Sunday, May 31, 2009

House approves recall provision

By Jamey Dunn, with Hilary Russell contributing
Illinois voters could have the chance to vote on whether they want authority to boot the governor from office, thanks to a measure that passed the House Saturday.

The House approved a similar effort last year after frustration from then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s alleged corruption scandals. But it stalled in the Senate.

This year’s measure, Constitutional Amendment 31, would allow voters to cast their ballots on whether they want to change the state Constitution to include a so-called recall provision.

Many said that the provision should include the ability to recall all constitutional officers. Franks said he would like to add that later, but in the wake of the alleged Blagojevich scandal, he wanted to give voters a way to address corruption in the governor’s office.

“I firmly believe if we’d had it during the last administration, we’d have used it,” he said. Franks added that he thinks the legislature would have never removed Blagojevich from office had he not been indicted.

Gov. Pat Quinn Quinn said a recall provision would make the legislature accountable because if a corrupt politician had to be removed, the General Assembly would have to sign on to the effort, along with voters.

The requirement to have legislators sign off on recall drew the most ire from Republicans. They said that making voters get lawmakers’ approval takes the power away from the people.

Republicans said they want Franks to hold the bill and negotiate some changes. Franks’ measure would not need to be approved until six months before the general election to get on the 2010 ballot. But Franks said it could be called in the Senate after the midnight deadline Sunday, when the legislature adjourns.

Here are some numbers associated with the recall process laid out in the bill:
  • A governor must be in office for 6 months before the recall process is started.
  • 20 House members and 10 Senate members from both parties would have to sign off on an initial recall proposal from citizens.
  • Once legislators approved the measure to put the question on the ballot, individuals seeking to remove the governor would have 150 days to round up the signatures to put the question of whether to remove the governor before voters. They would need a number of signatures equal to 15 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. For instance, Franks said the number of signatures currently needed would be 750,000 based off of the 2006 election.
  • There must be at least 25 different counties with 100 signatures each.
  • This version of the bill would only apply to the governor’s position, and it contains new safeguards intended to prevent abuse of the power. These new aspects came under fire from House Republicans.

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