Illinois court blocks petition to remove Amendment 1 from Nov. 8 ballot

Illinois court blocks petition to remove Amendment 1 from Nov. 8 ballot

An Illinois appellate court cleared the way for Amendment 1 to stay on the Nov. 8 ballot. Regardless of whether the change to the state constitution might violate the U.S. Constitution, the process for putting it on the ballot was valid, justices ruled.

Illinois’ 4th District Appellate Court agreed to let proposed Amendment 1 stay on the Nov. 8 ballot even if it usurps federal authority and violates the U.S. Constitution.

The case, Sara Sachen v. Illinois State Board of Elections, argued Amendment 1 imposed state authority on private-sector labor relations governed by the National Labor Relations Act. State law can’t regulate collective bargaining covered by federal law, or usurp any other federal power, so Amendment 1 violates the U.S. Constitution and they argued that made it a waste of taxpayer funds.

The three-justice panel upheld a June decision from Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow that the proposal violating the U.S. Constitution doesn’t matter as long as the process of putting Amendment 1 on the ballot was legitimate.

But by that logic, the Illinois General Assembly could put a blatantly unconstitutional amendment on the ballot – such as prohibiting anyone from criticizing the government or outlawing a religion – and it could go on the ballot as long as it followed the right process.

Sachen and fellow petitioners Ifeoma Nkemdi, Joe Ocol and Alberto Molina are all teachers or parents in Chicago Public Schools. They sued because they are worried about the broad powers the proposal would grant the militant Chicago Teachers Union and other government unions.

Were Illinois voters to approve Amendment 1, it would be the only state to grant government unions such broad powers, said Mailee Smith, staff attorney for the Illinois Policy Institute and one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“There are four provisions of this amendment, and no other state constitution includes any of those provisions, let alone all four of them,” Smith said.

The plain text of Amendment 1 does four things:

  1. Creates a “fundamental right” for government workers to unionize and bargain, on par with the freedoms of speech and religion.
  2. Expands bargaining for government worker unions beyond wages and benefits to include broad new subjects, including “economic welfare.”
  3. Prohibits state and local lawmakers from passing taxpayer-friendly reforms, such as limits to the length of government union contracts or improved disciplinary measures for misconduct.
  4. Bans right to work, a policy that would prevent workers from being fired for refusing to pay money to a union.

Plaintiffs argued using public funds to put an unconstitutional amendment on the ballot would be a misuse of taxpayer dollars. The defense argued the referendum puts the decision in the hands of voters, not the courts.

The appellate panel also affirmed Grischow’s opinion that it could not throw out the entire amendment if parts of it are potentially constitutional.

Illinois Policy Institute research found Amendment 1 guarantees an estimated $2,149 in higher property taxes. With more demands from government union bosses, the cost will only fall on taxpayers. Because of the appellate decision and tight timeline before the election, the referendum will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

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