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Judge says lawmaker inaction has delegated authority to comptroller

Friday, Mar 17, 2017

* Kim Geiger was at the lawmaker paycheck lawsuit hearing yesterday and filed this report

After listening to arguments from both sides, [Cook County Judge Rodolfo Garcia] said lawmakers are “in control of their own future” and that court was not the proper place to solve the dispute.

“I think there are serious problems with the legislators coming here to make a claim,” Garcia said, noting that the problem could be solved “by simply passing a budget.”

Garcia said from the bench that he was granting a motion for summary judgment, a move to throw the case out of court. But he returned to the courtroom moments later to allow the lawmakers’ lawyer to advance a new argument based on a stopgap spending plan that was approved last June. Garcia then said he would hear additional arguments. The lawyers for the two sides agreed to return to court March 23. […]

The lawmakers’ lawyer had tried to argue that the comptroller was operating outside her authority by delaying the payments. The judge said the legislature had abdicated its authority by failing to enact a budget.

“To the extent that the legislature has avoided making the very hard decisions in passing a budget, it has delegated that sort of discretion to the comptroller,” Garcia said. “Someone’s got to make these decisions.”

I’m not sure that the judge has read the papers, beyond maybe the Tribune editorial page. And, heck, even that page recently blamed the governor for the lack of progress.

Also, subscribers know more about a specific legal argument made by the judge yesterday.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


40 Comments »
  1. - jim - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:02 pm:

    judge hit the nail right on the head.
    that’s what the other judge should have ruled when lawmakers brought the first came to htem.
    is a political, not a legal, question.


  2. - Dan S - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:03 pm:

    They are not doing their job, they should not get paid.


  3. - Deft Wing - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:11 pm:

    –”I’m not sure that the judge has read the papers …”–

    Maybe, maybe not. But of utterly no relevance to the legal issues and arguments tendered to and considered by the judge.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:16 pm:

    ===”To the extent that the legislature has avoided making the very hard decisions in passing a budget, it has delegated that sort of discretion to the comptroller,” Garcia said. “Someone’s got to make these decisions.”===

    The Constitution is a “guideline” now? Oh boy.

    To the Post,

    Like the state employee pay issue, the legislator pay conundrum will only be decided by the Supremes.

    These uncharted waters now has constitutional questions that a passed budget would never face.

    These cases are based on a lacking of 60 and 30 and clean signature. These issues can be easily solved by… 60 and 30 and a clean signature too.


  5. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:17 pm:

    ===But of utterly no relevance to the legal issues===

    Then his entire argument is wrong. Legislators don’t act alone.


  6. - MOON - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:23 pm:

    This judge is in way over his head.

    Any budget passed by the legislature ( there was one passed ) requires the approval and signature of the Gov.

    I would advise the judge to ” stay within the 4 corners ” of any evidence offered.


  7. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:23 pm:

    ===They are not doing their job, they should not get paid. ===

    Then voters should kick them out. That’s the recourse, not the comptroller.


  8. - Casual observer - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:24 pm:

    I’m confused, I thought the suit was about the executive using legislator pay as leverage. I wonder if the judge wasn’t getting paid on time if he would feel the same.


  9. - Tommy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:26 pm:

    The legislature passed, and the governor signed, a 6-month budget to cover the first half of FY 17. So based on the judges logic, they should be paid for July through December of last year.


  10. - Skirmisher - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    The Governor has absolutely acted in bad faith and done little to resolve the budget issue. But then neither has the legislature, especially the House. So the judge’s criticism is valid. He is not bound to take sides in the blame game and he is not bound to solve a problem the lawmakers could in fact resolve themselves if they were willing to accept the governor’s demands.


  11. - Archiesmom - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:36 pm:

    Skirmisher is right – to some extent. The judge is not required to solve the problem, and the Illinois Supreme Court has made it clear that the judiciary is not there to solve his own problems of the legislature. Their job is to interpret the law and determine whether the actions that the comptroller have taken are in accordance with existing. To me, this judge is trying to solve the problem by refusing to deal with the legalities of the issues before him. That doesn’t work, either.


  12. - Deft Wing - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:36 pm:

    -”Then his entire argument is wrong. Legislators don’t act alone.-”

    Lol. Perhaps, but that’s why there are appellate courts. Of course, you could very well be wrong too.


  13. - Annonin' - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:37 pm:

    Was the a judicial brain freeze when judge was asked difference between judges gettin’ checks from the SAME continuing approp line as GA?
    If it is good enough to get $$ to judges then ……


  14. - Archiesmom - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:37 pm:

    ” solve the problems of the legislature “


  15. - Archiesmom - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:38 pm:

    ” with existing laws “. I have got to stop dictating into my phone.


  16. - TominChicago - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:40 pm:

    Garcia is right on the politics but wrong on the law. The constitution mandates that legislators be paid in 12 equal installments. There is nothing in that provision of the constitution that conditions their pay on their passing a budget.


  17. - Deft Wing - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:44 pm:

    Oh, and all know the Legislature doesn’t act alone and that this Governor has been highly disruptive … but the Legislature can do its thing and pass a budget onto the Gov. That’s solely within their province.


  18. - lost in the weeds - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:50 pm:

    Deft. The legislature passed a budget. The governor vetoed it. He could have line itemed to balance.He did not line item but vetoed.


  19. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:52 pm:

    ===but the Legislature can do its thing and pass a budget onto the Gov. That’s solely within their province===

    - Deft Wing -

    Then some might stand up and call that a phony sham budget.

    How would you feel about that? That doesn’t help.

    And… how do you feel about legislator pay being withheld?


  20. - wondering - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:56 pm:

    So, in essence, the judge is claiming the legislator should simply give in to the Governor so we will have a budget. Until they give in, no pay. I think it is time for this judge to be recalled.


  21. - Tommy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:00 pm:

    –but the Legislature can do its thing and pass a budget onto the Gov. That’s solely within their province.–

    They’ve done this twice — for FY 16, which was vetoed; and again with the 6-month stopgap for the first half of FY 17.

    Again, by the judge’s own stated logic, the Comptroller has only had the authority to withhold checks since this January, when the stopgap expired.


  22. - Deft Wing - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:07 pm:

    –”They’ve done this twice —”

    Why yes, Tommy, you’re correct. But they used to do that annually. That past practice of passing yearly budgets onto the Gov for signature, like all of the other bills they incessantly pass, needs to be renewed.


  23. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:15 pm:

    ===That past practice of passing yearly budgets onto the Gov for signature, like all of the other bills they incessantly pass, needs to be renewed.===

    When it was done House and Senate GOP members railed on the Floors, calling these budgets shams.

    You think that helps anyone?


  24. - A Jack - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:15 pm:

    If the Comptroller has that much authority, she should also delay pay checks for pay codes 01, the Governor’s staff and 02, the Lt. Gov.


  25. - Name Withheld - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:16 pm:

    Does the fact that the Comptroller has placed the legislator pay checks into the queue for payment have any bearing on this? It seems to me that this is different from simply saying she’s not going to pay them - she’s just reprioritized them.

    It seems like she hasn’t said she won’t pay them - only that they’ll get paid when it’s their turn.

    Or is there another facet to this that I’m failing to consider here. Respectfully.


  26. - A Jack - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:18 pm:

    After all GOMB obviously isn’t doing its job, since Scott Harry couldn’t propose any cuts.

    The pain is too one sided. The Governor’s staff shouldn’t be getting paid either.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:22 pm:

    ===It seems like she hasn’t said she won’t pay them - only that they’ll get paid when it’s their turn.===

    It started with Munger stating “no budget, no pay”… then the GA passed and the governor signed a stopgap budget, Munger’s Chief of Staff decided to say the Comptroller would “reassess” wether to pay the legislators.

    When did a Comptroller or a Comptroller’s Chief of Staff get to overrule and decide what the duties are of the legislature and their observation is the measuring that the legislature gets paid?

    Further? Yep further…

    Mendoza erroneously decides her own Oath isn’t worth the words spoken and sees invisible ink somewhere where she (Mendoza) can withhold pay.

    The Supremes need to decide this since these two Comptrollers and Munger’s former Chief of Staff have little thought to constitutionality?


  28. - A Jack - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:24 pm:

    Passing a budget is only one of the duties of the GA. Keeping the Executive branch in check is another. You can certainly the say the GA IS doing a good job of keeping the Executive in check and should be paid for that in itself.


  29. - Tommy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:30 pm:

    During senate hearings last week, virtually every Rauner department head said that they can’t cut their budget. So, is it within the Comptroller’s authority to withhold their pay, too?

    Slippery slope, judge.


  30. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:34 pm:

    - Deft Wing - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:07 pm:

    –”They’ve done this twice —”

    Why yes, Tommy, you’re correct. But they used to do that annually. That past practice of passing yearly budgets onto the Gov for signature, like all of the other bills they incessantly pass, needs to be renewed.

    But then Governors used to present balanced budgets to the GA for its consideration too. Ah the good old days.


  31. - A Non - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:39 pm:

    Sounds like he just didn’t want to deal with it. Maybe this case will be consolidated with Madigan’s employee pay one and they’ll be decided by the IL Supreme Court together.


  32. - Deft Wing - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:54 pm:

    –”But then Governors used to present balanced budgets to the GA for its consideration too. Ah the good old days.”–

    What planet are you on? Or are you referring to pre-Ogilvie days?


  33. - RNUG - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:59 pm:

    This judge knows it doesn’t really matter what they say; it’s going to be appealed.


  34. - Name Withheld - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:59 pm:

    ==Mendoza erroneously decides her own Oath isn’t worth the words spoken and sees invisible ink somewhere where she (Mendoza) can withhold pay.

    The Supremes need to decide this since these two Comptrollers and Munger’s former Chief of Staff have little thought to constitutionality?==

    OW - many thanks for helping me to understand some of this. It’s appreciated.


  35. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:13 pm:

    (Tips cap to - Name Withheld - )


  36. - Huh? - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:21 pm:

    Isn’t the legislative payroll a continuing appropriation? If so, it seems as though the budget is a moot point of discussion concerning this legal case.


  37. - Tommy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:34 pm:

    - Huh? -

    And if the judge decides against the legislators, he’s ruling that a continuing appropriation is not what we think it is. That means, absent a budget, the Comptroller could decide to skip pension payments — including the Judges’ Retirement System. Again, slippery slope, your honor.


  38. - Roman - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:50 pm:

    == The legislature passed, and the governor signed, a 6-month budget to cover the first half of FY 17. So based on the judges logic, they should be paid for July through December of last year. ==

    I thought the same thing when I read his quotes in the Trib.

    And didn’t Munger say she was “re-evaluating” holding up pay when the stopgap budget passed last summer?


  39. - tobias846 - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 3:37 pm:

    Garcia’s court is also handling the class-action suit over the state’s failure to pay medical insurance claims since fall 2015.

    I’m starting to worry that he’ll also call that case a political problem, not a legal one, and throw it out.


  40. - PublicServant - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 4:14 pm:

    This judge makes no sense. His decision will be appealed successfully.


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