THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF PEORIA SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 150, Appellee,
PEORIA FEDERATION OF SUPPORT STAFF, SECURITY/POLICEMAN'S BENEVOLENT AND PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION UNIT No. 114 (The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board et al., Appellants).
Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 The issues presented in this appeal are: (1) whether plaintiff school district had the right to bring a declaratory judgment action in the circuit court challenging the jurisdiction of the Illinois Labor Relations Board over a dispute involving the district and its security officers; and (2) whether Public Act 96-1257 is special legislation violative of article IV, section 13, of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, § 13). The appellate court answered the first question in the affirmative (2012 IL App (4th) 110875, ¶ 38) and suggested an affirmative answer to the second question (2012 IL App (4th) 110875, ¶¶ 28-29), reversing the circuit court's dismissal of plaintiff's action and remanding "for further proceedings consistent with this opinion." 2012 IL App (4th) 110875, ¶ 41. We affirm the judgment of the appellate court, rendering, however, an unequivocally affirmative answer with respect to the second question.
¶ 2 SPECIAL LEGISLATION CLAUSE OF THE 1970 ILLINOIS CONSTITUTION
¶ 3 "The General Assembly shall pass no special or local law when a general law is or can be made applicable. Whether a general law is or can be made applicable shall be a matter for judicial determination." Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, § 13.
¶ 4 BACKGROUND
¶ 5 The following facts are taken, for the most part, from the uncontested averments of plaintiff's complaint and the motion to dismiss subsequently filed by the defendants.
¶ 6 On March 15, 2011, plaintiff, the Board of Education of Peoria School District No. 150 (the District), filed a complaint in the circuit court of Sangamon County naming as defendants the Peoria Federation of Support Staff, Security/Policeman's Benevolent and Protective Association Unit No. 114 (the Union), the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (the IELRB), and the Illinois Labor Relations Board (the ILRB). In count I of the complaint, the District sought a declaration that Public Act 96-1257 constituted special legislation violative of the Illinois Constitution, and injunctive relief appurtenant to such a finding. In count II, the District sought a declaration that the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA) (115 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (West 2010)), rather than the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (IPLRA) (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 2010)), governed labor disputes between the District and its security officers.
¶ 7 According to the complaint, the District employed 26 full-time and part-time employees who worked as "security agents and guards." At the time this litigation commenced, the Union represented those employees. The Union had first been certified by the IELRB to represent the District's "full and part time security guards and truant officers" in November of 1989. In October of 1996, the IELRB again certified the Union as the sole and exclusive bargaining representative for "all full and part-time guards, agents, security and police employees" employed by the District. Collective-bargaining agreements negotiated between October 1996 and August 2008 were all pursuant to IELRB certification and under the provisions of the IELRA. The last of these agreements expired on June 30, 2010.
Public Act 96-1257 became effective on July 23, 2010. It amended the IPLRA, purporting to remove "peace officers" employed by "a school district" in "its own police department in existence on the effective date of this amendatory Act" from the purview of the IELRA, and the oversight IELRB, and to redefine them as "public employees, " subject to the IPLRA and the jurisdiction of the ILRB. Correlatively, Public Act 96-1257 redefined "public employer" so as to remove "a school district" that employed "peace officers" in "its own police department in existence on the effective date of this amendatory Act" from the scope of the IELRA and place it under the provisions of the IPLRA.
¶ 8 On or about December 8, 2010, the District and the Union began negotiations on a new collective-bargaining agreement. During the course of contract negotiations between the District and the Union, a dispute arose over the time of day when negotiations would occur. Although it was the position of the Union that the IELRA no longer governed the Union's relationship with the District, in a letter dated December 28, 2010, the Union stated it was "prepared to file a charge, duplicate if necessary[, ] with the IELRB and the ILRB." On March 3, 2011, the Union filed a representation petition with the ILRB seeking certification of the Union as the exclusive representative for the same bargaining unit that had been previously certified by the IELRB. That action prompted the filing of the District's complaint for declaratory judgment 12 days thereafter.
¶ 9 In paragraphs 25 and 26 of the complaint, the District presented the parties' conflicting interests as follows:
"25. Under the IPLRA, if the parties reach an impasse during their negotiations, the employer does not have a right to impose the terms and conditions that it presented during negotiations, the matter goes directly to interest arbitration.
26. Under the IELRA, however, if the parties reach an impasse during their negotiations and the educational employer has exercised good faith during bargaining, then the educational employer has a right to impose the terms and conditions that were presented during negotiations and employees have the right to strike."
The complaint alleged that the District "has an interest in having the IELRA rather than the IPLRA apply to negotiations, " and the Union a converse interest. When counsel for the District was subsequently asked, at oral argument before this court, to clarify what select group was favored by the amendment over others similarly situated, counsel's answers shifted and were initially ambiguous. Later, however, counsel was asked: "Does the Union benefit by being subject to the ILRB instead of the IELRB?" Counsel for the District responded that smaller groups—like the security personnel employed by District—are favored by interest arbitration because their smaller numbers afford them less leverage than larger groups in a strike.
¶ 10 Citing attached transcripts of legislative history, the complaint avers that legislators knew, when they passed the amendment, that it would only apply to the District. The complaint further states in paragraphs 34 through 36:
"34. Since the amendment only applies to a school district which employs peace officers in its own police department in existence on the effective date of the amendment, the amendment by its own terms will never apply to any other school district which may, after the effective date of the amendment, decide to employ peace officers in its own police department.
35. This classification is arbitrary and treats similarly situated individuals and districts differently without an adequate justification or connection to the purpose of the statute.
36. This classification is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest."
In light of the foregoing, the District concluded count I of the complaint with the assertion that "Public Act 96-1257 is special legislation prohibited by Section 13 of Article 4 of the Illinois Constitution."
¶ 11 In count II, the District contended, alternatively, that its circumstances did not bring it within the purview of the statutory amendment, arguing that the District "neither maintains nor is authorized to establish and maintain a Police Department, " "has not certified or appointed its security employees as truant officers, " and "does not employee [sic] peace officers as defined by the IPLRA."
¶ 12 On April 22, 2011, the Union filed a section 2-615 (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2010)) "Motion to Strike/Amend Pleadings, " complaining that the District had "intentionally misnamed" the Union "to claim those officers are not really police or peace officers, "even though documents indicate they: (1) are supervised by a "Chief of Police, " (2) are assigned "to the Campus police department, " (3) are "required to appear in court, on School related cases" as police "officers, " (4) wear uniforms and patches identifying them as "campus POLICE, " (5) wear badges describing each officer as "OFFICER District 150 POLICE, " (6) are issued a "Peoria Public Schools Campus Police Operations Manual" informing them that those who complete course work at the Police Training Institute "possess full police authority for the school district and by state law are invested with full police powers, " (7) may "[d]isplay and carry loaded weapons while on the premises of Peoria Public School District 150, " and (8) "[e]ffect arrests and document those arrests with police reports submitted to the Peoria County State's Attorney for criminal prosecution."
¶ 13 On April 29, 2011, a motion to dismiss was filed by the IELRB and the ILRB. In that motion, the Boards argued that: (1) the challenged statutory provision does not classify school districts with their own police departments differently from school districts which do not have their own police departments; rather, it classifies all peace officers employed by educational institutions as public employees and is, therefore, not special legislation; (2) even if the statute applies to school districts which employ peace officers in their own police departments on the effective date of the amendment, applying it to plaintiff does not constitute improper special legislation; and (3) contrary to what the complaint alleges, this group of employees is not excluded from the jurisdiction of either the ILRB or the IELRB.
¶ 14 In a supporting memorandum, the Boards first took issue with the District's suggestion that the challenged statutory provision classified school districts with their own police departments differently from districts which did not maintain their own departments. The Boards opined that the provision merely classified all peace officers employed by educational institutions as public employees; therefore, the Boards suggested that the amendment was not unconstitutional as special legislation. Quoting this court's opinion in Illinois Polygraph Society v. Pellicano, 83 Ill.2d 130, 137-38 (1980), the Boards stated that special legislation must "arbitrarily, and without a sound, reasonable basis, discriminate[ ] in favor of a select group." (Emphasis in original.) The Boards argued that the group at issue here is not employees of educational institutions; it is peace officers employed by public educational institutions. The Boards contended:
"Plaintiff has not alleged a group of similarly situated persons who are treated differently." The Boards concluded that the amendment actually "fixed" an irrational scheme of classification by "bringing members of a similarly situated group—peace officers employed by public educational institutions—together within the province of one statute, the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act."
¶ 15 The Boards submitted, even if the relevant group consists of "school districts which employ peace officers in their own police departments on the effective date of the amendment, " applying it to plaintiff does not constitute improper special legislation. Citing the appellate court's decision in Crusius v. Illinois Gaming Board, 348 Ill.App.3d 44, 58 (2004), the Boards stated that "classes of one are permissible if there is a rational justification for the limited application, and the narrow classification is reasonably related to the justification." On this point, the Boards concluded:
"Here, the governmental interest in putting all peace officers employed by school districts—whether in their own police department or not—under the umbrella of one labor board makes this classification constitutional. Speculating whether some school district in the future may create a police force and claim its police department employees do not fall under the definition of public employee is not a reason for declaring the legislation unconstitutional now."
¶ 16 In a supplemental memorandum, filed May 9, 2011, the Boards challenged the circuit court's jurisdiction over the controversy. The Boards argued that the IPLRA and the IELRA "give exclusive jurisdiction over deciding what group of employees belongs to what type of bargaining unit to the Labor Boards" and, under both acts, those decisions are "reviewable directly by the Appellate Court." The supplemental memorandum was not responsive to a ...