Wednesday, October 16, 2013

EXTRA: Will Ill. high ct. back Gov?

Will Ill. Supreme Court back Quinn?
So what happens if the Supreme Court of Illinois decides that Gov. Pat Quinn was justified, after all, in his attempt to deny pay to the state Legislature while the pension funding problems confronting the state were still pending?

It won’t mean the state gets the money back.

FOR THE ILLINOIS comptroller’s office made sure to rush out the checks for legislative salaries for August and September, and the General Assembly members have since received their pay due Oct. 1.

I don’t envision any of the 177 members of the Legislature chosen to do “the peoples’ business” being willing to “give back” the money they were paid – that’s three month’s salary.

Would you be willing to give back that much money from your own income?

All of this is a relevant possibility, because the Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an order saying it will hear arguments by Quinn and his attorneys to challenge the Cook County judge who last month ruled that he had no authority to withhold pay from anyone in state government.

TYPICALLY, SOMEONE WISHING to challenge a circuit court ruling would have to take their case to the Illinois appellate court for their part of the state. Only after that court rules would the state Supreme Court even consider hearing the case.

Wednesday’s ruling allows Quinn to skip a step and ensures that the Illinois high court will rule on the issue eventually -- although the case may not be heard (and ruled on) until next year.

They may well decide that the Cook County court (in the form of Judge Neil Cohen) got it right. Or they may not. I try never to predict what appeals courts do on any level! Judicial temperament can be so erratic and unpredictable.

QUINN: About his political ego now
There won’t be any financial savings to the state – other than the fact that Quinn insists he’s still refusing to accept a salary while the whole pension funding issue is pending.

BY THIS POINT, it’s personal. Quinn would like to have a court ruling that backs him up. Not that the public at large objected to the idea of legislators going unpaid (they probably believe the political hacks don’t deserve any salary at all).

But he’d like for history to record that he’s making some sort of effort – compared to the Legislature. Where the typical member doesn’t have a clue what is going on, and where the members of a special panel that are supposed to be studying the issue seem split.

Should there be an effort to protect the interests of state employees who have worked all these years with some expectation of retirement benefits? Or should this be part of an effort to weaken the influence of organized labor within state government?

It’s important to realize that this has become an overly partisan political issue, regardless of who one listens to. And one in which no one really has a clue if it can be resolved during the Legislature’s upcoming veto session – regardless of Quinn’s constant rhetoric that he’s doing everything he can to try to solve the pension problem.

WHETHER ONE WANTS to accept it or not, the Cook County courts put themselves into a political hissy fit when Cohen ruled.

Will the high court further enhance the partisanship with their ruling? We’ll have to wait to see just how more mucked up things can become!


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