Friday, April 15, 2016

Do we need a lieutenant gov?

It’s a perennial issue – as in someone always introduces it before the General Assembly, there’s a bit of debate, then it fades away from consideration until some future year.

The second-in-command at the Capitol Complex is one of the least-powerful people imaginable
Specifically, I’m referring to the continued effort to do away with the position of Illinois lieutenant governor. State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, has introduced a measure that ultimately would create a voter referendum.

LET THE PUBLIC decide if we ought to have a specific individual designated as the governor-in-waiting, in the event that something happens to drive the current governor from office.

There are those people who argue that the lieutenant governor’s position is a waste of money. It has no assigned duties, other than whatever the governor is willing to let the person do.

Some lieutenant governors literally accomplish nothing on their own – remember the tales of how then-lieutenant governor Patrick Quinn went for more than a year without speaking to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, because the governor so thoroughly cut him out of the loop of what was taking place in government.

McSweeney argues that ultimately doing away with the position would save the $1.6 million that was included in the last state budget for the position – whose only real responsibility is to be alive and thriving in the event that something happens to the governor.

SUCH AS BACK in 2009 when Blagojevich was impeached, and much of  the certainty over removing the governor from office was because it was known who would take over.

There wouldn’t be any political power plays of people trying to undermine each other to become the governor. On the very day that Blagojevich was removed from office by the Illinois Senate, Quinn took the oath of office to finish that term, then win one of his own back in 2010.

Which is actually the reason I think it is misguided to erase the position. I realize the Illinois constitution provides a line of succession in the event of dramatic circumstances that force even a lieutenant governor out of office – which has never happened in Illinois.

It would be the state attorney general who gets to be first in line. But I can already hear the outrage in my mind that would be expressed if that were to happen now.

WOULD IT BE right for the current governor, Bruce Rauner, to be replaced by Lisa Madigan – not only an opposing Democrat but the daughter of Rauner’s main government opponent, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan?

I’m sure Michael Madigan wouldn’t mind that scenario – although I suspect if he really wanted his daughter to be the governor, he’d have run her for office in the 2014 election cycle.

Perhaps it makes sense that the governor have some say in picking who replaces him to finish out a term – if that becomes necessary. Although an argument can be made that he ought to nominate his running mate – similar to how presidential candidates pick their would-be vice presidents.

Because the current system of having lieutenant governor candidates run independently always creates the situation for hostile pairings. The classic case of that was when Republican Richard Ogilvie served as governor with Democrat Paul Simon as his running mate.

SOME MIGHT EVEN use the Blagojevich/Quinn pairing as an odd match – although what the current system usually creates is a case for weak candidates who can’t win any other position deciding they’ll slip in the back door of government by running for lieutenant governor!

Some might even say our current lieutenant governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, is the classic example. She had never held electoral office outside of municipal government in Wheaton before she was tabbed by Rauner, who used his influence to get her the 2014 election victory.

All in all, changing the lieutenant governor set-up would be a sure-fire headache inducer. People would be bound to find fault to matter what is done.

Which might be the ultimate reason to leave well enough alone!


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