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Lawsuit over Illinois pension overhaul could hit fast track to Supreme Court, judge says

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — A judgment on the legality of an overhaul to Illinois' pension debt could come sooner than expected.

Sangamon County Judge Jon Belz said Thursday he'd like to quickly move a challenge over the pension overhaul to the Supreme Court, the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports (http://bit.ly/1pSQoWQ).

Litigants initially didn't think the case would be settled before 2015. But the Illinois Supreme Court decreed in July that a law requiring retirees to pay more for health insurance was unconstitutional.

That ruling, which Belz called "an elephant in the room," increased speculation that the overhaul law could suffer the same fate.

"As fast as we can move it alone within reason the better," Belz said.

John Fitzgerald, an attorney representing a group of retired teachers challenging the revamp, suggested the case could be wrapped up by year's end.

Lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn approved changes in the pension law last fall because of a $100 billion debt in five pension accounts. Attorneys for the state say the law is constitutional because the state faced a fiscal emergency.

Opponents say the Constitution forbids the reduction of promised retirement benefits — the position the high court took in deciding the health insurance case.

Lawyers for both sides will meet again Oct. 8 with Belz to determine the next moves.


Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com

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