Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quinn wants speedy end to legislative scholarships

By Jamey Dunn

A day after House Speaker Michael Madigan rejected his plan to abolish legislative scholarships, Gov. Pat Quinn renewed his call for lawmakers to put an end to the embattled program.

“We should abolish political scholarships altogether in Illinois. I think every citizen feels that way, and it’s time for the legislature to wake up,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago today. Last spring, lawmakers approved a bill that would ban legislators’ family members from receiving the tuition waivers. Quinn used his veto pen to rewrite House Bill 1353 so the measure would outlaw the program altogether.

But Madigan said Quinn has overstepped his amendatory veto powers. “It’s not in compliance with the constitution as it relates to the use of the amendatory veto. That’s very clear,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Quinn argued today that he and Madigan agree on the subject of scholarships. “He has voted in the past himself to end this program.” The governor said he wants the $13 million spent on legislative scholarships each year to instead go toward the Monetary Award Program. “We should devote our scholarship money to those who have the merit to go to college and the need [for help] to go to college. Political connections shouldn’t play a role in any way, shape or form.”

Skokie Rep. Lou Lang, a longtime member of House Democratic leadership, said Madigan’s support for the issue is irrelevant. He said the speaker has historically been opposed to allowing governors to use their veto pens to make broad changes in the legislation that lands on their desks. “Even if he likes the changes, he has not allowed those bills to be called to a vote because they violate the Constitution.”

Quinn said today that he would back a new bill to outlaw the scholarships, but he wants to see it approved within the next month. “There are some legislators who are very contentious and have not abused the program. But, unfortunately, too many have. And we have example after example over decades of this program being abused,” Quinn said.

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