CORRECTION: Illinois Democratic Senate President clarifies roles in the current debate over SB 512 and the orchestrated ruling class attack on teacher pensions... Illinois Senate Dems oppose SB 512

Substance stands corrected. Illinois Senator John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, has clarified his role in the current debate over Senate Bill 512 and the debates over "pension reform" in Illinois. According to a spokesman for the senate leader, Cullerton and other Democrats introduced Senate Bill 512 as a "shell bill" in the Senate. It later became the attack on teacher and other public worker pensions after the content was filled in during the House debates by Rep. Tom Cross, a Republican. When Democrats voted in the Senate in favor of the bill, it did not contain the content that later made it the crusade of the Chicago Tribune, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, and the Chief Executive Officers of the major corporations based in Chicago (the "one percent" now made famous by the "Occupy" movement).

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (at podium, right) addresses the Retired Teachers Association of Chicago luncheon on October 6, 2011 at the Chicago Hilton. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The confusion came about because of the way SB 512 originally came to the Illinois General Assembly, and its subsequent history. Substance regrets any misunderstandings, and the full story (here) of the struggle over SB 512 will appear in the print edition of Substance (December 2011; due off the presses December 1, 2011).

Substance was asked to clarify these facts and also to direct readers to the important information compiled by Cullerton's office.

Senate Democrats also noted that the support for SB 512 by Illinois Senator Iris Martinez came during the same time that the legislation was still a "shell bill."

Senator Cullerton's office clarified the story in a lengthy November 14, 2011, email to Substance which is published in full below here:

"Mr. Schmidt,

"The following article in your publication was brought to my attention:

"No, Senator Cullerton did not lie to a room full of teachers. SB512 as it passed the Senate did not actually do anything. It was what's known as a vehicle bill. The language that is the subject of this debate was added in the Illinois House as an amendment to SB 512.The House sponsor of SB512 (and the amendment) is Republican Leader Tom Cross.

Part of the audience of more than 1,000 retired Chicago teachers and administrators can be seen in this October 6, 2011 photo taken during the RTAC luncheon while RTAC executive secretary Bob Bures was speaking. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."I would have been happy to explain this to your reporters just as I've explained it to numerous other reporters when they've inquired. Unfortunately, I received no such inquiry from your reporter.

"The way the legislative process is set up, because the House is attempting to change SB512, that legislation would need to return to the Senate for the Senate to vote on any changes.

"The Senate President has repeatedly stated that he will vote "no" on SB512 if and when it ever comes back to the Senate.

"In addition, on our website: you'll find an entire section devoted to the pension debate. Posted there is a 70-some page legal analysis of the Pension Clause in the Illinois Constitution. Senator Cullerton asked his chief attorney to do this research in an effort to better understand the constitutional arguments. Our attorney went back to the archived notes from the Constitutional Convention and re-read debates.

The result is a report that makes a very convincing case that pension benefits cannot be changed for current employees and that the framers of our state constitution had this very situation in mind when they added the Pension Clause to the constitution.

I would hope that you would consider running a correction or clarification to the article. I would be happy to discuss the matter with you or any of your reporters.

John Patterson, Deputy Press Secretary, Office of the Senate President, Senator John J. Cullerton


In a late report posted on the Chicago Teachers Union website (, the union noted that SB 512 was not voted on during the recent veto session, but will be back at least for one day when the General Assembly convenes again on November 29, 2011. The CTU message on SB 512 follows. (Note that Senator Cullerton's name is still attached to the bill because of the way, now explained, that it first came into existence).

2nd Week of Veto Session adjourned Thursday, November 10, 2011. Please note that the House will reconvene November 29, 2012 to consider pending legislation.

Pension Reform

SB512 (Cullerton, D-Chicago) — The bill came out of the House Personnel and Pensions committee with a 5-4. However, the bill was NOT called for a vote on the House floor. “Pension reform” is NOT dead. Please keep up the pressure on your lawmakers and tell them to vote NO on SB512. The CTU believes that SB512 would weaken the pension system by enabling some people to opt out of it, thereby decreasing its ability to pay for the retirement of other teachers. Those choosing a self-managed plan would see their retirement be affected by fluctuations in the market. SB512 creates 3 pension tiers.

Tier 1 Teachers’ contributions rise up from 9% to 12.75% of salary. This option is available only for those current employees hired prior to January 1, 2011.

Tier 2 Teachers will contribute 7% of their salary to the pension. Instead of calculating benefits based on the highest 4 years of service, it will be based on 8 years. Cost of living increases will be lowered, and the minimum retirement age will be 67. This option will be offered to all current employees.

Tier 3 is a self-managed plan (403b) and will only be available to employees with less than 5 years of service. Under this plan, employees will contribute a minimum of 6% of their salary, matched by a 6% employee contribution. Employees would control the investment and also assume the risk.


November 15, 2011 at 7:13 PM

By: Bob Busch

Votes on 'shell bills'

The first time it might be better if I waited for the December paper to be delivered but something is wrong. According to the Illinois legislature web site, SB12 passed the

Senate on March 3,2011. I do not know the rules of the Senate, but according to the web site, Mr.Cullerton did not vote. It passed 43 to 11 with one member voting "Present."

So let’s keep him to his word not to vote yes if it gets back to the senate. I must also wonder how 43 elected officials voted yes for a bill they knew was not in its final form.

November 15, 2011 at 7:14 PM

By: Bob Busch


Make that March 30, 2011.

November 16, 2011 at 4:20 AM

By: Garth Liebhaber

The missing half of the story

I don't understand why this "vehicle bill" existed in the first place, then. It was not mentioned in Cullerton's response what "benign" purpose it was to serve.

Why would Senator Cullerton vote for a bill that "did not actually do anything."?

Don't we all have better things to do with our time?

November 16, 2011 at 8:07 PM

By: Jay Rehak

Let's Keep the Pressure on Regarding our Pensions

At this point in time, it's important to continue to hold Senator Cullerton and other politicians accountable for any actions they may want to take against our pensions. Let us all be clear: Chicago Teachers are not the cause of the fiscal problems of the State. Chicago Teachers and administrators pay their fair share of the Pension costs. Let's not ever forget that while Chicago and the State of Illinois were not putting in the necessary amount of money to adequately fund, CPS teachers and principals faithfully put in 9% of their salaries each and every check. (2% salary and 7% pension pick-up--which was granted to teachers in lieu of a raise twenty years ago.)

November 16, 2011 at 11:17 PM

By: Xian Barrett

Shell Bills

This type of shell bill is extremely common. There were over dozens and dozens of such bills in the last session alone.

If you say that's non-transparent and worrisome, I doubt anyone would disagree. But it's not at all stranger that Cullerton in particular is sponsoring and ramming through shell bills. The facilities bill also made it through committee in one chamber as a shell bill.

November 19, 2011 at 10:30 AM

By: Garth Liebaber

Shell Bills, Shelled Citizens


Are you saying shell bills are a part of the general legislative culture? Shell bills would allow legislators of all ilks to slip in their specific issues at the last minute, in order to get them passed?

November 19, 2011 at 11:52 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Xian said precisely what shell bills are

To answer Garth. Xian described the situation precisely. That is why during any session of the Illinois General Assembly, the union's people (including the lobbyists) have to be watching every bill before the House and Senate until final adjournment. There is really nothing mysterious about it, and it's a very good thing that a larger group of Chicago union teachers now understand it. Prior to May and June 2010, these things were allowed to remain a mystery, and as a result we were stuck with legislation like PERA, the pension raid, and all of that going back to the Amendatory Act of 1995.

Unless Chicago teachers are well organized, vigilant, and active in lobbying (both "sides" of the aisle), we will continue to be lied to, cheated, forced into "performance evaluations" that are nonsense, and stolen from (e.g. Ron Huberman getting away with the April 2010 three-year raid on the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund).

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