Newly Inaugurated Governor Begins Work
on Tuesday, January 20, 2015
• Rauner takes oath of office; freezes nonessential State spending. As he launched into his duties as Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner issued a series of executive orders to freeze all nonessential State spending, including spending on infrastructure projects. Announcing that he will serve without pay, the new Governor announced he would impose a new code of ethics on himself and his office as part of a dramatic shift in the State political culture.
Governor Rauner has appointed Leslie Munger to be the new Comptroller of Illinois, replacing the late Judy Barr Topinka. He has made budget reform, job creation, economic growth, and educational reform four of the top priorities of his new administration. He and his staff have signaled their readiness to use additional executive orders to reorganize State agencies, abolish redundant and unnecessary offices, and reduce State spending. The new Governor is deeply concerned about Illinois’ economic standing in relation to comparable and neighboring states, and believes that genuine sacrifices will be necessary for the State to regain its standing and provide opportunities to young workers and families.
With Rauner this week was new Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti. A resident of Wheaton, Sanguinetti became the first Hispanic Lieutenant Governor in U.S. history when she joined Rauner in taking the oath of office on Monday, January 12.
Budget – Governor Rauner
• Governor orders spending freeze. One of Governor Bruce Rauner’s first acts was to order State agencies to freeze all nonessential spending. Executive Order 15-08 was an immediate follow-up to Rauner’s inaugural address, which pointed to Illinois’ history of poor fiscal management. The governor and his top team are aware that Illinois currently has the lowest credit rating among the 50 states. The spending freeze order is described here.
Some forms of spending are expected to continue. For example, ongoing State-financed infrastructure projects may continue if construction has started or equipment purchased. This exemption does not apply to major State programs that are currently in the planning stage, such as the proposed Illiana Tollway. Programs funded by federal grants will be allowed to continue to spend new money from Washington. State agencies, community colleges, and State universities will be allocated limited funds to continue their essential activities. State agencies will be barred from awarding new contracts or grants during a review period to be supervised by the Governor’s office, which is expected to continue until July 1, 2015. Exceptions are provided for rolling over or amending contracts that State agencies are required to fulfill by law.
The spending freeze is expected to set the stage for negotiations to govern State budget actions during the second half of FY15. In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2015, the State’s general funds are expected to run hundreds of millions of dollars short of expected spending, based upon the spending trajectory established by former governor Quinn before he left office. Negotiations are also set to begin on the FY16 budget, which must be passed by both houses and signed by Rauner before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, 2015. The Rauner budget review is expected to generate data that will play a key role in these negotiations.
Rauner – Inaugural Address
• Governor’s inaugural address asks Illinois to return to growth pathway. In his inaugural address, delivered in Springfield on Monday, January 12, Governor Bruce Rauner asked his fellow Illinoisans to work with him to reverse the anti-growth policies of Illinois’ recent past. Pointing out that “our local businesses look in every direction and see states that are more appealing” for job creation and growth than Illinois, the new chief executive demanded that existing stakeholders recognize the danger and work with him on a cooperative path toward new policies. Reboot Illinois has reprinted the text of Rauner’s address.
Ethics – Revolving Door
• Rauner executive order aimed at stopping revolving door’s spin. Governor Rauner’s Executive Order 15-09, issued on Tuesday, January 13, placed new requirements and prohibitions upon Executive Branch employees of the State.
The Rauner order is aimed at stopping the revolving door and banning such conduct by persons leaving the State’s executive branch. The order bans executive branch employees and appointees from negotiating for employment with a lobbyist or lobbying firm. It creates a one-year-long barrier between the act of leaving an executive-branch position and accepting any compensation for lobbying. The order also sharply reduces, to a “de minimis” level, the amount of food and beverages that an advocate or lobbyist can buy for a member of the executive branch.
The Rauner order sharply increases the scope of the required annual filing of annual Statements of Economic Interest by State employees. Current law requires executive-branch employees in relatively high pay classifications, and ones with supervisory responsibilities, to disclose their holdings and interests. Under the expanded disclosure requirement, mandated disclosures will include additional information about each filer’s outside work, volunteer work, legal status, and property holdings. The Rauner order imposes this mandate upon all employees of the Executive Branch. The Rauner executive order is covered by Springfield public radio station WUIS/91.9 here.
• Medical cannabis infrastructure, other issues left behind for Gov. Rauner. Departing Gov. Quinn refused to take action on several key issues on his desk before leaving office on Monday, January 12. Particularly at issue are rules to complete a governance structure for the State’s complex system for securely dispensing medical cannabis. Although most of the required rules have been adopted, professionals say that additional rules language is required in order to complete the legal structure that will govern the opening of dispensaries and their sales of cannabis to card-carrying, approved patients. Quinn refused to sign prepared language to continue the process to be used to adopt these rules.
The ex-governor also signed legal language that, if it remains in place, will further unbalance Illinois’ already unbalanced budget by imposing new mandates on State vendors and subcontractors. Final acts taken by the departing chief executive included signing the new State law governing the licensure and operation of ride-sharing firms such as Uber and Lyft. A summary of Quinn’s final acts in office was published by the Chicago Tribune.
Quinn – Criminal Law
• Controversial pardons and commutations issued by Quinn. In a bundle of “midnight pardons” issued during his final hours as governor of Illinois, former chief executive Pat Quinn sparked additional criticism of his decisions. One of his clemency decisions, a legal paper to cut in half the 40-year prison term being served by Tammy Englerth, drew biting words from a principal prosecutor involved in the case. Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, a member of the same political party as the former Governor, called the clemency move “mind-numbing.” The Associated Press and its partner, the Belleville News-Democrat, have the story.
Under the Quinn commutation, Englerth – who pleaded guilty to murder in a case that involved the dousing of her sleeping husband with gasoline – will be eligible for parole in 2025. Other controversial moves made by the departing governor included commutation for a man who wounded several Chicago police officers during a shootout. Article V, Section 12 of the Illinois Constitution grants wide powers to governors of Illinois, including lame-duck Governors, to issue pardons and commutations.
Sunshine in State Government
• New Rauner executive order calls for increased transparency. Under current law, a small number of high-level positions in State government are exempt from civil service protection. Designated as positions essential to the making and shaping of public policy, these are the positions within State government hired by the Governor and his leadership team. On Thursday, January 15, Governor Rauner filed a new executive order pledging transparency in all of these hires.
Under Executive Order 15-10, all of these policy hires will be published on the existing Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal. They will be sorted by name of employee, name of employing agency, division within the employing agency, and the job title for which the person was hired.
The Rauner executive order was described as a response to a recent scandal involving the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The Better Government Association (BGA), a private-sector organization, studied IDOT hiring in 2013. The BGA investigators found widespread use of a legal loophole to evade civil-service laws and rules during the Quinn administration years. The study found that an unknown number of IDOT positions had been classified as executive-level, policymaking positions and exempted from civil service. Questions of possible patronage hiring, raised by the BGA investigation, helped lead to the departure of the Secretary of Transportation in the middle of the 2014 election season.