Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Courts give us payroll, abortion issues

Leave it to a pair of courts at opposite ends of Illinois to give all of us continued squabbles.

The appeals court located in our own city struck down the restrictions that had prevented state laws applying to teenage girls wishing to abort a pregnancy from doing so, while down in the part of Illinois near St. Louis, a judge is considering whether the state is justified in refusing to pay its bills just because there’s no balanced budget in place.

WHEN IT COMES to abortion, there always have been those activists who accept that the concept is legal, but they work to place so many restrictions on it that it can become virtually impossible for women to obtain.

That logic definitely has been behind the whole concept of “parental notification,” where a girl has to be prepared to tell her father (or whoever the legal guardian is) about her intent to end a pregnancy before she can do it.

Of course, that also entails a girl telling the parents about a pregnancy. And the sad truth is that there are situations where the concept of informing a parent has nothing to do with parental responsibility, but is merely meant to be a procedural stumbling block that makes it impossible for the girl to end her pregnancy.

The General Assembly created this law back in the mid-1980s, then updated it in the mid-1990s (back in the days when Republicans actually weren’t irrelevant and were trying to push their own social conservative agenda into Illinois law).

THERE ALWAYS HAS been the legalese about how a girl, if she can convince a judge that telling her parents truly would be a harmful experience, can get a waiver. But no one has ever been able to figure out how exactly this provision should be enforced.

That is why the decades-old law has never been enforced. In fact, a lower court judge previously had ruled there is no way for the concept of a “judicial waiver” to be enforced.

That ruling is what the U.S. Court of Appeals based in Chicago struck down.

Of course, their ruling doesn’t really offer specifics about how a judicial waiver can be enforced. Some would argue it isn’t their place to decide that.

IT IS THE political people (the ones who are gumming up our state government’s operations with their inability to approve a budget for the fiscal year that began two weeks ago) who need to figure this out.

So now, we get to add abortion to the list of ongoing issues – unless someone can get the Supreme Court of the United States to agree to hear an appeal on the appeals court’s ruling, then strike it down.

Even if that were to happen, it would take time – perhaps a couple of years.

So now, we move forward on this issue in Springfield, where the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has become so disgusted with the state that they’re taking it to court.

SPECIFICALLY, THEY WANT to be sure that the roughly 40,000 state workers they represent get their next paycheck (and the one after that and so on).

This is one of those quirks of Illinois government. The state must have a balanced budget in place before any money can be spent.

It’s not that the money intended for this fiscal year’s expenses isn’t there. It’s just that without a specific plan, no one knows how much to spend on any one aspect of government.

It sounds responsible, there must be a budget in place. But it has always caused the quirk when the Legislature and governor cannot agree that the fiscal year begins July 1, and a couple of weeks later new bills start to come in and they can’t get paid.

IN ONE SENSE, Illinois government is the biggest deadbeat imaginable. In some years, we get the situation of state workers having to show up for their jobs, knowing their paychecks will be late.

So now, the union wants the courts to behave as a collection agency of sorts.

The union filed a lawsuit in St. Clair County court (down near St. Louis), and hopes that a judge issues a ruling requiring the state employees to be paid.

After all, they argue, the money is there in state bank accounts. It’s not like anyone stopped collecting the state’s share of taxes on anything in recent weeks.

SO THEY THINK they should not be penalized, which is a different tactic from past years when they merely grumped and groused and hoped that their disgust could persuade legislators to act and approve a budget.

Perhaps it is a sign that even they see the political people trying to resolve the state’s budgetary mess are too entrenched in their own stubbornness to find a legitimate solution to the problem.

And these are the people we’re going to entrust to resolve the situation surrounding abortion and underage girls? If so, then we’re in a mess.


EDITOR’S NOTES: A pair of court cases have the potential to create many headaches for people across Illinois – abortion ( and budgets ( are never a pretty mix.

1 comment:

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