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Why Quinn is appealing

Monday, Sep 30, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

A bipartisan chorus seemed to rise as one last week to urge Gov. Pat Quinn not to appeal a ruling by a Cook County judge. The judge ruled that the governor had violated the state Constitution when he vetoed lawmaker salaries last summer. Quinn said he vetoed the appropriations because he was tired of waiting for legislators to finish a pension reform plan.

Despite urgings by both Democrats and Republicans to drop the whole thing, Quinn forged ahead, issuing a defiant statement in which he vowed to pursue an appeal of Judge Neil Cohen’s decision voiding the veto and ordering lawmaker paychecks to be processed “immediately.”

Judge Cohen agreed with Quinn on one issue about veto process, but then went on to declare Quinn’s veto wasn’t valid from the moment it was issued. Cohen did so by relying on the meaning of a single word: “Changes.”

Quinn had argued that transcripts from the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention clearly showed that delegates hoped to stop legislators from increasing their salaries when they agreed on language that prevented “changes in the salary of a member” from taking effect during their term of office following their most recent election.

Cohen relied on two dictionary definitions to declare that the common meaning of “changes” included both increases and decreases. Therefore, Quinn’s veto violated the Constitution and was declared null and void.

It’s actually a pretty well reasoned and informed decision, especially considering the fact that Judge Cohen seemed more than a little out of his element during a previous hearing. He didn’t appear to understand the briefs that had already been presented, and appeared confused at times about the Constitution and general procedure. He even agreed to put off his decision by a week so that Madigan and Cullerton could file another brief, but then went ahead without them and gave them what they asked for.

OK, back to the appeal, which is no surprise, to say the least. Even setting aside the overwhelming popularity of the governor’s veto and Quinn’s natural stubbornness, there should have never been any doubt that Quinn would attempt to appeal this ruling.

Quinn has jealously guarded his powers and attempted - often bungling - to expand the powers of his office ever since he was elevated in 2009. One of the ways he’s done this is by issuing presidential-like “signing statements.” His latest, issued in July, promised that he would not allow a bill he’d signed to undermine the state’s compliance with a class action consent decree. Quinn is the first to use such statements, which are normally reserved for vetoes.

He has also constantly meddled in the affairs of various boards and commissions, demanding resignations of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees after a political influence scandal and recently calling for the ouster of the director of the state’s torture commission. He attempted to pack Southern Illinois University’s board this year in order to get his way at that university, but was solidly rebuked when the Senate unanimously rejected his appointees.

Quinn called for the “fumigation” of state government when he was first elevated to the office, but then resisted several legislative efforts designed to get rid of Blagojevich holdovers, saying it was his job to fire them.

An appeal, therefore, would be right in line with Quinn’s history of protecting and expanding his powers. He clearly believes he had the absolute right to veto those salaries and that the judge was wrong to stop him. This is more than just a political game to Quinn, even though the game is most definitely part of it.

He acts like such a goofball at times that it’s often difficult to take what he says and does at face value, but this is obviously very serious business to the governor. Make no mistake, Quinn wants the right to do this again. And he wants his successors to have this right in order to bring the General Assembly to heel.

Most people don’t know that Chicago mayors are legally quite weak. They compensate by building strong political organizations.

Illinois governors are constitutionally strong, so state legislative leaders have compensated for their comparative weakness by building huge political fiefdoms and devising innumerable rules to stymie the governor’s powers. Quinn appears to be trying to inject some balance into the government with this veto.



  1. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:33 am:

    The courts are apparently finding the Governor’s request un-appealing.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:40 am:

    ===…overwhelming popularity of the governor’s veto and Quinn’s natural stubbornness,…===

    And …

    ===Make no mistake, Quinn wants the right to do this again. And he wants his successors to have this right in order to bring the General Assembly to heel.===

    Great article, and those very two important points really breaks this down that many in the media refuse to see what is actually “going on”, and why Pat Quinn has made this so personal, and so divisive. You try to take powers away that the Constitution requires as Co-Equal, and parlay that with a Polulist move seen as a positive by “the people”, Rich, you really lay it out there for those looking to the politics of the governing, and not the Populism of the decision.

    Spot on, well done, and glad to see an article that goes beyond the pandering, and the “slight to the Governor”, and see those very critical points put so well by you, Rich.

  3. - RonOglesby - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:41 am:

    The biggest part of the problem with Quinn:

    “He acts like such a goofball at times that it’s often difficult to take what he says and does at face value”…

    In serious times you need serious leader ship.

  4. - RonOglesby - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:42 am:

    Leadership… dang you auto correct!

  5. - Wensicia - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:43 am:

    That’s why we have constitutions and a court system to protect them and us from would be power seekers.

  6. - OLD BRASS - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:45 am:

    I agree with Oswego Willy, nicely done and great perspective!

    I’m hopeful, now that Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton have been subjected to the power of the constitution, that they will also obey it as well when it comes to pension reform (pension reduction for those of us currently held hostage to this debacle).

  7. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:45 am:

    Even though we talk about Illinois having a strong Executive, the legislature final say on vetoes, or even bringing proposed legislation for a vote, is a pretty fair counter-balance. I would say that the current Speaker of the House recognizes this and puts all his faith in it, to the point where recent Governors seem weaker than they ought to be. Recent Governors seem to have the idea that since they are elected statewide, the whole state must be onboard with their agendas. They have not seemed to realize that, as a body, the legislature also represents to the whole state. There is tension in balance, but balance seems to have been maintained.

  8. - reformer - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:46 am:

    A decision from a higher court will create a stronger precedent to deter the next governor from trying the same unconstitutional stunt. So I favor the appeal.

  9. - Stones - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:47 am:

    PQ also made a career out of throwing stones at the establishment. It’s not a surprise that now he is part of the establishment he doesn’t know how to play in the sandbox with them. PQ might not be dishonest as Blago and Ryan were but he is probably the least effective Governor we have seen since Dan Walker.

  10. - Sir Reel - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:48 am:

    Quinn’s abysmal record of developing working relationships with the legislative branch especially its leaders may explain why he goes on these power trips and demands action. He wants to be the sole definer of what “the people” want and power over that GA.

  11. - wordslinger - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:52 am:

    ===Make no mistake, Quinn wants the right to do this again. And he wants his successors to have this right in order to bring the General Assembly to heel.===

    I did not know that. I thought it was strictly a one-off stunt for his own personal popularity.

    If you’re right, that makes the veto a much more serious matter.

    Under what principle of representative democracy can the executive seek to blackmail members of the legislative branch in order to achieve a specific result?

    It’s never been done before on the national level, in Illinois or in other states, that I’m aware of. Where did Quinn discover this tool?

    On that basis, the appeal is necessary so that the Supremes can smack down this abuse of power for good.

  12. - Soccertease - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 9:56 am:

    Quinn’s natural stubbornness has many times led to poor decision making and bad leadership. He tends to take the populist bait and run with it. As we all know the popular things aren’t always the right things.

  13. - Rich Miller - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:00 am:

    ===I thought it was strictly a one-off stunt for his own personal popularity.===

    In a way, it is. But I believe he wants the right to do this whenever he thinks it’s necessary.

  14. - shore - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:06 am:

    Not a fan of this. I don’t like your position on an issue so you don’t get paid? No thanks.

  15. - facts are stubborn things - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:08 am:

    PQ just wants to do what he wants to do. His political diagency rectors conduct themselves in much the same way — they just throw out the operations manuals, guide lines, regulations, contracts, past practice and just do what they want. They know best and they seem so stuned when their decisions are overturned by grievances, arbitration, and judges. He is a good man and attends (and has for many years) all of the funerals of our fallen guard heros that have given their lives in Iraq and Afganistan. You never hear about that on the news because he does it out of his desire to honor them period. He is a good man and a nice mam, but a very poor govenor.

    The word “change” means just what it says. You can not “change” the pay of legislators during the term. He was pandering for political gain and is now doubling down. I believe he will be playing to an ever shrinking audiance on this one. Take your political chips and cash them in and go home…drop it already. He has slowed the very pension issue he has railed about by his antics.

  16. - facts are stubborn things - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:08 am:

    I attemped to say his political directors.

  17. - langhorne - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:09 am:

    next time, maybe he can call the GA into session 16 or 17 times to consider his veto.

  18. - facts are stubborn things - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:11 am:

    Not sure what it is with my key board (can not be my fingers) but a certain key stroke moves my cursor and I end up with giberish. Political agency directors becomes. political diagency rectors

  19. - SAP - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:16 am:

    Anybody else wondering what the Governor’s line is going to look like in the budget next spring?

  20. - facts are stubborn things - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:20 am:

    @SAP - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:

    MJM has a good memory.

  21. - Norseman - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:24 am:

    Word, along the lines Rich mentioned I believe Quinn and his handlers came up with the stunt to mute the narrative that he had no way to enforce his arbitrary deadline on the conference committee. He then fell in love with the idea.

    To put a stake in this monster, the Supreme Court needs to rule.

  22. - Norseman - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:25 am:

    SAP, that would be the next shoe to drop if Quinn’s tactic isn’t effectively stopped now.

  23. - Bill White - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:26 am:

    ===Make no mistake, Quinn wants the right to do this again. And he wants his successors to have this right in order to bring the General Assembly to heel.===

    This is why the IL Supreme Court needs to have the final word and why I believe the IL Supreme Court should repudiate Quinn’s position with as much force and finality as possible.

    That said, I wonder if Bruce Rauner (or the Trib Editorial Board) will seek leave to file an amicus brief in support of Quinn’s position.

  24. - Elo Kiddies - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:26 am:

    Rich, you write your own headlines? I like the duality of this one– suggesting both that Pat Quinn is continuing this case because he thinks it plays well with the public, not because anyone thinks he can win, and that Pat Quinn is seen in a favorable light by some voters because he takes on these high profile, symbolic acts that have nothing at all to do with governing but nonetheless strike a chord with a segment of the voters.

  25. - Rich Miller - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:30 am:

    ===Rich, you write your own headlines? ===

    Of course. lol

  26. - Hans Sanity - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:51 am:

    Quinn’s holding the mirror for legislators to take look at themselves as they gripe about their failure to pass pension reform was one way to deal with legislative leaders from all sides attempting to sabotage his re-election bid.

    I won’t be surprised by a show of even greater resourcefulness on his part if the legislature fails to act if and when they get paid.

  27. - otoh - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 10:57 am:

    The settlement talks about back pay with additional interest.

    How much additional interest?

  28. - siriusly - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 11:04 am:

    I thought your headline was Why Quinn is Unappealing.

    Your version makes more sense after I read the column.

  29. - A guy... - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 11:08 am:

    The state earned interest on the money while it was being withheld. It only seems fair they pay interest once the judge ruled. My guess is that it’s a wash or the State came out slightly ahead. Nothing to see here. Well written article Rich. I don’t want Willie’s head to get too big, so I don’t agree with him, but I’ll concur! lol

  30. - homunculus - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 11:16 am:

    Quinn is not advancing a trivial legal argument. This, and a couple other cases in the pipeline, are going to put Illinois’s constitutional fabric to the test.

  31. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 11:22 am:

    - A guy…-,

    Yopu are agreeing with Rich and my point, not necessarily with me. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. The message is far more important than who is saying it, so the more the better for the point, not necessarily for me.

    - Todd -,

    Make sure Sen. Raoul knows how to get a hold of - Norseman -, and I vote in GOP Primaries, and I will “own” it, not blame it on others or say, “that’s how business is done” or something Dopey.

    To the Post,

    I don’t want to miss a good point makes at the end, bringing the political angles in sharper focus.

    The legislative politcal Caucus arms and the Ground Troops of Mayor Daley and their impact on the Chicago Wards are the balance needed to offset some governmental “inequalities” areready in wrinkles in the “Co-Equal” or even the “Strong Council-Weak Mayor” organization of government.

    Good politics is good government and that side of the equation is seen with those two instances and their influences in the process of governing effectively.

    Like a dance, you have to know the “steps” in the dance, otherwise you will fall flat on your face.

  32. - A guy... - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 11:31 am:

    OW, I’m seeking professional help because I find myself agreeing with you so often. What I liked about Rich’s article was the reasoned approach and comprehensive view he reported. I know this issue hits very close to home for a lot of posters on this blog. I am witnessing an electorate that is uncomfortable enough to slide out of conventional thinking these days. It’s been a hard 5 years for a lot of people who don’t understand why everyone isn’t sharing in the sacrifice. The morale out there is very anxious. So Willie, whether I agree or concur, your thoughts are always poignant, except for when you don’t mean them to be :)

  33. - WithIt - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 11:56 am:

    What was Pat Quinn’s agenda for Southern Illinois University? Thought it was too far down south for him to care about what was going on down there.

  34. - Jake From Elwood - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 12:53 pm:

    Siriusly, my brain did the same thing that yours did with the headline. Are we both conditioned to think negatively card when we see PQ’s name in a headline? Interesting.
    And I agree with the rest of your comment as well.

  35. - Retired G-man - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 1:31 pm:

    Think Quinn and the cutback amendment, Quinn blocking legislative pay, Quinn wanting to retain/expand his powers as Governor…

    Seems like Quinn is a zealous advocate of executive power, the most dangerous type of government power because it is vested in one person. (Legislative power, while great, is at least divided up between 177 individuals, and the judicial branch only addresses issues someone else brings to it.)

    The GA and leaders are right to oppose Quinn.

  36. - Belle - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 4:31 pm:

    Terrific article Rich!

  37. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 30, 13 @ 6:57 pm:

    - A guy… -,

    My only hope is My Party can grown and undeerstand the politics of the governing, and how governing can lead to some really good politics. The rest is just the Dopey things I post that you are wise enough to steer clear of becuase you are smarter than me.

    To the Post,

    I think - Retired G-man - makes a good point that I want to expand. It appears that Pat Quinn, man of the people, might be more about the Power to do the People’s Business, at the cost, the high cost, of Co-Equal government, which is, at its core, THE best way Illinois has found to keep the people safe.

    Dripping with irony, I liked the point very much.

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