Illinois lawmakers were in and out of the Capitol Thursday, passing a special election bill as an all-Democrat show. The Democrats control both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly, and they will in the new General Assembly that convenes next week. After Monday, the Republicans take over the governor’s office, creating what Republican lawmakers call a phony emergency.
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“We don’t have a constitutional conundrum,” argued State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), calling the measure “political thievery.” Democrats said they were simply returning the power to the people in cases in which, for example, someone is elected to a statewide constitutional office and cannot serve the final 28 months or more of their term.
The state’s voters re-elected Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican, in November, but she died in December. The state Constitution gives the governor the power to appoint somebody until a new officeholder is elected and qualified. Republicans, including Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, say their interpretation is that Rauner makes the appointment for a four-year term.
“The voters elected Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican candidate,” said State Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights). State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) differed: “We don’t own these offices. No political party has a right to control these offices. These offices belong to the citizens of the state of Illinois.”
For this case, and for any similar cases in the future, there will be a special election. Appointee Leslie Munger would have to stand for election in November 2016 if she wants to serve more than two years.
The special election for comptroller will not be a special special election. The office of comptroller will simply be added to the offices up for grabs in the regular statewide election in 2016.
H.B. 4576 passed the Senate, 37-15, and the House, 66-40, and goes to the governor, who says he’ll sign it.