Given how long and loudly we've been shouting for Illinois public pension reform, you might expect us to enthusiastically endorse any effort to fix what's broken. If only we were offered more than window dressing that threatens to do little good and much damage to the Illinois Constitution. Proposed constitutional Amendment 49 appearing on your Nov. 6 ballot is being sold as a way to keep lawmakers from sweetening already unsustainable state pensions to curry favor with powerful public employee unions. In truth it will merely muddy up the constitution, while having no impact on the state's $85 billion and growing pension hole. The change would require 60 percent approval for any pension increase at the state or local level rather than a simple majority. The measure sounds good, but it does little more than give political cover in an election year to members of the General Assembly who failed to make the tough choices necessary to fix the pension mess. (Hats off to Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who was one of only a handful of lawmakers who refused to sign onto this dodge.) Not only is the amendment too late to do anything about the current mess, its future effectiveness is in serious question. Consider, for example, that such pension sweeteners have been approved by healthy enough margins to routinely survive this new test. Remember, too, that this amendment includes "local" pensions. Do you want the state to usurp local authority to set benefits for employees? Finally, no one is sure exactly what the amendment will accomplish. Some say it will enable the General Assembly to make wholesale changes in pensions for current employees and pensioners that are currently believed to be unconstitutional. It wouldn't be the first time a measure crafted by Speaker Michael Madigan did more, or less than advertised. And did we mention that a bunch of money is being spent by the cash-strapped state to explain an amendment that appears to be both confusing and unnecessary. Senate candidate John Bambenek found the ballot question so confusing he joined a lawsuit challenging its validity. "This amendment was written by the Dark Sith Lord Michael Madigan himself with some of the smartest people in the state and they couldn't write something people could understand?" he asked. " I get that Madigan and his Chicago friends want to stick it to us, but could they do us the courtesy of doing it in a way we can understand? This ballot question and the amendment itself are incomprehensible gibberish." If lawmakers had put before voters a measure that simply and clearly lifted constitutional restrictions on changingemployee pensions, we would gladly have backed it. We got this mess instead. Don't be fooled into believing this fixes anything. We suggest you vote no.
Today is Friday, Dec. 13, the 347th day of 2013. There are 18 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: Merry sleigh bells jingle in our streets in the wake of a driving northwest storm of snow and rain. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Thomas Campbell was elected commander of John Buford Post 243, Grand Army of the Republic. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Thomas B. Reidy was named consul of C.W. Hawes Camp No. 1550, and L.H. Eihl was named consul of Camp 29, Modern Woodmen of America. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island aldermen last night upheld the view of a petition signed by 150 businessmen that the city should not install parking meters. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Total volume during the Christmas mailing season may reach 12 million pieces in Rock Island, according to Rock Island Postmaster Carl J.L. Wessel. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The aromas filling the air at the Rock Island Lines depot in Rock Island soon will be prime rib and roast duck rather than sawdust and plaster. A tourist train will be offering dinner excursions in mid-February or early March, according to Dan Carmody, executive director of the Development Association of Rock Island.