CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn was moving to call a special session of the Illinois General Assembly next month to vote on legislation to set up a special election in 2016 for the Illinois State Comptroller’s office.
Quinn, who is expected to name a temporary successor to the late Judy Baar Topinka by the end of the week, wants lawmakers to approve a special election coinciding with the 2016 presidential election, so voters can choose someone to serve the final two years of the term to which Topinka was elected in November.
The governor was filing a special session proclamation with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office on Friday. The proclamation would bring the House and Senate back into session just four days before Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner is sworn in, and less than a week before new state lawmakers are sworn in.
Topinka died last week, about a month before she was sworn in, leaving open the question of who would appoint her successor, and for how long.
The Illinois Constitution gives the governor power to appoint a successor when there is a vacancy in the state comptroller’s office, but as Topinka died after she was re-elected to a new term, but before she was sworn in, it was unclear if Quinn would have the power to appoint a successor only to finish out the final month of her current term, and then Rauner would appoint someone for her full four-year term in January, or whether Quinn’s appointment would serve both terms.
Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said it’s likely legislation requiring a special election for the comptroller’s office would be unconstitutional.
“The only route to enact a special election for a statewide officeholder that is absolutely consistent with the Constitution is passing a constitutional amendment. Additionally, any major change like this should apply to all future vacancies and be carefully and thoughtfully discussed – not rushed through in a last minute special session that would look overtly political,” he said.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has issued a legal opinion that both Quinn and Rauner have authority to appoint successors — Quinn for the final month of Topinka’s current term, and Rauner for her upcoming term. However, Madigan urged lawmakers to approve a special election in 2016 so voters could decide who would finish out Topinka’s term.