Senator Syverson disappointed by Quinn’s politically-motivated special session

Thursday, December 18, 2014

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) sees Governor Pat Quinn’s recent call for a January 8th lame-duck special session as one more action in a string of politically-motivated, ethically-questionable moves in the waning days of his final term as governor.

“I am disappointed that Governor Quinn is continuing with his last minute disruptions of state government. The Governor is well aware of what is written in the Illinois constitution. To try to take political advantage of the tragic and sudden passing of Treasurer Topinka is extremely offensive,” said State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).

Senator Syverson points to recent legal interpretations of the Illinois Constitution on the matter. The Illinois Supreme Court has held that “the State constitution is supreme within the realm of State law.”  See People v. Gersch, 553 N.E.2d 281, 287 (Ill. 1990).  In this case, Section 2 of Article V of the Illinois Constitution governs the terms of office and the timing of elections for state officers, including Comptroller.  It speaks in clear and mandatory terms in two important respects.  First, the “officers of the Executive Branch shall hold office for four years beginning on the second Monday of January… until their successors are qualified.”  As the Attorney General indicated in her advisory opinion, that means that a vacancy will occur in the Comptroller’s Office for the term of office that runs from January 12, 2015 to January 14, 2019. Second, Section 2 also provides that the state officers, including the Comptroller, “shall be elected at the general election in 1978 and every four years thereafter.”  

If the General Assembly were to pass a state law that creates a special election for the Comptroller in 2016, that law would violate the express terms of Section 2 in two ways.  First, it would presumably create two two-year terms of office, despite the fact that Section 2 clearly provides only for a four-year term that runs until January 14, 2019.  Second, it would provide for an election of a state officer outside of the schedule established by Section 2 requiring that the election of the Comptroller will be held every four years after 1978.

Section 7, Article V dealing with vacancies does not authorize the General Assembly to order a special election to fill a vacancy or replace a person who is appointed to fill a vacancy.  Rather it says that the Governor “shall fill the office by appointment” and that person shall “hold office until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified as may be provided by law.”  The phrase “as may be provided by law” modifies “qualified” and not the word “elected.”

“The Governor’s actions speak loud and clear, he doesn’t care about the voters, he’s just trying to find a way to put a Democrat into the Comptroller’s office, regardless of what the constitution clearly states,” said Senator Syverson. “And we should all remember who will bear the financial burden of a special session and any potential special election, the taxpayers. This state doesn’t have the cash to waste on any more of the Governor’s political moves.”

Senator Syverson pointed to recent actions by Governor Quinn to rush through appointments as evidence of his true motives. The moves include signing his former campaign manager to executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, by pressuring his appointees to that board to vote his way. Three of those appointees’ terms have already expired.

“The fact that he has been appointing his political allies to high-salaried long-term positions just weeks before leaving office shows Quinn’s true intentions,” said Senator Syverson. “Instead of working with the new Governor-elect, he has chosen to be disruptive and continue to place more road blocks and land minds in the path of the incoming administration. This show the public the partisan side of Pat Quinn that many of us have seen behind closed doors for years.”

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