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State

Ex-lobbyist sues over Illinois pension earned as teacher for a day

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A retired lobbyist is suing an Illinois retirement board over benefits that he qualified for by subbing at a school for one day.

The Chicago Tribune reports former Illinois Federation of Teachers lobbyist David Piccioli qualified for the teacher pension based on his years as a union employee. But legislators passed a 2012 law that tried to scale back Piccioli and another lobbyist's benefits.

Piccioli argues the state constitution doesn't allow for a pension to be "diminished or impaired" after it's set. He gets roughly $31,485 from the Teachers Retirement System, and the newspaper estimates a lawsuit win could boost his teacher pension by more than $36,000.

Piccioli gets another state pension around $30,000 for his time as a legislative aide. His pensions are based on pay as a union lobbyist.

Carl Draper, Piccioli's attorney, said his client "did what the law allowed and in good faith." David Urbanek, a spokesman with the Teachers Retirement System, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A 2007 pension law gave an opening to Piccioli to qualify for the teacher pension. Lawmakers took away his ability to put earlier union years toward the pension in a 2012 law, and they thought it would be equal to booting him from the system. But he stayed in the system and racked up more time until his December 2012 retirement.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, sponsored the 2012 bill and called Piccioli's lawsuit "kind of bold."

"It's bold and it's unfortunate given the image that that gives about people who are receiving public pensions," Raoul said. "That's not characteristic of the common, hardworking public-sector worker who makes a modest income and has a modest retirement benefit. It gives people the impression of otherwise."

Public pensions are also the subject of a case heard by the Illinois Supreme Court last week. State employees and retirees say a 2013 law violates the Illinois constitution because it cuts retirement benefits to make up for a deficit.

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