Illinois governor says he'll rewrite bills to improve them

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

CHICAGO -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich once was compared to a dictator for using his authority to change legislation. Now one state senator says the governor is playing king with a new plan to rewrite bills sent to him by lawmakers.

The Democratic governor will use his amendatory veto to rewrite bills he contends he can make better, and plans to announce some revisions today -- launching what he's calling his "Rewrite to Do Right" campaign.

"He apparently thinks he is king, not governor," Republican state Sen. Christine Radogno of Lemont said.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero on Tuesday wouldn't detail changes the governor plans to any of the bills he'll rewrite, but said they will involve health care, public safety and ethics, and will be relevant to the bills.

Radogno said Blagojevich is egging on lawmakers he has feuded with by changing bills. She said it would be a misuse of authority if Blagojevich makes wholesale changes to bills that lawmakers didn't intend when they passed them.

One of the current bills Blagojevich has said he is interested in "taking positive action" on is a campaign finance reform measure that would impose the state's first major restriction on money politicians can accept.

It won't be the first time Blagojevich has infuriated lawmakers by rewriting legislation.

Earlier this year, the governor used his amendatory veto to tweak a bailout plan for Chicago-area mass transit agencies by demanding senior citizens across the state get free rides on their local public transit services. Lawmakers ultimately went along with his changes, but were angry about how they transpired.

Depending on what Blagojevich chooses to change, he could further erode his relationship with lawmakers already at odds with him over funding for a statewide construction program.

For example, powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, Blagojevich's political nemesis, could simply refuse to call for a vote on bills Blagojevich changes.

"We'll look at," the changes, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.

Former Republican governor Jim Thompson said he used the amendatory veto to try to improve bills. Lawmakers are the check on that executive power because they can reject changes they don't like.

"He's not out of bounds," Thompson said of Blagojevich.

Thompson's Chicago law firm has been paid legal fees by Blagojevich's campaign fund since an investigation into his administration's hiring practices.

Blagojevich said Tuesday he wasn't concerned whether lawmakers felt he was usurping their power because it's up to them to decide whether to go along with him.

"The legislature passes laws, and the governor has the opportunity to rewrite those laws," he said.

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