Editor's note: This is Part 3 of a three-part series examining this topic. Part 1 can be read here; Part 2 is available here.
In a firm but amiable
pushback to measures recently passed by Cook County Board commissioners,
Barrington officials recently passed an ordinance to opt out of the county’s
newest laws, using delicate wording from the Illinois constitution to back
On Nov. 14, village
trustees unanimously approved an amendment to the village code that stipulated
village businesses must comply with federal and state laws, but did not have to
adhere to any additional obligations regarding paid sick leave or minimum
hourly wages imposed by ordinance by the Cook County Board.
In October, the county
board overwhelmingly supported ordinances gradually increasing the minimum wage to $13 an hour and mandating paid sick leave, up to five days a year, for
non-tipped employees. Both ordinances are set to take effect July 1, 2017. Only
Republican commissioners, including Tim Schneider, who represents Barrington, among
other communities in his district in the county’s suburban northwest corner,
voted against the measures.
Illinois state constitution provisions allowing municipal ordinances to
supplant conflicting county ordinances, quickly drew up its own ordinance in
response to the county action. Village President Karen Darch noted the village
is split between two counties, Cook and Lake, and disparities between the two
parts of town could be detrimental to economic development in the village.
“[We needed] to have
an ordinance that gives certainty to employers on both sides of Lake Cook Road,
[so that] the rules are the same on each side of the street,” Darch said. “This
is an issue for us. It’s important for our business community to have some
certainty … you don’t want people to have that factor in their heads if they’re
looking at properties downtown.”
Providing a level
playing field across the county was an argument used by Democratic proponents
of the ordinances, which were brought forward after the city of Chicago passed
nearly identical measures.
municipalities able - and willing - to opt out, that logic has seemingly
“It actually does nothing
to provide uniformity; it opens up a Pandora’s box of patchwork mandates that
employers must follow,” said Michael Reever, vice president of government
relations for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the county’s
Even as the county
matches Chicago’s paid sick leave and minimum wage requirements, individual
communities like Barrington can enact their own mandates, leaving the county
with varying policies from municipality to municipality.
spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, said the county
government understands the concerns of municipalities like Barrington, but
stands by the county board’s decision.
“A lot of the
commissioners that voted for minimum wage also have segments of the suburbs in
their districts,” Shuftan said. “In terms of the issue for Barrington, being in
two counties, I think the strong preference would be this be done statewide.
But we’re not at the point. The state doesn’t even have a budget; there’s huge
dysfunction in Springfield. The county board decided we wouldn’t wait.
“Doing something is
better than doing nothing.”
Home-rule isn’t final
Some have believed
that only home-rule communities have the authority to enact an ordinance to
preempt one passed by the county. If that was the case, Barrington, a
non-home-rule community, would not have the authority to sidestep the county’s
paid sick leave and higher minimum wage ordinances.
But the wording of the
Illinois constitution, Article 7, Section 6(c), provides “if a home rule county
ordinance conflicts with an ordinance of a municipality, the municipal
ordinance shall prevail within its jurisdiction.”
“That’s speaking about
a home-rule county ordinance, but the implication of that provision is not limited
to home-rule municipalities,” said Jim Bateman, Barrington village attorney.
“It applies to any municipality.”
Bateman also noted
that he received a copy of a letter addressed to Republican Commissioner
Timothy Schneider from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, in which the
office said “it is critical to note that a municipality whose ordinance
conflicts with Cook County’s ordinance does not have to be a home rule unit of
government for its ordinance to prevail under Section 6(c).”
The letter had been
drafted on behalf of former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. She was
defeated in the March Democratic Party primary by Kim Foxx, who was then
formally elected Nov. 8 and was sworn in as the county’s new top attorney Dec.
“When the chief legal
officer of the county in question is also giving the county board the same
opinion, we do feel confident our conclusion is in line with the Cook County
State’s Attorney’s opinion,” Bateman said.
Barrington, which also
voted against a 2014 referendum to make the village a home-rule community, may
be one of the first to pass such new legislation, but the village is hardly the
only one to consider it.
Schneider said most of
the communities he represents are contemplating regulations to avoid complying
with the county’s mandates, noting Hanover Park likely would pass an ordinance
and others were working on it.
Hoffman Estates Mayor
Bill McLeod said there was “no urgency” regarding the matter, but the village
board likely would begin conversations soon to determine what steps, if any,
the board would take.
home-rule community, actively monitored the county’s ordinances requiring the minimum
wage increase and paid sick leave for some time before they were enacted, said
Allison Albrecht, communications manager for the village, and the village is aware
of its ability to opt out. But there are no current plans to take action, she
The village will,
however, continue to consult with the Schaumburg Business Association and regional
business and tourism promotional organization Meet Chicago Northwest, to
determine if further action is necessary.
have decided to tend to immediate business first - such as passing annual budgets
- and worry about the ordinances next year as the July implementation date gets
legal action by his constituency, Schneider’s colleague and fellow Republican, county
Commissioner Sean Morrison, also sought an advisory opinion from the Cook
County State’s Attorney as to the length and expense of a protracted lawsuit,
should the paid sick leave ordinance pass and be challenged in court.
The State’s Attorney
responded in July by saying it was impossible to calculate such possibilities,
but did note that “cases challenging Cook County’s home-rule authority have
taken two or more years to be decided in the Circuit Court and one or more
years to be decided in the Appellate Court.”
Attorney Adam Lasker
of Ancel Glink, an Illinois firm specializing in municipal law, doesn’t believe
many, if any, municipalities will sue the county board on the constitutionality
of its ordinances.
While it would be a
question of law, one that would not require witness testimony, it still “would
be a $100,000, $200,000 piece of litigation to go through the Illinois Supreme
Court,” Lasker said.
And taxpayers would
foot the bill for such legislation.
Lasker also highly
doubts the county will sue a municipality for not following its ordinance.
Until the issue is
brought to court, however, the true power and meaning of Section 6(c) is “up in
the air,” he said.
Meanwhile, the county
board will watch to see what municipalities choose to do, Shuftan said.
“I think communities
need to do what they feel is in their best interests,” he said.
said the county’s leadership still believes Cook County was right to enact the
ordinances, to try to equalize wage opportunities for workers in Chicago and
the county’s suburban communities.
you’re going to keep your wage at a certain level, and right down the street in
a different town at a similar establishment, [someone] is making more, where do
you think the workers are going to go?” he said. “It’s one of the things that
we’ll have to see play out.”