Letters to the Editor

Guest viewpoint: Abolish lieutenant governor, let succession follow voters’ choices

For several year, I have supported the elimination of the office of lieutenant governor in Illinois as a means of improving efficiency and saving taxpayers’ money. I agree that voters should be given the option to abolish the office. What I, and many others, have come to disagree with over time is the line of succession that would follow when a governor dies, resigns or is removed from office prior to the end of his term. Under the current Constitution and statute, the job of governing Illinois would fall to the lieutenant governor , followed by the elected attorney general, the elected secretary of state, the elected comptroller, elected treasurer, president of the senate and speaker of the house. It is the governor and the General Assembly that set priorities and chart the direction of the State of Illinois, not an attorney general or secretary of state. Voters elect a governor and lieutenant governor — on a joint vote since the 1970 Constitution resolved the issue of Republican Gov. Richard Ogilvie and Democratic Lt. Gov. Paul Simon serving together — who together represent the principles, goals and values of one political party.

In the event of a vacancy in the governor’s office, it is logical that a member of the same political party succeed him or her to continue the path that voters statewide chose.

As a Chicago Tribune columnist noted, replacing the current Republican governor with Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan or any Democrat, should the office become vacant, would “offend the ideals of democracy.”

I support the positive intentions of saving taxpayers’ money and eliminating redundancies, but not having a well-thought-out line of succession is too problematic to ignore. We need to be sure we aren’t moving forward with a process where a person is next in line to become governor if he or she has a completely different approach to governing — an approach that was not supported by the voters. It was clear to me, after listening to many people, that the most recent attempt to abolish the office lacked the necessary legislative support, evidenced by the Senate’s overwhelming rejection of an identical proposal April 21 with Republican and Democratic opposition.

What I heard from a number of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and from citizens is that the current succession order is flawed. My proposal would abolish the office and add the minority leaders of the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives to the succession order in the event that one party held all other constitutional offices and majorities in the General Assembly. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats rejected my proposal, and voters in November won’t have an opportunity to abolish the lieutenant governor’s office.

Amending our state Constitution is a serious responsibility, and I don’t believe half-measures are the appropriate path to take. I will re-file my proposal to abolish the office and amend the succession order in the next General Assembly. It will still save taxpayers at least $1.6 million a year and, just as importantly, protect the will of the voters.