Democrats Thursday altered one of Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's first big decisions before he even takes office next week by creating a special election in 2016 for Illinois comptroller.
Rauner picked Lincolnshire Republican Leslie Munger to fill the late Judy Baar Topinka's four-year term.
But Democrats in the legislature today sent Gov. Pat Quinn a plan to create a special election in the middle of that term, and the governor says he'll sign it into law, invoking Topinka's name to express his support.
"The late Judy Baar Topinka was a woman of the people," Quinn said. "She understood that government officials must be accountable and responsive to Illinois citizens."
Republicans said the move was purely political, made to give Democrats a chance to take the office in two years and undercutting Rauner before he's sworn in Monday.
"Everybody's talking about how they can't wait to be bipartisan again and work on these problems together and the tone is so important," state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said to Democratic Senate President John Cullerton. "And the first thing you do, the first partisan punch thrown in the year, was by you."
"This is meant to give people a chance to have an election," Cullerton said. "We don't know who's going to run, we don't know who's going to win. The principle is, I think it's something that we should do."
The full Senate approved the plan by a 37-15 vote, and the House followed by a 66-40 vote, with suburban lawmakers splitting along party lines.
Munger says she'll run for the post in 2016 if there's an election.
The legislation calls for a special election when a statewide office comes open when there are more than 28 months left in a term.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said the legislation would "strip an incoming governor of his executive authority" and would likely be challenged in court.
Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo said Munger wasn't elected and voters should have a voice in the matter.
"Democratic institutions are never weakened by increased participation of the people they serve," Franks said.
In the coming year, lawmakers could debate whether the state should have both a comptroller and treasurer. Combining the two in order to save money would require an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that could be approved by voters in 2016 at the earliest.