SPRINGFIELD - The lieutenant governor's office would be eliminated beginning in 2015 under a proposed state constitutional amendment filed Wednesday by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The proposal comes on the heels of the scandal-plagued candidacy of Chicago Democrat and pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen for the office. Cohen announced this past weekend he'd leave the ticket and forgo the nomination as pressure grew over his past.
Shortly after his primary victory, stories emerged about a 2005 arrest for holding a knife to his girlfriend's throat. Those charges were later dropped. But next came allegations of steroid abuse and other claims of physical violence from divorce records.
Although he initially balked at giving up the nomination, he acquiesced after talking to Madigan, the influential chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, who said he warned Cohen the personal scrutiny he was undergoing would get worse.
Cohen was an unknown until he spent $2 million of his own money to secure the nomination. His candidacy has again prompted questions of whether the lieutenant governor's office is needed.
The winning Republican lieutenant governor candidate, however, sees the post as worth keeping.
"Getting rid of the lieutenant governor would be just one more job lost under Mike Madigan's long reign in Illinois," said Jason Plummer, the 27-year-old Edwardsville Republican voters picked last week.
Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown said the amendment was filed to keep discussions going and noted that Republican lawmakers had filed nearly identical proposals as recently as last year. Brown said Plummer is welcome to come testify regarding keeping the office.
Candidates for lieutenant governor and governor run separate of each in the primary and then are paired into their party's ticket for the general election. The lieutenant governor has no real official duties other than to serve as a replacement should the governor die or be ousted, which is how current Gov. Pat Quinn became governor.
As proposed in Madigan's amendment, a vacancy in the governor's office would be filled by the attorney general, who is next in line after the lieutenant governor under the Illinois Constitution. The current attorney general is Madigan's daughter Lisa.
The lieutenant governor, paid $135,669 a year, commands an office budget of roughly $2.5 million dollars with 29 staff members. Among the duties it has taken responsibility for are oversight of the Rural Bond Bank, the state's Main Street program and the River Coordinating Council.
There are no provisions to fill the office if the lieutenant governor dies or quits. As such, Illinois has no current lieutenant governor.
In order for office to be eliminated entirely, lawmakers would have to approve putting the constitutional amendment before voters - possibly in November - who would then have to ratify the change.
Daily Herald staff writer Timothy Magaw contributed to this report.