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Even when he loses, governor wins

Lost ruling turns into a PR bonus

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 3:21 p.m. CDT

Gov. Pat Quinn may be one of those cases of someone who still wins while losing.

Quinn lost the court case last week that was filed by the two Democratic leaders after he cut money out of the budget to pay state lawmakers. His rationale for cutting the money was that lawmakers don’t deserve to get paid because they haven’t finished pension reform.

A judge ruled against Quinn, and Quinn said he’ll appeal. Who knows whether he’ll prevail, but it may not matter.

The decision to cut lawmaker pay was wildly popular with the public. The public may not have a high opinion of Quinn, but they don’t seem to have a much higher regard for the General Assembly as a whole. So Quinn’s shtick about lawmakers not deserving to be paid until they finish the job on pension reform fits perfectly with people who think lawmakers are largely overpaid layabouts.

So even though Quinn lost the court case, he got his PR pop out of it, and that’s pretty much what matters.

'Reboot' mute

on some issues

Ever wanted to give your lawmaker a piece of your mind? You know you have. We know this because people in the media often hear from folks who want to vent about something the Legislature did that they didn’t like.

One difficulty with this is that the news media don’t have a vote in the General Assembly. So, if you really want a lawmaker to get your message, you have to contact the lawmaker.

The difficulty with this, in turn, is that many people have no idea how to contact their lawmakers or, worse, no idea who they are. Reboot Illinois has taken steps to address at least part of this problem.

Here’s how Reboot describes itself on its website, “Reboot Illinois aims to encourage citizens to retake ownership of our governments. Through nonpartisan digital and social media, Reboot Illinois intends to engage citizens, giving them the information and tools they need to act on improving the jobs climate, schools, taxes and state debt.”

One of those things is a new feature allowing people to contact their public officials via email on certain issues. This includes their local lawmakers, legislative leaders like Madigan and Cullerton, and the governor. More important, it also allows people to find out just who represents them in the General Assembly simply by typing their home address into the site.

So far, so good.

The trickier part comes from the suggested messages to send public officials. The site has a series of issues listed covering such things as raising the minimum wage or pension reform or the progressive income tax along with a sample letter that can be sent to lawmakers.

For example, you can send a message that you do not want the state to raise the minimum wage. Or you can send a message saying that the 3 percent compounded COLAs for pension benefits must end, along with raising the retirement age for workers.

Now, if you want to say you like the idea of a higher minimum wage, or that the state shouldn’t change COLAs for retirees, well, you’ll have to compose your own thoughts on that. The site doesn’t provide that option. Also, it doesn’t provide the email addresses of the public officials, so if you want to send your own thoughts, you’ll have to add a step.

And you might want to take that step, even if you agree with the positions outlined by Reboot on these various issues. A fair number of lawmakers will tell you they’re a lot more impressed when someone takes the time to write or call and explain their positions in their own words rather than getting inundated with a bunch of form letters.

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