Doug Finke: Governor will have clout after Emil Jones

Doug Finke

Uh, oh.

Senate President EMIL JONES, D-Chicago, announces his retirement and pffft, there goes Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s clout in the General Assembly. Oh, there are a handful of rank-and-file lawmakers in Blagojevich’s corner, but only Jones had the power to force votes on stuff Blagojevich wanted or bottle up stuff that the governor wanted stopped. When the General Assembly cranks up a new session next spring, that clout won’t be there anymore.

Knowing Blagojevich, he right now has his lawyers looking into how he, the governor, can appoint the next Senate president and once again bypass the legislature.

Then again, Blagojevich views Illinois as having a benevolent dictatorship form of government, so who needs any friends at all in the legislature?

Some lawmakers were positively gleeful about Jones’ pending departure. Without Jones, they figure, Blagojevich can be completely isolated and the General Assembly can finally end the gridlock resulting from the hatefest going on between the governor and House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago. Everything’s going to be beautiful.

If only it were that simple. There’s the chance the fight over a new Senate president could turn nasty and leave the Democrats a deeply divided bunch, possibly leading to more gridlock.

The next president won’t be in blind lockstep with Blagojevich as Jones was, but he also can’t be perceived as a Madigan stooge. One candidate, Sen. RICKEY HENDON, D-Chicago, summed that up last week. Hendon said he will work with Madigan, but he doesn’t want the speaker getting the idea he runs both the House and Senate. More possible gridlock.

And, Blagojevich is still governor. He can veto or rewrite what lawmakers do. Basically, he can still wreak havoc if he chooses.

So things may change for the better in Springfield, but it’s not guaranteed.


Now that the Senate has rejected those odious pay raises for itself and judges and top state officials, we’ll see if anyone follows through on their pledges to change the way those raises are handled.

The system under which the Compensation Review Board recommends salaries is designed to shield lawmakers from political fallout for taking more money. The system is so convoluted that voting “no” means you want a raise.

Before Jones succumbed to pressure from his members and the public and allowed the Senate to vote on the raises, there was a lot of talk about changing the system. Separate lawmaker pay raises from the others covered by the Compensation Review Board. Make the system more “transparent” so that you have to vote “yes” to get a raise.

Yes, there was a lot of talk about changing the system, but there’s always talk about changing the system. It never gets done. Two years from now, when the pay board next makes recommendations, expect more talk about changing the system because it never got changed after the 2008 debacle.


”I’m glad to finally be a plaintiff in a lawsuit, not a defendant.” Springfield Mayor TIM DAVLIN who is part of a lawsuit filed to keep the state from moving 150 transportation jobs to southeastern Illinois. The city of Springfield’s been sued at least a dozen times since Davlin was first elected in 2003.

As an aside, the lead attorney on the transportation lawsuit is DON CRAVEN of Springfield. Now Craven can say he’s had Davlin as both a defendant and a client.


Opposition to the transportation move surfaced in an unlikely place last week.

The Southern newspaper based in Carbondale editorialized against the idea. Carbondale is only about 40 miles from Harrisburg, where Blagojevich wants to move the Division of Traffic Safety.

The newspaper didn’t buy Blagojevich’s argument that moving the division to southeastern Illinois is economic development since he’s only shuffling jobs around, not creating new ones. Southern Illinois may benefit, it said, but Springfield will suffer.

The newspaper also noted that evidence shows the move will not save the state money, as claimed by the administration. It also raised concerns about whether, if Blagojevich could move things into southern Illinois, he could also move things out if he wanted to boost some other part of the state’s economy.

“From just about every angle, this plan appears flawed,” the newspaper said.

So much for Blagojevich’s plan to buy support in southern Illinois with Springfield’s jobs.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527