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Legislator pay ruling should not be a surprise

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

* Dan Petrella at the Tribune

The state of Illinois must pay two former Democratic state senators salary hikes they voted to reject while in office, a Cook County judge ruled late Thursday.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit Michael Noland of Elgin and James Clayborne of Belleville brought against Democratic state Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s office. The senators argued that laws freezing legislative salaries from 2009 to 2016 violated the Illinois Constitution, which prohibits lawmakers from changing their pay during their current term.

Noland, now a Kane County judge, sued in 2017 seeking back pay for himself and “all others impacted” by the eight bills lawmakers passed to give up the annual cost-of-living raises they are automatically granted under state law.

The lawsuit, which Clayborne joined as a plaintiff in 2018, also takes issue with unpaid furlough days lawmakers approved for themselves each year from 2009 through 2013.

Then-Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ruled in July 2019 that the state constitution is “unambiguous” in prohibiting such action.

* AP

Comptroller Susana Mendoza pledged to appeal the decision and called the former lawmakers “shameless grifters” pursuing a “brazen money grab.” […]

The decision Thursday applies only to them, not other lawmakers who were in office, because they filed the lawsuit as individuals, not public officials, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Noland could get about $71,000, while Clayborne is in line for $95,000.

Ironically, Clayborne voted in favor of turning down the raises. Noland voted against the legislation only once, the Tribune reported.

* Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie on the day of the ruling…

“Today’s court ruling, which essentially allows legislators to cast politically popular votes refusing pay increases and then, by judicial fiat, receive those pay increases anyway, is yet another vivid example of why Illinois citizens do not trust their state government. Illinoisians are growing increasingly weary of politicians saying that which is popular, while at the same time finding a path to benefit themselves and harm taxpayers.

“The votes of past General Assemblies to refuse pay increases were policy decisions, and not decisions into which the courts should intervene. I call upon the Attorney General and the Comptroller to immediately and vigorously pursue an appeal of this ruling, and continue to fight for a reversal until the taxpayers are vindicated.”

The court is right. The Constitution is clear. Legislator pay cannot be reduced during a legislator’s term of office. It’s the same sort of thing with pension reductions. Legislators were playing games, just like they did last year when they didn’t appropriate legislator pay raises even though legislator pay is subject to continuing appropriations. That’ll wind up in a lawsuit some day as well.

One day, maybe they’ll figure out that this stuff always catches up to them.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - LV147 - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 12:28 pm:

    So thankful for how IL pays its legislators even down to the county well, you have to allow legislators to make a living legislating if you want a truly representative government! Meanwhile the salary for a state rep in Mississippi is 12k$.

  2. - Downstate Illinois - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 12:33 pm:

    Other than the rank hypocrisy by the former lawmakers the law is clear. Mendoza should be the one ashamed of violating the constitution. Checks need to be written to every lawmaker owed funds. Just call it Covid relief or infrastructure.

  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 12:43 pm:

    The foolish and quite ignorant also believe…

    “No Budget, No Pay”

    Be it Munger, Mendoza, the legislators who think “they know”… the Illinois constitution is quite clear when it comes to pay and legislators.

    If you are an elected official, and you still have this “no budget, no pay” silliness, or this type of silly too… you are not a serious person to governing.

  4. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 12:48 pm:

    OW +1

  5. - Frank talks - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 1:04 pm:

    Shameless grifters- you mean like running for Comptroller for over a year, with all sorts of pledges of transparency, clean up state bill backlog etc etc. Then a week after winning try to ditch the office to run for Mayor of Chicago? Now that was some real grifting.

  6. - Socially DIstant Watcher - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 1:14 pm:

    Legislators can voluntarily give a portion of their pay to the state. The Constitution doesn’t prevent that.

    Maybe Dan McConchie wants to set that example?

  7. - Techie - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 1:44 pm:

    It seems pretty cut and dry that the legislators limiting their own pay was unconstitutional, regardless of the merits.

    What I don’t quite understand is why Noland and Clayborne voted for the bills that contained unconstitutional provisions if they understood them to be unconstitutional at the time.

  8. - good luck - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 2:09 pm:

    == Legislators can voluntarily give a portion of their pay to the state. The Constitution doesn’t prevent that. ==

    Actually they can not. They must still receive it, and can later forfeit it.

  9. - RNUG - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 2:31 pm:

    == What I don’t quite understand is why Noland and Clayborne voted for the bills that contained unconstitutional provisions if they understood them to be unconstitutional at the time. ==

    Scoring political talking points for the next campaign …

  10. - What? - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 7:04 pm:

    I agree with OW wholeheartedly. I wonder how much taxpayer money has been wasted on the resources necessary to fight this inevitable loser of a legal battle?

    I genuinely like Mendoza a great deal but she does this all the time where she gets fixated on these wildly small, unimportant issues and ends up dragging them on and on to the benefit of exactly no one.

  11. - EssentialStateEmployeeFromChatham - Monday, Apr 12, 21 @ 7:23 pm:

    ==They must still receive it, and can later forfeit it.==

    They are always welcome to donate the raises to a charity or other non-profit of their choice in their districts. Maybe out of the goodness of their hearts they could even be willing to donate most of their entire salary to charity too.

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