Madigan wants 3,000 of their appointees fired

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SPRINGFIELD -- Thousands of politically connected workers would be swept from the top state agency jobs or board appointments they got from scandal-tarnished ex-Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich under a measure offered Thursday by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The powerful veteran Southwest Side lawmaker indicated he was impatient with how quickly Gov. Pat Quinn was moving on his repeated vows to "fumigate" state government of its corrupt past.

But Madigan also acknowledged talking to the governor about the legislation, and Quinn said he welcomed provisions that would give him a freer hand to terminate some appointees.

Overall, Madigan estimated about 3,000 people would be affected by his plan, which includes Ryan and Blagojevich appointees who were subject to approval by the Illinois Senate, or who served in positions exempt from political hiring restrictions.

"At the very beginning, my advice [to Quinn] was, using his words, 'fumigate the government,' get the Ryan and Blagojevich people out of there," Madigan said at a Capitol news conference. "And as I said, I'm not satisfied with the pace of change. I think it has to be accelerated and that's the purpose of the legislation."

Several lawmakers privately have chafed at Quinn's reliance on several Blagojevich holdovers, particularly in budget making.

Madigan said lawmakers tossed Blagojevich out of office Jan. 29 but still are "constantly coming up against the same people we were disagreeing with under Blagojevich" when dealing with state agencies.

The legislation would give Quinn a 60-day transition period and would allow the governor to reappoint terminated workers.

Quinn spokesman Robert Reed said efforts to change government personnel have been complicated by putting together a budget, a public works program and ethics reform.

"It has been a priority for him and you should not think otherwise," Reed said.

Yet Madigan's move represents another indication of how leading lawmakers are driving the state's agenda more than Quinn as the new governor approached his 100th day in the office Friday.

House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego called Madigan's plan an "extreme measure" but said he wanted to look at it and consult with the Democratic governor, whom he called a "highly ethical, principled, reform-minded guy."

Also Thursday, the head of Quinn's reform commission met with state Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and signaled the administration is further backing down from its all-or-nothing approach to the panel's recommendations on cleaning up government.

"I heard enough today to think that there is meaningful agreement," said former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins, the commission's chairman. "Now is it going to be everything? No, it's not going to be everything, but that's the process."

Tribune reporters Monique Garcia and Rick Pearson contributed to this report.

rlong@tribune.com

arueff@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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