Bryant backs bill to ensure paychecks for state employees
Citing a “delicate time” for Illinois, state Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) recently voiced support for House Bill 1787, legislation that would guarantee state employees steady paychecks regardless of the state’s assets or liabilities.
Filed on the first of this month, HB 1787 would allow government workers to continue collecting their salary on time and in full through a continuing appropriation, the lawmaker told constituents via her website.
“We’re at an awfully delicate time in our state’s history,” Bryant said via her website. “Now is not the time to blow things up by taking away state employee paychecks.”
In late January, State Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion with the St. Clair County Circuit Court, asking it to void a preliminary injunction ordering state worker paychecks to continue while the Illinois budget continued to founder. Madigan asked the court to do so by Feb. 28; if the motion passed, the state comptroller would be unable to cut paychecks.
“I strongly disagree with Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Comptroller (Susana) Mendoza for supporting the motion to stop paying folks that provide vital services to our citizens,” stated Bryant on her site. “I am sponsoring this legislation to take employees off the political chessboard and get them their well-earned paychecks.”
Unions, elected leaders and the Illinois Republican Party have voiced opposition to Madigan’s action in tandem with Bryant. Illinois Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffe issued a statement acknowledging some progress in negotiations but conveying serious misgivings about the attorney general’s actions.
"While serious bipartisan negotiations have accelerated in the Senate, it is outrageous that Lisa Madigan tonight decided to put … [House Speaker Mike] Madigan's (D-Chicago) power politics ahead of hard-working families in an effort to shut down state government," Yaffe said, according to the DuPage Policy Journal earlier this month.
Bryant expressed hope that Speaker Madigan — who also happens to be Lisa Madigan’s father — would allow the bill to follow its intended path through the House Rules Committee and be considered for a hearing. Mike Madigan has been known in the past to put the kibosh on bills before they make it through the committee.
“We’ll see if the speaker and House Democrats are serious about governing responsibly,” Bryant, who represents the 115th District, said via her website. “This is their opportunity to join Republicans in making state employee paychecks a priority. Too much harm can be done to our communities if our workers aren’t being paid.”
HB 1787 revisits an issue familiar to the General Assembly. In 2014, a temporary injunction passed to protect state workers and their salaries retroactive to 2011. The appellate court ruled then that state workers were entitled to their pay, bolstered by a baker’s dozen of unions — in particular, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — that collectively succeeded where the state legislature had failed.
All workers were paid in full at that time, with the court ruling that the state had violated union contract regulations.
"Today's decision is a win for working men and women who serve all the people of Illinois, caring for the disabled, keeping prisons safe, maintaining our state parks and much more," AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said in 2014. "Moreover, it's a victory for a principle of simple fairness for all workers: A contract is a contract, it means what it says, and no employer — not state government or anyone else — can unilaterally withhold wages owed."
Some back and forth ensued in the 2014 case, but workers prevailed. Fast forward to three years later — and the issue bodes revisiting.
“We need to move fast on this bill,” Bryant said on her website. “I’ll be working the other side of the aisle very hard to gain their support.”
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