Labeling it "inappropriate interference" with local government, Gov. Bruce Rauner has vetoed legislation that could lead to Lake County voters' electing the chairman of the county board beginning in 2020.
The measure, introduced in January by Democratic state Sen. Terry Link of Vernon Hills, would have required a 2018 referendum in which voters would decide whether to make the chairman a publicly elected post or leave it for other county board members to decide.
Lake is the only Chicago-area county where voters do not directly elect the county board chairman. Under the current setup, the chairman is appointed every other December by other members of the board.
"Current law already allows for a sufficient process by which Lake County can change its selection process," Rauner said in the announcement of his veto. "This issue should be resolved at the local level instead of pursuing a change of state law that addresses a highly political local issue to create a new process for a single county."
Lake County Board leaders praised the veto Monday. Board members unanimously passed a measure earlier this year objecting to the legislation.
"Gov. Rauner's veto allows Lake County to be treated like every other Illinois county and keeps this decision in the hands of voters, not Springfield power brokers," board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said in a news release. "I urge the members of the Illinois House to vote in favor of the governor's veto and preserve local control of local and county government."
His bill now returns to the legislature, where a three-fifths majority would be needed to override the veto. The measure passed the Senate by a 33-18 vote, enough for an override. But it passed with just 61 votes in the House, 10 shy of what's needed for an override.
Link said he doesn't believe the House votes are there for an override.
"I'm disappointed because I wanted to give voters a choice," he said. "I thought that instead of it being up to 11 (a majority) of county board members, it should be for 350,000 Lake County voters to decide."
In the meantime, Lawlor on Monday touted the Lake County Commission on Government Reform and Accountability, which the board formed this year to study issues like those presented in Link's bill and provide leaders and community members an opportunity to propose reforms. The commission is charged with evaluating and making recommendations on: if and how to implement a countywide elected board chairman; implementing independent redistricting reform for county board districts; and reducing the size of the county board.
The panel held its first meeting in May and is expected to deliver a final report to the county board by the end of the year.