Mike Madigan Cleans House
By Kevin Robinson in News on May 8, 2009 2:00PM
Stepping in to do what Governor Pat Quinn has been unwilling or unable to, House Speaker Mike Madigan introduced legislation Thursday that would, in one fell swoop, terminate all political appointments who were nominated by the Governor between January 11, 1999 and January 29, 2009. To wit, the Officials and Employees Termination Act of 2009, HB4450,
Provides that the terms of office or employment of all designated officials and employees are terminated, by operation of law, effective on the effective date of the Act. The designated officials and employees are (i) the heads, assistant heads, and deputy heads of executive State agencies who were nominated by the Governor between January 11, 1999 and January 29, 2009 for a position that requires the advice and consent of the Senate, (ii) members of executive boards or commissions who were nominated by the Governor between those dates for a position that requires the advice and consent of the Senate, (iii) employees of executive State agencies or executive boards or commissions, whose employment in a Rutan exempt position began between those dates, (iv) employees of executive State agencies or executive boards or commissions, appointed to a term appointment between those dates, and (v) any other official or employee who was nominated by the Governor between those dates for a position that requires the advice and consent of the Senate.
Rutan v Republican Party of Illinois was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990, and extends First Amendment protection to public employees, preventing promotions, transfers, recalls from layoffs, and hiring from being influenced by party affiliation. In this incident, there are a group of jobs in Illinois that are "Rutan exempt", that is, jobs that are explicitly related to the party affiliation of the employee. This gives elected officials, especially the governor, the freedom to appoint and terminate whom he chooses, regardless of laws preventing political influence in hiring. Generally this means advisers, officers and agency heads.
Quinn and state legislative leaders have sparred over the replacement of agency heads appointed by George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. Quinn has said that he wants to clean house, but has been busy with the state budget, capital projects bill and comprehensive ethics reform. That hasn't been good enough for Madigan, who is frustrated with having to deal with many of the same people in state government that he did under Blagojevich. Although regime change is certainly in order in the state of Illinois, as Eric Zorn pointed out on his blog, the mass termination of agency heads and officials could leave state government without qualified experience and talent to manage the state. Whether this turns out to be a major step forward in cleaning house, or just another diversionary tactic while the General Assembly sits idly by remains to be seen. Here's hoping we don't miss another chance to make our government work, winding up hobbled on the sidelines, once again.
Ed's Note: Since Kevin filed this story last night, the Sun-Times has published an article that includes some quotes from Gov. Quinn expressing optimism over the bill's chances of passing. Said Quinn, "I think it's a good idea. I think it's one we need to use to reassess everything in state government, and if we see anything that is improper, we can act accordingly." - M.G.