Thursday, November 13, 2008

State senators scramble to pick leaders


State senators kept a light workload on the first day of their fall veto session Wednesday, focusing more on sorting out who will be their next political leaders.
Much of the nearly two hours that the Senate met was dominated by both Democrats and Republicans talking to each other and reporters about their new leadership.
Both Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, and Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, R-Greenville, are leaving their leader posts in January. Each side has a couple of favorites but also several others jockeying for the powerful roles.
Senators stressed there’s nothing decided yet, but they hope the new leaders can be picked by next week.
“Both caucuses need to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and let the people of the state of Illinois know which direction we’re headed,” said Sen. John O. Jones, R-Mount Vernon.
The House last month canceled its first week of the scheduled two-week veto session after lawmakers came back to Springfield several times this summer and dealt with most governor vetoes and other matters.
Senate leaders announced Wednesday they were canceling Friday’s scheduled session.
They put into position several measures that could head to the governor’s desk as early as today, including authority for a clean-coal power plant in Taylorville and a referendum for a sales tax increase in Peoria County to pay for a riverfront museum.
But mostly the focus was on the leadership battle.
Democrats and Republicans planned to meet privately in different locations in the capital city Wednesday evening with two goals: sort through who the serious candidates are and set a process and timeline for picking a winner.
Democrats face arguably the tougher choice because their winner will control the chamber as Senate president. That requires the votes of 30 senators, and front-runners acknowledged no one is to that point yet.
“Nobody’s near 30 right now,” said Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan. “We will be discussing this as mature adults.”
Democrat candidates denied they were offering plum committee appointments or using heavy financial support of some lawmakers this fall to win votes.
Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said Democrats may need to take several votes privately first but expect to avoid divisiveness for the official floor vote.
Republicans, meanwhile, had to scramble more to find a replacement for Watson, who announced just last week he wouldn’t return as leader after suffering a stroke. Their winner needs just 12 of the 22 GOP votes, but there’s no frontrunner right now.
They also hoped for a quick choice without any infighting and hope for more cooperation under new Senate leadership, while acknowledging there’s a downside to Democrats working together.
“They could all get along, and then I think we’d really be run in the ground,” said Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria.
“The good news is that they don’t get along, and so nothing happens. That’s better than some of the things they want to do.”
Also Wednesday:
*A Senate committee postponed action on appointments made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to the State Board of Elections, including William Quinlan, the father of Blagojevich’s legal counsel.
The Senate Executive Appointments Committee was voting on Quinlan’s appointment when it became apparent he wasn’t getting enough votes to pass.
Committee chairman Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, then announced that all of the pending appointments to the board — two new members and two reappointments — would be postponed until another date.
Both Quinlan and the lawmaker pushing for his approval said they had no idea there were problems with the appointment. One of the opponents, Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, would only say there are “still some serious questions” about the appointment.
* Senators gave a standing ovation after a brief speech by Jones honoring political protege and former state Sen. Barack Obama on his presidential win last week. Jones said lawmakers are proud to see their ex-colleague take over the country.
“It’s a great feeling for all of us to have someone from Illinois,” Jones said.

Democrat Elected Officials

  • Effingham County Board Distric G-Doug McCain
  • Effingham County Treasurer - Steve Dasenbrock
  • Effingham County Board District C - Karen Luchtefeld

Effingham County Democrats Officers

  • Chairman - Audrey Griffith
  • First Vice Chairman - Dan Niebrugge
  • Second Vice Chairman - Allen Wente
  • Secretary - James Hammer
  • Treasurer - Shirley McEvers