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Illinois GOP seeks to close appointment loophole

Published: Friday, April 4, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST
Caption
State Sen. Tim Bivins

SPRINGFIELD (AP) – Senate Republicans crying foul after Gov. Pat Quinn used a rare procedural maneuver to try to aid the confirmation of two appointees announced several efforts Thursday to close what they described as a constitutional loophole.

State Sen. Tim Bivins' amendment would prevent an extension of the 60 session days of consideration the Senate has by law to confirm appointments made by the governor. Senate Republicans are also sponsoring a modification of the Senate rules, and have asked Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to issue an opinion on the current law.

"This flies in the face of the constitution and its intent," Bivins, of Dixon, said of Quinn's actions. He noted that under the constitution, "the potential exists to make all appointments in this manner."

Quinn faced opposition from the chamber's black and Latino caucuses over budget cuts and other issues in the reappointment of Julie Hamos as the director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and in appointing Manny Flores as the head of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The governor's withdrawing the names of Hamos and Flores from consideration by the Senate and then moving to re-nominate them allows the time clock on the appointment process to restart, giving supporters of the an extra 60 days to secure votes in their favor.

Hamos, a former state lawmaker from Evanston and director of the agency since 2010, oversaw an overhaul of Medicaid that included $2.7 billion in cuts. Black and Latino caucus members had asked Quinn to replace Hamos, arguing that the cuts came down hardest on the neediest of their constituents. Republicans, at the same time, have criticized her for moving too slowly to implement Medicaid reforms.

Flores, a Chicago Democrat and former city alderman, has had repeated political clashes with state Sen. Willie Delgado, a ranking member of the Senate appointments committee.

The chamber's deadline to act on the Hamos and Flores appointments was the end of this week. Senate Democrats supportive of the appointments acknowledged that neither Hamos nor Flores would have likely been confirmed had the vote been held.

Quinn said Thursday he used the procedure to give Senate President John Cullerton extra time.

"We were happy to give it to him," Quinn said at an unrelated event in Chicago.

Cullerton's spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon, said the governor and the Senate president spoke about using the maneuver, which she called "very rare and somewhat unprecedented."

Phelon said Cullerton "does personally support both nominees" and noted he "really does think that Hamos was doing an able job and thinks she deserves more time for consideration."

Republican senators also pointed to past examples of times the governor has used the maneuver, including when Flores was appointed chair and commissioner of the Illinois Commerce Commission in January 2010. Close to the 60 day deadline, Quinn withdrew his appointment and instead appointed Flores to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

"Somebody has to be called on the carpet for it," State Sen. Darin LaHood of Dunlap said.

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Follow Kerry Lester on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kerrylester

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