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A lobbying group that represents mayors, county boards and other police employers, the Illinois Municipal League ("IML") is circulating a model ordinance for cities and counties to review and enact at the local level in order to undermine your death/disability benefits.

While the IML claims that this model ordinance will merely “create an administrative framework” for cities and counties, in reality it would give your employer the ability to unilaterally deny benefits to you and your family based on legal tricks and loopholes.

BACKGROUND

As a public safety employee you are entitled to certain benefits under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act ("PSEBA" - 820 ILCS 320). Your professional association, the PBPA was at the forefront of pushing the legislature to pass this legislation and ensuring that you and your family’s medical needs are taken care of in the event you are injured or killed in the line of duty while responding to an emergency. PSEBA does not establish a procedure through which an individual applies for benefits. Two recent Illinois Appellate Court decisions held that local government employers may adopt “administrative procedures” for assessing claims for benefits under PSEBA.

However, the IML model ordinance goes beyond mere procedural rules and instead changes the definition of "catastrophic injury" in a way that substantively narrows those who could receive benefits. For instance, under the IML ordinance, you could be denied health benefits if you were injured but still able to perform any activities that you could theoretically receive pay for. That means that if you were shot and paralyzed from the waist down, you could be denied benefits since, technically, you could still type, perform data entry, etc.

Further, the model ordinance contains application deadlines and document requirements not found in the PSEBA statute language. This could potentially limit or deprive you of these important benefits.

We are reviewing and tracking these ordinances and we’re preparing to intervene with the General Assembly and in bargaining action against municipalities that attempt to use such ordinances to deny you and your family the benefits you have earned.

Some municipalities have already adopted this model ordinance in their local code. Discussion with these municipal leaders, as well as comments from public records, reveal that many municipalities are likely to follow the lead of the IML on this issue and consider and adopt a version of this model ordinance. While they understand the ordinances will be challenged in court, the IML and their member organizations are emboldened under these recent appellate court cases to try and convince the courts to narrow PSEBA benefits. That means that ultimately, your municipality/county may have to spend taxpayer money in order to defend taking your rights away. That’s a loss for you and a loss for the people you serve.

WHAT YOUR LOCAL UNIT NEEDS TO DO

If your municipality has already adopted, or is considering adopting a version of this model ordinance, here are some strategies and suggestions:

  • Make sure the PBPA is aware and informed. There are over a hundred counties and over a thousand municipalities in Illinois, so while we will make every effort to track which employers are adopting this ordinance- we rely on you, the boots on the ground, to be our eyes and ears.
  • Get into the habit of reading your city/village council or county board’s meeting minutes and agendas. These are usually posted on their website, and can tip you off as to whether or not this ordinance will be discussed in your jurisdiction.
  • Demand to bargain over any unilateral implementation of an ordinance that will change your members' rights to PSEBA benefits. Contact the PBPA to assist you with this process.
  • If your municipality adopts the model ordinance and you have a member that is currently, or will soon seek PSEBA benefits, contact the PBPA immediately to determine the best course of action to protect your member's potential PSEBA benefits. 

 

The PBPA will continue to closely monitor this issue and work with our members to protect these important benefits.

 

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