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GOP Leader: Dems Blocking Effort To End Controversial Scholarship Program

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Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol buillding in Springfield (AP Photo)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – The state’s controversial legislative scholarship program — which allows lawmakers to provide free tuition to state universities to students in their districts — is still alive, despite several attempts to end it. And a top Republican lawmaker says Senate Democratic leaders won’t let efforts to repeal the program come up for a vote.

Illinois Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) says she looks “cynically” at the Democrats’ insistence on placing three different bills that would kill the controversial program into a subcommittee of the Senate Executive Committee.

Radogno says Democratic leadership – not calling out the Senate president by name – simply wants to stall the issue. She made her comments during and after an Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday, at which she expected the proposal to be discussed. Instead, it was sent to subcommittee.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports

The House has already passed a proposal to repeal the program, and that measure has 38 listed co-sponsors in the Senate, more than enough to pass the bill if it is called for a floor vote.

During Wednesday’s Executive Committee meeting, State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Elmwood) explained why all that bill and two similar measures have been sent to a subcommittee, rather than left at the committee level for a hearing.

“The first two bills – your bill and Senator Kotowski’s bill – were assigned some time ago. The assignment of Senator Frehrich’s bill to subcommittee is merely to put them all in the same venue, so that we can have that discussion,” Harmon said. “I expect a bill will emerge from the subcommittee. It seemed appropriate to have them all in the same venue, and we’ll have that hearing.”

Asked when the proposals would get a hearing, Harmon said “very soon.”

The program has garnered some unfavorable publicity for lawmakers; some of the recipients have come from families which are campaign donors or are otherwise politically connected.

Other lawmakers have apparently violated the rules of the program by awarding the legislative scholarships to students outside of their districts.

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