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Illinois House wants voters to abolish lieutenant governor job

By Ray Long

Clout Street

6:36 PM EDT, April 11, 2013

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SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House today approved a measure that would ask voters whether to eliminate the job of lieutenant governor, but the proposal has a long way to go before the much-maligned office would disappear.

The measure must pass the Senate and then win approval in a statewide vote because it would change the Illinois Constitution. If all that happened, the change would not take effect until 2019, leaving the job on the organizational chart for one more term following the 2014 election.

Illinois’ ranks of lieutenant governors are unusual. One quit, saying he was bored. Another wanted to quit to host a radio talk show but eventually stayed. A third, George Ryan, eventually rose to governor and went to prison.

The current second banana, Sheila Simon, is against abolishing the office.

Sponsoring Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said the statewide position is a “luxury” that the cash-strapped state cannot afford, saying Illinois could save $1.8 million by eliminating the job.

Opponents maintained the position is needed for a smooth transition in case a governor dies or leaves office, and they argued the annual price tag of running the lieutenant governor’s office could be slashed by lawmakers.

Current Gov. Pat Quinn moved from lieutenant governor to governor when lawmakers booted now-imprisoned Rod Blagojevich from the top job in January 2009. Quinn then won his own term as governor in 2010. In between,  the lieutenant governor’s office was empty during the nearly two years after Quinn took Blagojevich’s term when he was booted.

The McSweeney measure would make the attorney general the successor if the governor leaves office or dies.

In a statement, Simon’s office said she is “neutral  on the current proposal, as we support the opportunity for the public to provide input in their government through referenda. That said, we are opposed to the idea of abolishing” the lieutenant governor’s office.

The House voted 83-28 for the proposal, which needed 71 to pass. Under the measure, the proposal could go before voters next year.