Left to right: State Senators Kyle McCarter, Mike Connelly and Dale Righter
SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Pat Quinn is manipulating a legislative loophole and abusing executive privilege to get around the Illinois Constitution and avoid Senate scrutiny of his state agency director appointees, a group of Republican senators said at a press conference Thursday in Springfield.
Quinn is mauevering agency director appointments around the Illinois Constitution, which sets a clock of 60 session days for action by the Senate or the appointee is automatically confirmed, State Senator Tim Bivins said.
“That deadline for two of his agency directors would have been April 4, but Gov. Quinn withdrew their names from nomination on March 27. He then resubmitted their names on March 28, thereby restarting the 60-day period, which in effect gives them another year before they have to face Senate scrutiny,” Sen. Bivins told reporters. “Our concerns are not so much about the current appointees, but more about the integrity of the executive appointment process, which the Governor is abusing.”
The two directors currently up for reappointment are Julie Hamos, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and Manuel Flores, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Sen. Bivins has filed an amendment to Senate Bill 2014 that will close a loophole by preventing the 60-day clock from restarting by simply withdrawing an appointee and reappointing them.
Senate Republicans are also sponsoring a resolution calling for the modification of Senate Rules so the 60-day clock will not be allowed to be reset. The Caucus will also be asking the Attorney General to give an opinion on the meaning of the 60-day clock, and to clarify the legal effect of any actions taken by these appointees during the time period the original appointment messages were pending.
Sen. Connelly said the Governor’s actions only add to the public’s already negative perception of state government.
“I have been in the General Assembly four years, and there are parliamentary procedures, motions to suspend the rules, and things of that nature that you will see on a daily basis, especially at the end of session. That’s not what we have here,” Sen. Connelly said. “This is really a slap in the face of the Senate and the process that we put in place in our Constitution. Back home, there is a real skepticism and cynicism with all things Springfield. This does nothing more than adds to that unhealthy environment that is very detrimental to the long-term success of the state.”
Sen. McCarter said by trying to circumvent the Executive Appointments process, Gov. Quinn and Senate Majority leaders are ignoring the intent of the Constitution.
“We took an oath to uphold the Constitution of Illinois, which includes the power of giving the advice and consent to important appointments by the Governor. This provides a check and balance in the appointments process,” Sen. McCarter said. “By allowing the Governor to withdraw messages for his appointees and then reappoint them the next day, Senate Majority leaders are using a loophole to help the Governor avoid the scrutiny of lawmakers. This does away with transparency and any potential discussion of controversy surrounding his appointees. I consider this disrespectful to the Constitution and the people I represent. If we allow this to happen without objection, what will the next disregard for the Constitution be?”
Sen. LaHood says allowing the Governor to use loopholes in the appointment process sets a bad precedent.
“Why seek the advice and consent of the Senate if the Governor chooses to withdraw messages and reappoint people on a day-to-day basis? And inaction by Majority leaders allows these appointees to serve an entire term without consideration by the Senate,” Sen. LaHood said. “This is appalling. Why have rules? It’s an abuse of power. We should not be using loopholes and gamesmanship to appoint people to head state agencies without any scrutiny.”
Sen. Righter says Gov. Quinn has played a shell game with appointments in the past.
“This is not the first time the Governor has done this,” Sen. Righter said. “A number of his appointees have been allowed to serve for months on end without consideration by the Senate. Because of the gamesmanship of the Governor and Senate Democrat leaders, the Senate is being denied the ability to confirm these appointees as provided for in the Constitution.”
Sen. Righter cited a few cases, as examples:
• In March 2009, Jonathan Monken was appointed amidst controversy as Director of the Illinois State Police. He served nearly two years as Director without being voted upon by the Senate. Shortly before his 60th session day, in February 2011, Gov. Quinn withdrew his initial appointment and instead appointed Monken as Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, thereby restarting the clock for him, albeit with him serving in a different position.
• Manuel Flores was appointed chairperson and commissioner of the Illinois Commerce Commission in January 2010. When his 60th session day was near, Gov. Quinn withdrew his initial appointment and instead appointed him to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
• Careen Gordon campaigned against a tax increase in 2010. She lost her State Representative reelection bid, and ended up voting for the tax increase in a lame-duck session in January 2011. On Feb. 9, just a month later, Gov. Quinn appointed her to the Prisoner Review Board, an $86,000 per-year job. He withdrew her name when it was evident that she didn’t have the votes to make it out of Senate Executive Appointments Committee. That April, Gordon was hired as an Associate General Counsel for the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, an $84,000 per-year job.