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Move To Abolish Legislative Scholarships Advances

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Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol buillding in Springfield (AP Photo)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Another push is underway to eliminate the frequently-abused legislative scholarships that state lawmakers are allowed to hand out to students in their districts.

As WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports, the Illinois House of Representatives voted 79-25 Wednesday to end the program, which allows every lawmaker to hand out tuition waivers to students from his or her district.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports

The measure now goes to the Senate, which has backed the waiver program in the past.

Each legislator can award four-year waivers for state university tuition to two students or divide them among up to eight students.

Better Government Association executive director Andy Shaw said in January that an investigation by his organization found more than 90 cases in the last five years of legislators misusing the program as political payback.

The BGA in January launched a petition to abolish the program.

“In theory, scholarships are for deserving young people,” the petition says. “In reality, Illinois lawmakers dole out tens of thousands of dollars to children or relatives of their buddies, political allies or campaign workers.”

Last year, lawmakers tried reforming the program through legislation. But Gov. Pat Quinn refused to sign the bill, and instead tried to abolish the program with an amendatory veto.

In so doing, the governor ended up running against Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who believed Quinn was violating the Illinois Constitution. Madigan himself has voted previously to do away with the program.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) has said he would rather reform the scholarship program than abolish it.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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