The Illinois House last week voted to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would let voters decide whether to abolish the office of lieutenant governor.
The amendment is still a long way from getting on the ballot. The Senate must still approve the measure, and face it, when’s the last time something was on the ballot to eliminate a statewide office, despite numerous efforts? Try never.
This is not to say that Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is doing a poor job. On the contrary, she is doing more with the office than many of her predecessors.
But it’s hard to overcome the stigma of a job where, over the years, two people have quit to find more fulfilling work.
Still, it was interesting to hear the arguments from representatives who thought the job should be saved. Take Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie. He was concerned that maybe a successor other than the lieutenant governor might not be up to speed.
“The next person is one who is sitting in this chamber or in this building,” Lang said. “That person is not one who is necessarily familiar with the legislative process, not familiar with the bills that are heard, not familiar with what we are doing necessarily.”
Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, raised the same point.
“We need to consider the repercussions very seriously,” he said. “There’s a big difference between being a governor and an attorney general.”
That’s a reference to the fact the next person in the line of succession for governor after the lieutenant governor is the attorney general. Right now, that would be Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is widely considered to be mulling a run for governor in 2014.
No doubt, when they were questioning the qualifications of an attorney general to be governor, they were thinking about some other attorney general.
Then there was Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst.
Among the issues he raised for getting rid of the office was the fact that Capitol tours don’t even take in the lieutenant governor’s offices, which are tucked away at the far end of a corridor on the second floor.
“Children don’t go there to tour,” he said. “They come to see the governor’s office, or the secretary of state or the attorney general.”
Last week’s Senate Executive Committee was one of the more entertaining committee hearings in a while. Probably for all of the wrong reasons.
The subject of the hearing was the proposed gambling expansion bill and the Illinois Gaming Board’s thoughts about it. The Gaming Board regulates casino gambling in the state with an eye toward keeping bad elements out of it.
Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, has sponsored several gaming expansion bills, including the current one. So he wasn’t pleased when Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe described those previous efforts as ethically lacking and had a list of concerns about the current bill.
Link was even less pleased that Jaffe made his thoughts known to the media when asked about gambling expansion, rather than bring his concerns to the senator.
“I heard myself being criticized on TV, radio, everywhere else by you [Jaffe], but this is the first time we’ve had a meeting,” Link said at the hearing. “I appreciate your showing up.”
“That’s very magnanimous of you, but I would say that you have attacked me more times than I have attacked you,” Jaffe came back. “You’ve been absolutely atrocious in that regard.”
“If I’m atrocious, it’s because you have whipped the living daylights out of me on TV, stage and screen, and I haven’t been on stage and screen,” Link said. “But we’ll get over that right now.”
Trust us, that kind of exchange between a lawmaker and a witness doesn’t happen often.