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House votes to scrap lieutenant governor's office

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SPRINGFIELD--The Illinois House voted Thursday to do away with the state's second fiddle.

A push to change the state Constitution by eliminating the lieutenant governor's office passed the legislative chamber by an 83-28 vote, with two members voting "present." It needed 71 votes.

State Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills), the constitutional amendment's lead House sponsor, described the office as a nearly $2 million per year drain on the state budget.

"This is a luxury we can't afford," McSweeney said, citing the state's $9 billion backlog of unpaid bills, its underfunding of social services and its budget-driven borrowing difficulties.

"I strongly believe this is a symbol to the people of Illinois...that we're serious about cutting spending," McSweeney said.

Under his plan, voters would be asked next year to sign off on the elimination of the office in 2019. If the governor died or become otherwise incapacitated, the attorney general would take over for him or her.

If the Senate approves the plan and it goes before voters, the state Constitution would be changed if either three-fifths of those voting on the question in November 2014 or a majority of those voting in that election approve it.

Critics defended the office now occupied by Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, noting how its existence ensured a smooth transition in power to Gov. Pat Quinn when Rod Blagojevich was impeached and ousted as governor in 2009.

"We've just gone through a time in Illinois history where it was important to have a lieutenant governor," said state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who voted against the amendment.

Simon has signaled her intent to leave the lieutenant governor's office after this term and run for a different statewide office, including possibly comptroller or attorney general.

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