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Judge’s ruling: giving more power to Congress, jeopardizing Detroit retirees

IOU in a piggy bank by Images of Money via FlikrSo, earlier today a federal judge ruled that Detroit’s “Emergency Manager” could go ahead with bankruptcy proceedings – and, as part of the bankruptcy, cut public pension benefits that would otherwise be protected by Michigan’s state Constitution.

Judge Rhodes ruled Tuesday that Michigan’s [constitutional] protections for public pensions “do not apply to the federal bankruptcy court,” adding that pensions are not entitled to “any extraordinary attention” compared with other debts.  (Read the New York Times article here.)

Think about that, carefully – because to me, that is the single most frightening part of this whole situation.  The judge held that federal bankruptcy law trumps a state constitution.

One more time: according to this morning’s ruling, a law passed by Congress can invalidate a provision of a state constitution.

Take a minute and look at all those rights guaranteed by the New Hampshire Constitution.  (Read it here.)

Now, think about what it means, if Congress has the power to take those freedoms away.

Article 7 of the New Hampshire Constitution:
The people of this state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent state; and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, pertaining thereto, which is not, or may not hereafter be, by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in congress assembled.

How does that work, if state constitutions can be trumped by a federal law?

Read previous NH Labor News coverage of the Detroit situation here.

Read the statement from AFT President Randi Weingarten on this ruling here.

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Meanwhile, in Illinois, the state Legislature is meeting behind closed doors to discuss a legislative proposal to cut public pension benefits.  The bill was formally filed yesterday.  The vote is expected later today.

Read yesterday’s NH Labor News story about Illinois here.

 

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About Liz Iacobucci

Liz Iacobucci is the former Public Information Officer for the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire, SEIU Local 1984. Over the past three decades, she has served in government at the federal, state and municipal levels; and she has worked for both Democratic and Republican politicians.
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