SPRINGFIELD - Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's plan to abolish the office of lieutenant governor in 2015 advanced Wednesday despite Republican concerns that too many proposed constitutional amendments might be vying for the November ballot.
Madigan's proposed amendment, which now heads to the full House for
consideration, comes in the wake of Scott Lee Cohen's decision to
resign his position as the Democratic lieutenant governor nominee amid allegations of steroid abuse and domestic violence.
Madigan said the Cohen scenario provided "added interest" to his decision to propose abolishing the post, but it's been an idea he's considered for months. "My position is we don't need the office," Madigan said of the lieutenant governor post.
Under Madigan's measure, the attorney general - a post now held by Madigan's daughter, Lisa Madigan - would be next in the line of succession if the governor resigns or dies. The proposed amendment allows for a member of the other party to assume the office if the governor dies or resigns.
Under his plan a lieutenant governor elected this fall would serve a four-year term, then the position would be abolished.
If approved by both houses of the General Assembly, Madigan's measure would go before voters in November along with the proposed recall amendment, an idea championed by Gov. Pat Quinn that would enable Illinoisans to oust a governor from office.
In a letter to Democratic leaders, House Republican leader Tom Cross warned that a "judicious and prioritized approach" is needed to decide which amendments should go before the voters due to restrictions on the number that can appear on the ballot. Other amendments under consideration, for example, include redistricting reform and a progressive income tax.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Lou Lang's proposal that would require candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a team in the primary cleared a House committee Tuesday. Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said his proposal made more sense than completely abolishing the office because it "would solve the problem you've heard recently of candidates not being vetted by political parties."
The lieutenant governor, paid $135,669 a year, commands an office budget of roughly $2.5 million with 29 staff members. While the only constitutional duty is to serve as a substitute governor, the office has been given the tasks of running the Illinois Main Street program, the River Coordinating Council and the Rural Bond Bank of Illinois.
The Democrats have yet to slate a replacement for Cohen despite the throng of candidates who want the job. The party's central committee will make the decision, but its members aren't scheduled to meet until March 15.
Quinn had wanted Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates as his running mate, but she said this week she wasn't interested in the job.
In other election news, state Sen. Deanna Demuzio of Carlinville advanced a proposal that would move the primary election from February to the third Tuesday in March. Similar legislation passed through a House committee Wednesday.