Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If the flame is extinguished - UPDATED

By Jamey Dunn
Quinn is sticking to his back-up plan of tackling ethics issues at the ballot box if the legislature does not approve substantial reforms by the end of this session. However, the state Constitution limits the issues voters can petition to get on the ballot.

“If things don’t go exactly according to plan, there is a process in Illinois that exists that allows people to go to the ballot box,” Quinn said outside his Statehouse office this morning. “And I haven’t been a stranger to that over the years, and we certainly will examine that, if necessary. But, I hope it isn’t.”

Despite Quinn’s generally optimistic and cooperative tone, Quinn essentially said if the legislature fails to make major changes in the way state government operates, he would look to the voters to do it for them.

He’s tried to do that in the past. However, the proposals were blocked from the ballot by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1976, when it ruled the initiatives did not fall under the limited scope set by the Constitution. The state charter limits voters from changing anything other than the section that deals with the legislature. And any proposed changes have to pertain to “structural and procedural subjects.”

The governor said he would like to broaden the way voters can amend the Constitution by allowing them to also consider initiatives related to ethics, which he said would “give the voters ongoing power to enact ethics wherever needed.”

Quinn backs other changes that were not recommended in the report, including recall of elected officials and extending public financing beyond judicial races to the other branches of government. He said that he hopes to get a recall amendment on the ballot in 2010. UPDATED: Lawmakers are considering several recall amendments. Some would grant voters the power to recall executive officers only, and some would apply to the legislative and judicial branches, as well.

Commissioners said they could not reach a unanimous decision on whether to recommend a recall amendment, so the report lists “recall” as needing further consideration.

Quinn said that because many of the proposed ethics reforms have been discussed for years, the General Assembly should be able to make decisions on them by the end of session. “The people of Illinois are impatient, and they feel it shouldn’t take long at all to enact good government and clean government.”

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