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October 6, 2008

Faculty and Academic Staff Benefits
(Final; Information)

FB.09.01         Proposed Call for a State of Illinois Constitutional Convention and its Possible Impact on State Universities Retirement System Pensions

The Senate Committee on Faculty and Academic Staff Benefits (FB) calls to the attention of the Senate that at the general election to be held on November 4, 2008, voters will be called upon to decide whether or not the State of Illinois should hold a constitutional convention.  While FB does not propose that the Senate take a specific position on this electoral issue, we do note and express concern that, if a constitutional convention were held, one benefits-related issue (among others) that could arise is modifying or removing the Constitution's guarantee of our retirement pensions.

The 1970 Illinois Constitution requires the electors of the State to decide every twenty years if it is necessary to revise or rewrite the Illinois Constitution.  In 1988 the electors rejected the call for a constitutional convention with 75% voting against, and 25% voting for, holding a convention.   In compliance with the Constitution, the question for a constitutional convention will again be on the November 4, 2008, general election ballot.

If the question of holding a constitutional convention passes, the General Assembly arranges for an election to select delegates, two from each State Senate district.  Delegates are not subject to the same ethical standards as constitutional and legislative officers. The elected delegates decide whether the constitution should be revised or completely rewritten.  There are no restrictions on what issues are debated.  Among the issues that could come under scrutiny is the section that guarantees public employees rights to a state retirement system.  (See Article XIII, SECTION 5 of the Constitution).

We note that the Illinois Constitution can be amended by the legislature, on an item by item basis, without a constitutional convention.  One source of further information is the “Proposed Call for a State of Illinois Constitutional Convention” issued by the Illinois Secretary of State's Office, available on that Office's website:

Committee on Faculty and Academic Staff Benefits
Rick Gorvett, Chair
Jenny Barrett
Bettina Francis
Barclay Jones
David Kuehn
Silvina Montrul
Ronald Peters
Kenneth Andersen, Ex officio
James Davito, Ex officio
Cheryl Hahn, Ex officio
Terry Jobin, Ex officio
Judy Parker, Ex officio
Maureen Parks, Ex officio
H.F. Williamson, Ex officio