Thursday, November 01, 2007

Recall the governor?

It’s no secret state Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat, often disagrees with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, also a Democrat. But Franks said Thursday that he’s been so disturbed by the governor’s actions in his first and second terms that he drafted legislation to change the state Constitution to allow voters the ability to recall an elected official after they voted him or her into office.

“I don’t think I would have written it but for what’s going on in Illinois this year,” Franks said at a Statehouse news conference. “You talk about the perfect storm. It’s like this governor is the poster child for recall.”

This comes after the Chicago Tribune asked readers whether they think Illinois voters should be able to remove a public official from office, Blagojevich specifically. The Tribune then published results that showed a majority of the 1,200 readers who responded did support a recall of Blagojevich.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn stood by Franks Thursday but would not say he supports the legislation simply to get Blagojevich out of office. Rather, Quinn said he supports, and thinks voters support, the principle of recall as a tool for public accountability. And this year, being a “very disappointing year,” could serve as a vehicle for a grassroots campaign to put the question to voters in November 2008, he said, adding that it’s an ideal time because a presidential election year typically attracts a lot more voters.

In particular, Quinn said he was disappointed by the governor’s proposed gross receipts tax on businesses, the stalled ethics reform and the governor’s lack of leadership on skyrocketing electricity rates after a state law expired.

“This whole year has been so disappointing with the gridlock and the failure to respond to the public interest that I think it underlines the need for having extraordinary tools of democracy, direct democracy, like recall,” Quinn said.

In order for Quinn and Franks to secure a question on the November 2008 ballot, they would have to win approval from three-fifths of both legislative chambers. It also would require six months of public debate before being posed to voters. Three-fifths of voters then would have to say, "Yes, recall the official and elect this person in his or her place."

If it were posed to voters and approved in 2008, then it would take effect in the April 2009 elections. That would be the last year of Blagojevich’s second term. And the lieutenant governor would not necessarily be the person listed on the ballot as the candidate to replace the governor.

Franks said the recall provision would top his legislative agenda in January. “This is a perfect example, this session, why we need to have the ability to remember that the citizens control the government and that we are public servants and not their masters.”

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