A state appeals panel has affirmed a ruling that the Illinois state constitution holds no barrier to a law consolidating hundreds of local police and firefighter pension boards into two statewide funds.
In December 2019, Gov. JB Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1000, which amended the Illinois Pension Code to create the Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund and the Firefighters’ Pension Investment Fund, built through the consolidation of more than 650 otherwise independent downstate and suburban funds.
Although some union leaders supported the move, dozens of police and firefighter pension boards and individual members sued the state and the new funds to stop the consolidation. Kane County Circuit Court Judge Robert Villa granted summary judgement to the state, prompting an appeal to the Illinois Second District Appellate Court.
Although the panel agreed the protection clause covers more than just the payment of pension money, it said past Illinois Supreme Court rulings invoking the clause involved benefits that “directly impacted the participants’ eventual pension benefit,” McLaren wrote. But being able to vote for board members, or have a local board control investments, he added, “is not of the same nature and essentiality as the ability to participate in the fund, accumulate credited time, or receive health care, disability and life insurance coverage.”
“Voting for the local board is, at best, ancillary to a participant’s receipt of the pension payment and other assets,” McLaren continued. “The local boards were entrusted with investing the contributions so that payments could be made to participants. However, choosing who invests funds does not guarantee a particular outcome for benefit payments. The local boards also did not have any say in the actual method of funding; contribution requirements were set in the Pension Code.”
Author(s): Scott Holland
Publication Date: 7 Feb 2023
Publication Site: Cook County Record