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Referendum on State Pensions

Burbank and Oak Lawn Residents To Vote on Electricity Supply

Besides choosing everyone from president to commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Ñ and judges too Ñ Cook County voters on Tuesday, Nov. 6 will be asked to approve one statewide referendum, and voters in Burbank and Oak Lawn will have one more referendum on their ballots.

A referendum on every Illinois ballot asks voters to approve an amendment to Article XIII of the 1970 Illinois Constitution dealing with pensions. The addition, Section 5.1, would require a three-fifths majority in both the state House and Senate before any increase in pension and retirement benefit increase goes into effect for state employees or employees of any local government, school district or agency.

Currently, only a simple majority is needed, and proponents say that requiring 60 percent approval would help prevent unfunded future liability for pension benefits, provide more accountability and require a greater consensus among the parties.

However, arguments against the proposed amendment include the fact that it would limit the bargaining power of employers and employees. Also, opponents say the definition of a benefit increase may be arguable, and requiring a supermajority for pension benefit increases may make it difficult to recruit highly qualified people for government jobs.

In Oak Lawn as well as Stickney Township, which includes Burbank, there will be similar referenda on ballots asking voters if the communities should Òhave the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such program?”

A Òyes” vote on the energy aggregation referendum, which is also appearing on ballots in Chicago, would allow the communities to contract with energy suppliers other than ComEd to supply electricity at a lower rate. The goal is to reduce utility costs for customers, and Oak Lawn village trustees agreed unanimously to put the question on the ballot.

However, the issue became contentious at a recent village board meeting when trustees voted 4-2 to contract with a company to act as middleman to negotiate with possible suppliers.

Regarding the statewide referendum on the amendment to the constitution, voters will be advised on their ballots that failing to vote on the measure at all may be the equivalent of a Òno” vote, because a convention will be called or the amendment will become effective by either three-fifths of those voting Òyes,” on the question, or a majority of the people voting in the election overall.

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