Capitol Notebook: Jefferson was against governor's plan before he was for it

State Capitol Bureau

Play of the Week

After initially expressing opposition to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's revision of one of his bills, Democratic Rep. Chuck Jefferson of Rockford saw things in a new light and urged his fellow House members on Wednesday to accept the governor's changes. They did.

In its earlier incarnation, Jefferson's bill would require health insurers to continue covering for a year dependent, full-time college students who leave school or reduce classload because of a catastrophic illness or injury. Under Blagojevich's additional language, parents would have the option of simply keeping children on their private health plan until they turn 26 - or, in the case of veterans, the age of 30

Jefferson explained his change of heart by saying he believes in expanding health care.

"Plans do change sometimes," he said.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which also has to agree to the governor's revisions before they can be implemented.

Head Scratcher

Andy McKenna, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, took rhetoric to an extraordinary height. When he introduced a news conference at the foot of the Abraham Lincoln statue outside the Capitol Thursday, McKenna tied the modern Illinois GOP to Lincoln and compared the divided government of Illinois to no less a struggle than the Civil War.

"I'm here to say that we're a party that stands together and stands with Abraham Lincoln," McKenna said. "Abraham Lincoln was famous for his House Divided speech. If he were here today, he would have to tell a story of a house divided that's even more outrageous than the one that lived in his time."

When Lincoln spoke of a house divided, he was referring to the division of this nation between slave and free states. The Civil War subsequently ensued, prompting some 500,000 casualties -- a conservative estimate.

Yet McKenna saw fit to not only presume what Lincoln might say if he were alive today. He also had the gall to suggest that division in Illinois government -- which comes down to a trio of Chicago Democrats in an overblown ego war -- somehow is "even more outrageous" than slavery and our nation's bloody war with itself.

Quote of Note

"I'm just hoping to get my name recognized out here," said Earl Godt, the Democratic candidate for the Illinois House 94th District seat, as he milled around the State Fairgrounds on Governor's Day while clad in a T-shirt emblazoned with his own name. Godt, of Macomb, faces longtime Republican incumbent Rich Myers in the November election.

Number to Know

$1.2 billion. That's the size of the scaled-back capital program the Illinois House of Representatives voted for on Wednesday. It's substantially less than the $25 billion program the governor wants, but Blagojevich called the House action a good start.

Coming Up

The Illinois Senate returns to the Capitol at 2 p.m. Tuesday to consider two bills the governor wants to rewrite through his amendatory veto power. The House accepted the revisions on Wednesday, but they also need Senate approval before they can take effect.

State Capitol Bureau