* The Tribune’s lede…
Three dozen lame-duck lawmakers learned Tuesday that there is life in state government after they leave the General Assembly, but they might face political heat if they vote for a tough measure and then land a state job with a big salary.
They also learned that they’d still be confirmed…
Over the objections of Republicans, a Senate panel Tuesday endorsed former state Rep. Bob Flider’s appointment as chief of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Flider, a Democrat from Mount Zion, had no farming experience when he was picked for the $133,273 per year job by Gov. Pat Quinn in February.
But Flider had voted for Quinn’s 67 percent increase in the state income tax during the 2011 lame-duck legislative session after having campaigned against the tax increase during his unsuccessful 2010 re-election bid.
Republican members of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee suggested Quinn rewarded Flider with the job because of that vote and one in favor of allowing civil unions, including between people of the same sex.
* Back to the Tribune…
Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said he “struggled with” how Flider could campaign strongly against a tax increase and then change his mind so quickly once he lost the election. Righter said the appointment after Flider’s switch in his position is “exactly what’s wrong with this process.”
Flider said he and Quinn never discussed his tax hike vote in conjunction with the agriculture position. Flider said he could have been “knocked over with a feather” when Quinn asked him to take the job.
Unsatisfied, Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, questioned whether Flider would even agree the appearance of his vote and the follow-up appointment “is not good.”
“I think the truth sets you free,” Flider responded, “and I know the truth, and there was never, ever any discussion, any inference whatsoever about a vote or this appointment or any appointment.”
It was no secret that Flider wanted a job after he lost his reelection bid. And it was no secret that things could and probably would be done for folks who voted the “right” way.
Even so, lots of legislators “vote their districts” instead of their own consciences, then decide to “do what’s right” when they’re on their way out. The medical marijuana bill is a perfect example of that…
Rep. Lou Lang said his “nose count” has him at or near the 60 votes needed for approval of a three-year trial medical marijuana program.
“If members vote their consciences, I’ll have the votes,” said Lang, D-Skokie.
So, Flider was a conservative, district guy when he was running for reelection and a free agent or liberal Democrat after he lost the election. It happens. But Luechtefeld is right that it doesn’t look good.
The Tribune editorial board made much of Flider’s (and others’) tax hike flip-flop, yet I can’t help but wonder if they’ll unleash the hounds if any lame ducks get state jobs for voting for the pension reform bill. A “statesman” is somebody who flip-flops in your direction. Nothing to see here, move along.
* And speaking of taxes…
A funding measure to help the Illinois Department of Natural Resources address a backlog of repairs piling up at state parks could get another look during the veto session.
The bill, Senate Bill 1566, would add $2 to the cost of a license plate renewal — currently $99 for most passenger vehicles — and provide money for the upkeep of state parks. SB 1566 could eventually bring in $32 million annually for DNR.
The bill failed in the waning hours of the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session, but DNR director Marc Miller said he is “cautiously optimistic” the bill will be called and passed during the veto session this week or next.
“We have had the opportunity to talk to more of our senators to let them know the importance of (this bill), and we have more ‘yes’ votes than we had previously,” he said. “When we tell them we have $750 million worth of backlogged capital projects and maintenance, that carries a great deal of weight.”
That bill only “failed” because it was called for a vote after the May 31st midnight deadline, so it needed a three-fifths majority. It actually received more than enough to pass if it had been called before midnight.
*** UPDATE *** The Senate just passed the fee hike bill.