By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — As people were off enjoying grilled hot dogs and fireworks while braving 100-degree temperatures, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn busied himself with various bill signings and other state business.
Illinois Statehouse News has this roundup of last week’s news.
Quinn wants to auction off ‘1’ license plate
Quinn wants to auction off Illinois’ coveted single-digit ‘1’ license plate, out of circulation since 2002, to raise money for veterans’ causes.
Illinois has a history of using low-digit and single-letter license plates to reward political patronage. Former Gov. and Secretary of State George Ryan, serving a federal prison sentence for racketeering and mail fraud, was accused of exchanging prestigious low-digit license plates for campaign contributions.
Dorothy Ogilvie, the 90-year-old widow of Richard Ogilvie, governor of Illinois from 1969 to 1973, had the ‘1’ license plate until 2002, when she quietly relinquished it. The secretary of state did not put it back into circulation.
Prior to Ogilvie, a series of Roman Catholic cardinals in Chicago had the plate. Paul Powell, Illinois secretary of state from 1965 to 1970, had the plate, too.
Quinn has long championed the idea of auctioning off all of the state’s most-sought-after license plate numbers – about 25,000 of them – and at one time estimated they could bring in $25 million. Several other states have had similar license plate auctions to raise money.
“The governor thinks this particular license plate could possibly be a new source of revenue for the veterans’ assistance programs,” his spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It could help homeless veterans. It could help treat veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome. It could help veterans without health insurance. We could look at creating a program that helps veterans get jobs.”
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White would have to sign off on the idea. His spokesman said the office would want to look at the idea further.
Campaign-finance reform group cries foul over new Illinois law
Campaign-finance legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn Friday is a “wrong turn” that makes it easier for political donors to buy favors, according to a group that advocates for donation limits.
“Governor Quinn’s record on reform had a promising beginning with his signature on the 2009 bill creating the state’s first comprehensive contribution limits, but he took a wrong turn with his signature on this limits loophole,” said Brian Gladstein, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “He has opened the door to a return of Blagojevich-proportion contributions in the 2014 gubernatorial election.”
Quinn signed off on Senate Bill 3722, which removes limits on donations to political candidates once independent committees, SuperPACs, and individuals donate $250,000 in a statewide race or $100,000 in other elections.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, comes on the heels of a federal court decision in March that overturned part of Illinois’ election finance law. U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Aspen struck down a 2009 law that limited how much an individual can donate to a political action committee that spends money in an election but doesn’t coordinate with a candidate.
The new law goes into effect immediately.
Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson told the Chicago Tribune the law is necessary to keep the playing field as level as possible after the ruling by the federal court, as well as by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Essentially the rules changed,” Thompson said, “and this is a short-term solution to ensure fairness while we work on a more long-term fix.”
Quinn pares down clemency petition backlog
Gov. Pat Quinn is making headway in a clemency petition backlog that stood at 2,500 under his predecessor.
Quinn has acted on more than 1,900 petitions since January 2009, when he took office. It was unclear how many of those were part of the backlog and how many were newer petitions, according to a report in The State Journal-Register.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich did not act on many of the clemency petitions that made their way to his desk – about 800 each year.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson told The State Journal-Register the governor takes the duty seriously and is “committed to providing each petition with the comprehensive and thorough review that is necessary.”
On April 6, for example, Quinn acted on 188 clemency petitions, granting 52 and denying 136. The petitions were from 2005 through 2012.
At the time, a news release from the state of Illinois indicated Quinn had acted on 1,923 petitions since taking office. Of those, he granted 718 and denied 1,205.