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Quinn Signs Bill Abolishing Legislative Scholarships

Gov. Pat Quinn. (Credit: Craig Dellimore/WBBM Newsradio)

Gov. Pat Quinn. (Credit: Craig Dellimore/WBBM Newsradio)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation banning a scandal-plagued perk on Wednesday.

Over the last several years, the General Assembly college scholarships have been mired in accusations of misuse.

Some lawmakers have awarded the scholarships to the children of campaign donors and political allies and haven’t met the program’s one stipulation — that the winners live in their districts.

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 said. “In reality, Illinois lawmakers dole out tens of thousands of dollars to children or relatives of their buddies, political allies or campaign workers.”

Opponents cite not only the abuse, but the cost – almost $14 million in waivers by state universities that have seen government funding drop dramatically.

Many lawmakers have already stopped handing them out. Under the bill, they won’t be legally permitted to award them after Sept. 1.

Supporters complain ending the program will hurt those who really need the scholarships – poor students.

The measure to abolish the program includes a provision for a task force to study all tuition waivers, including those for children of faculty and staff at state universities. Virtually none of those discounts have generated the controversy the legislative program has.