Ill. SC rules for $31B jobs bill

Jessica M. Karmasek Jul. 11, 2011, 3:14pm


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline) - The Illinois Supreme Court, in a ruling Monday, unanimously upheld a job recovery bill signed into law by Gov. Patrick Quinn nearly two years ago.

Quinn says the law is "very important" for jobs in Illinois, providing $31 billion for road construction, transportation projects, clean water, broadband access, and school construction and improvements.

At issue are the law's four public acts, Public Acts 96-34, 96-35, 96-37 and 96-38.

The public acts, which consist of three substantive bills and one appropriation bill, were signed into law July 13, 2009.

Under the law, construction and other public works are funded by raising taxes on liquor, beer, candy, soft drinks, motor vehicle fees, certain grooming and hygiene products, and by legalizing video gambling.

On Aug. 25, 2009, Chicago Blackhawks owner W. Rockwell "Rocky" Wirtz and his liquor company, Wirtz Beverage Illinois LLC, filed a lawsuit. Wirtz challenged the constitutionality of the four public acts and sought to restrain and enjoin the disbursement of public funds under the new law.

The Cook County Circuit Court denied Wirtz's leave to file a complaint and refused to allow the matter to go forward.

Wirtz appealed and obtained a reversal from the appellate court on Jan. 26.

The appellate court, in voiding the legislation, found that the provisions of Public Act 96-34 were not all related to the single subject of "revenue" contained in the official title and that the remaining three public acts were invalid based on language making them contingent on Public Act 96-34.

The state's high court disagreed. Justice Anne M. Burke authored the Court's opinion.

The Court held that it was not limited to the title in applying the single subject rule and evaluated the legislation as a "capital projects" plan, which it found to be a legitimate single subject.

"There are no 'smoking gun' provisions in Public Act 96-34 which clearly violate the intent and purpose of the single subject rule," it wrote.

In its 30-page opinion, the Court said all the various provisions have a natural and logical connection to that subject, establishing revenue sources to be deposited in the Capital Projects Fund. Those provisions that do not directly raise revenue implement those which do and, thus, are related to the overall subject, it said.

"In the debate on Public Act 96-34, although a few legislators remarked that they disliked some of the revenue sources, particularly video gaming, they also commented that the bill was reached through compromise and with the goals of putting people back to work and improving the state's infrastructure. We interpret these remarks as legitimate compromise on a bill which comprised a single subject," the Court wrote.

"Indeed, there is a difference between impermissible logrolling and the normal compromise which is inherent in the legislative process. A diverse and complex enactment such as Public Act
96-34 is likely to result from compromise and negotiation among the members of the General Assembly. The presence of such legislative compromise does not mean that the Act violates the single subject rule."

Instead of remanding to the appellate court, the Court addressed all of the claims raised in Wirtz's complaint, even those not addressed by the appellate court.

The justices rejected all other constitutional challenges and affirmed the circuit court's judgment.

Quinn, who signed the law just a few months into his term, said in a statement Monday that he was pleased with the Court's decision.

"It is very gratifying today for the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously to vote in favor of this law, to uphold the law, to reverse the appellate court," he said.

"What this means is our job recovery program can go forward, full speed ahead."

Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan also touted the Court's ruling.

"The working families of the Illinois AFL-CIO applaud the Illinois Supreme Court on its unanimous decision today. The capital construction bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Quinn puts Illinois solidly at the forefront in the country in job creation and infrastructure investment," he said in a statement.

"As we climb out of the worst economic slide since the Great Depression, Illinois has made an investment that will, most assuredly, create a climate of economic renewal well into the future. Thousands of Illinoisans are working on projects that make our state a better place to live and work. This decision keeps those projects moving and people on the job."

He added, "Again, the Supreme Court decision affirms what we believed -- that the capital bill was created lawfully and with the best interests of the state in mind."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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