State Senate confirms Flider, Smith appointments


SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Senate Wednesday approved Gov. Pat Quinn’s controversial appointments of two former Democratic legislators who lost their 2010 re-election races and later voted for the 2011 state income tax increase.

Former Rep. Bob Flider of Mount Zion will serve as director of the state Department of Agriculture, and former Rep. Mike Smith of Canton will become a member of the Educational Labor Relations Board.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, noted that Flider campaigned against tax increases and civil unions in 2010, but  voted for both when he was a lame-duck legislator in January 2011.

“Anyone who’s been here for more than a term, more than a year in fact, has noticed the increasing number of people back home ... who look at the Capitol building with disgust,” Righter said. “They say, ‘You know what? That building more and more is filled with people who are taking care of each other.’”

Righter argued that Flider’s focus while in the legislature was not on agriculture issues, making him unqualified for the job. But state Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-Champaign, said Flider has done a good job while waiting for the Senate to act on his appointment. The Senate approved Flider on a 33-16 vote.

Republicans argued that Smith does not meet technical qualifications to be on the Educational Labor Relations Board. State statute requires that appointees to the $93,926-a-year position have five years of direct experience in educational labor matters.

“Self-admittedly, he does not meet the requirement here,” said state Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap.

State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, who sponsored Smith’s appointment, said Smith told him the auditor general’s office had sent Smith an email saying that Smith’s 16 years on the House committee dealing with education makes him qualified.

“I think that he’s a very serious, hardworking individual. I support it because I think Mike has done a good job and will do a good job,” Koehler said. The Senate confirmed Smith on a 33-21 vote.

Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 782-3095.