Thursday, January 29, 2009

Senate president sets a new tone

By Hilary Russell
Breaking promises, dismissing the legislature and provoking unconventional — and allegedly illegal — methods of fundraising will no longer be the rule to follow, said Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, following the conviction of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The conviction immediately removed Blagojevich from office and forbids him from holding any public office in Illinois in the future.

“We found no pleasure in today’s outcome,” Cullerton said. “We cannot change the past. The people of Illinois have every right to expect a future with those who are elected to do so in a matter befitting to office.”

Surrounded by 13 of his colleagues, Cullerton laid out the challenges the state needs to overcome, including its history of machine-style politics and a major financial deficit made worse by repeated scandal.

“We removed Mr. Blagojevich, former governor, from office for three reasons,” he said. “He has demonstrated a clear inability to govern. He has shown disdain for the laws and processes of this state, and he has deliberately and pathologically abused his power without regard for the people he was elected to serve.”

Blagojevich said all week long on national TV interviews that personality conflicts with the state legislature led to his impeachment, combined with their desire to get him out of office so they could raise state taxes.

“That’s not what this impeachment was about,” Cullerton said. “We read the impeachment articles that the House charged him with, the criminal offenses and abuses of power. And that is what the debate was about.”

“We did not do this for political expediency. We’re not settling old scores. We did not conspire to remove the governor for our own amusement or advantage,” he added.

Just as emphatically, Cullerton promised that the state, the home of the newest U.S. president, is on its own path of change.

“There’s going to be a new spirit of cooperation with the House and with the governor and with the Senate to help solve our problems.”

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