculations stray even further from reality. Lawmakers there haven't raised their pay since 1975. They convene every other year and get a $7,200 annual salary. But because of a law they passed in 1981, their pension is based on whatever the lawmakers decide to pay Texas trial judges.
Since 1981, Texas lawmakers have nearly tripled a judge's salary — and, by extension, their own pensions — raising the pay from $42,500 to $125,000.

Legislators also removed a sentence that limited their pensions to 60% of a judge's salary. Now, the pensions can equal 100% of a judge's salary.

The changes mean that state Rep. Tom Craddick, a Republican who took office in 1969, is guaranteed a $125,000 pension — more than 17 times his $7,200 salary. Another 58 state lawmakers are guaranteed pensions of more than $40,000, USA TODAY found.

"That's just the way the system is," says Craddick, who owns Craddick Properties, an investment business.

'It's hard politically to raise your own salary'

Some states offset part of the extra cost of legislative pensions by requiring lawmakers to pay more of their salary into the retirement fund than ordinary state workers contribute. But for the lawmakers who collect them and the taxpayers who fund them, pensions can prove more substantial than salaries because lawmakers often spend more time retired than in office.

Lawmakers say they have increased their pensions to make up for salaries that are meant to be a part-time wage. And they say voting to change an obscure law that hikes a pension payout gets far less attention than a vote to boost pay. "It's hard politically to raise your own salary," says Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, a Republican.

Texas' legislative pension plan "acts more like deferred compensation," said Texas former House member Talmadge Heflin, now advocating public retirement cuts as director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Fiscal Policy.

Although most states' legislative sessions last just part of the year, legislative duties can be time-consuming.

"It's a full-time job even if the Legislature is convening six months or four months in a year," says Ron Snell, a pension analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Eight state legislatures have written special, expansive definitions of salary that apply only to legislative pensions. North Carolina pension law says the compensation of a retiring worker "shall not include any payment … for the reimbursement of expenses." But for North Carolina legislators, "compensation means salary and expense allowance."


Many legislative salaries include stipends that can pay up to $41,500. In seven states, more than a third of lawmakers get stipends for holding leadership positions or for chairing a committee. Illinois, with 177 legislators, increased the number of leadership stipends to 167 from 30 in 1987. Delaware, New York and Ohio also pay more than 70% of lawmakers' stipends that cost taxpayers up to $2.5 million a year.

Although the bonuses are paid only while a legislator holds a special post, they enrich lawmakers for life when they get a pension.

"Legislators go around telling their constituents, 'I'm only getting the basic salary,' and they don't say, 'We've got all these other ways of getting compensation that I'm not telling you about,'" says Edward Zelinsky, a pension expert at Cardozo Law School in New York City. "There are some real manipulations that occur here."

Adding days to the year to boost pensions

In Kansas, legislators have cast three crucial votes to boost their pensions far above the benefit they would get from a salary that pays $88.66 each day the Legislature convenes, or $7,979 for a typical 90-day session.

Lawmakers voted in 1973 to calculate their pensions as if they were paid every day of the year. The vote also declared that legislators were paid 31 days a month for 12 months — or 372 days a year.
"It's a little shocking," says Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, which represents 10,000 state workers. "Our members have to work every single day for their pensions."

In 1982, Kansas lawmakers boosted their pensions again by adding per diem allowances to their salaries for pension purposes. They also pretended the allowances were paid 372 days a year when in reality they are paid only when legislators are in session. And they added to the pension equation the expense payments they get between legislative sessions.

But many lawmakers could not collect because they, like other state workers, needed 10 years of service to retire. "A lot of legislators in the past didn't serve 10 years and weren't eligible for a pension," says Morris, the Kansas lawmaker.

The Legislature changed that in 2007, voting to let workers retire with five years' service while requiring they pay more into the retirement fund. Though the lower retirement age helps all Kansas state workers, the effect on its 165 lawmakers was profound: an extra 44 of them instantly qualified for a pension. Now, 93 of the state's 165 legislators have qualified for a pension, and another 15 will be eligible if they finish their current terms. Lawmakers now have an $85,821 salary for pension purposes and get a pension that exceeds their base pay by serving just six years.

"Until we find a way to increase compensation for the rank-and-file legislators, I think it's OK," Morris says of the pension plan. His 19-year tenure in the Senate qualifies him for a pension equal to three-and-a-half times his salary.

Kansas enacted a law this year, sponsored by Morris, that creates a commission to study several ways to cut the state's pension costs. Evaluating legislative pensions "is not part of their charge," Morris says.

The Legislature as 'an aristocracy'

As legislatures have cut state worker pension costs, some have targeted their own benefits. Arizona and Wisconsin enacted laws this year that sharply increase how much legislators and other elected officials must pay into the state retirement fund and cut benefits for new lawmakers.

Seven states have never given their lawmakers pensions, and voters in three states eliminated legislative pensions in the 1990s. "Voters see this as a part-time, citizen Legislature," says Nebraska state Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, a Democrat and chairman of the Legislature's retirement committee. Not having legislative pensions made it easier for lawmakers this year to require state workers to pay more of their salary to their retirement, Nordquist says. "You're not affected by the decisions you're making."

But when Pennsylvania raised retirement ages last year for state workers hired after Dec. 31, legislators kept a perk that let them retire 10 years before most state workers. Legislators in office last year still retire at age 50, vs. 60 for most state workers. New lawmakers retire at 55, vs. 65 for most state workers.

Since 1996, 67 retired Pennsylvania legislators have collected $7 million in pension checks that they could not have received if they' had the same retirement age as most state workers, USA TODAY found. Another 40 who took early retirement also benefited from the younger retirement age.
Those benefiting include seven former state legislators now in Congress, earning $174,000: Democrats Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz and Republicans Charlie Dent, Jim Gerlach, Tim Murphy, Todd Platts and Joseph Pitts.

Pitts began collecting a state pension as soon as he went to Congress in 1997, when he was 57. Since 1997, he has collected $1.3million from the Pennsylvania retirement system, state records show, in addition to $2.3 million in total congressional salary since 1997. That's $245,000 a year.

"It's galling that they get preferential treatment in their normal retirement age," says Tim Potts, president of Democracy Rising PA, which advocates for government openness. "Our Legislature has become an aristocracy … granting themselves benefits that are unavailable to others."

Pitts said Pennsylvania legislative pensions are "indeed generous," but added that he paid up to 17% of his salary into the state retirement fund. Pitts' pension includes credit for eight-and-a-half years he spent in the Air Force and as a public-school teacher before becoming a legislator.

Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat who sponsored the pension law last year, says he struggled to win support for any retirement cuts that would save taxpayers money. Lawmakers agreed to raise retirement ages, but only for new workers and only if legislators still retired earlier.

"I was fortunate enough to be able to get the changes we did," says Evans, who was House Appropriation Committee chairman. At age 57, Evans could retire immediately and collect a $97,000-a-year pension for life — $17,000 more a year than his base legislative salary.

Florida's Legislature also protected itself this year when it began requiring state workers to pay 3% of their salary into the state pension fund, the first time state workers have had to make contributions. Most states have long required worker contributions between 2% and 10% of salaries.

Florida's legislators and other elected officials get a pension equal to 3% of salary multiplied by years of service. For state workers, the comparable figure is 1.6%.

"That is wrong — absolutely wrong," says state Sen. Mike Fasano, a Republican who this year proposed lowering elected officials' payout to 2%. "You lead by example."

Fasano's bill died in committee without a vote.

Compensating for cuts

Even legislatures that have reformed their own pensions have at the same time taken less-visible steps to offset cuts.

In 1989, the Indiana Legislature became the first to create a 401(k) plan for itself. Lawmakers taking office after April 1989 are shut out of the state's traditional pension plan and instead get individual retirement accounts.

Each legislator's tax-exempt account accumulates money that can be tapped upon retirement. Lawmakers divert 5% of their annual salary into the account. State taxpayers make a contribution that is a percentage of a legislator's salary.

In creating their 401(k) plan and revising it in 2007, Indiana legislators broadened the definition of salary to include roughly $5 million a year they get in per diem allowances, expense payments and leadership stipends. Legislators also hiked their annual salary to $22,616 from $11,600 and tied their compensation to that of state trial judges, which increases regularly with little fanfare.

The result: By raising their salary and counting expenses and stipends as salary, Indiana legislators have forced state taxpayers to put an extra $7 million in their retirement accounts from 2004 through 2010, records show.

Some lawmakers have focused on improving retirement for a subset of legislators. In 2005, the Kentucky Legislature began allowing retiring lawmakers who held full-time state jobs to base their legislative pensions on that full-time salary, rather than on their relatively paltry legislative salary.
That's a boon for two reasons. Their full-time salaries are typically higher. And legislative pensions are equal to 2.75% to 5% of the salary times the number of years of service. Regular state pensions are equal to 1.1% to 2.5% of salary times years of service.

Late last year, J.R. Gray started collecting a $132,252 legislative pension after 29 years in the Kentucky House, state records indicate. That's $107,601 more than he was paid in his final year in the Legislature. The pension is based on Gray's salary as state Labor chief, where he served after leaving the Legislature.

Kentucky legislative pensions are based on an individual's average salary over the three years when their earnings are highest. Gray held the Labor post for three years.

"Obviously that was a consideration," Gray, 73, says of his decision to retire last year.

The Kentucky law could benefit 20 incumbent lawmakers who hold or have held other public-sector jobs, USA TODAY found.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo was in the legislature from 1980 to 2004, was state attorney general for four years and returned to the legislature in 2009. Most of his public service has been in the legislature, but Stumbo, a Democrat, can get a legislative pension based on his $110,346 attorney general salary rather than on his legislative salary and expenses, which were $66,000 last year. Stumbo has enough credit for a pension equal to 100% of his attorney general salary — $110,346.
A state report says the 2005 perk costs Kentucky taxpayers $1 million a year. State Sen. Dennis Parrett, a Democrat, introduced legislation this year to kill it. "My bill didn't have a prayer," Parrett says. "It didn't even get a hearing."