Governor's lawsuit pointless and petty

Daily Herald Editorial Board
Published8/31/2007 12:28 AM

You might think, looking back over the year he's had so far, that Gov. Rod Blagojevich would be hard-pressed to find even one more way to further diminish his leadership stature.

This is a year, after all, in which he fought for a gross-receipts tax that had virtually no public support; stayed out of Springfield when he could have been engaging lawmakers; questioned the moral fitness of those who merely disagree with his policy views; and stubbornly held legislators hostage in the capital all summer as he tried to impose his will concerning a health-care plan that enjoys little more public backing than the gross-receipts tax.


But if that's been your line of thinking, then you've been proven wrong. The governor reached even deeper this week into his repertoire to pull out a trick as pointless as it is petty.

He has sued House Speaker Michael Madigan, insisting that his Democratic colleague has usurped the governor's constitutional authority by either not calling members to attend special legislative sessions or by not convening those sessions at the governor's appointed time.

Now it is true that Madigan thumbed his nose at some of the governor's endless calls for special sessions, at one point directly telling rank-and-file members to go home instead of sticking around for yet another meaningless special session. But state senators did not always show up in large numbers for the special sessions either, yet Blagojevich is not suing Senate President Emil Jones. But then, Jones is protecting from veto the governor's questionable channeling of budget funds into health-care programs by way of amendatory veto.

If Madigan has been cavalier about the governor's calls for special legislative sessions, he also has been Illinois' taxpayers' most valuable player this year, correctly blocking a Blagojevich agenda that simply had little public backing.

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And though he'll never say so, that is probably the governor's deepest motivation for filing this lawsuit. It represents, we suspect, one more way in which Blagojevich is attempting to punish Madigan for failing to fall in line on his legislative agenda.

This is not how effective governors govern. Effective governors campaign on the agenda they intend to pursue if elected. They build their cases from the ground up, respecting opposing points of view even as they try to win over skeptics through persuasive logic. They work with legislative leaders and lawmakers regularly, looking for compromise and common ground when they encounter differences that can't be turned into quick consensus.

But running to the courts to complain that the speaker convened a meeting at 10:15 a.m. instead of 2 p.m.? That's a gimmick a governor resorts to when he's failed to exercise genuine leadership.

Illinoisans will be well served if the courts kick this one out and suggest that the governor find something more productive to do with his time.

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