- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

EDITORS:

NEWS DIRECTORS:

The Associated Press appreciates all editorials submitted to share with other members. They should be sent to our main email address, chifax@ap.org. Please write “Editorial Submission” in the subject line. Also, please remember that we try to use editorials with appeal and interest for a statewide audience, and that not all submissions can be used. If you have any questions, please contact AP-Illinois News Editor Hugh Dellios at 312-920-3624 or hdellios@ap.org. Thank you.

The AP-Illinois

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January 12, 2015

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Business as usual

There’s nothing special about a special election for state comptroller.

Given the regular beatings legislative Republicans take at the hands of majority Democrats, it’s easy to understand why they are angry about last week’s vote to hold a special election in 2016 to fill out the remaining two years of the late Judy Baar Topinka’s term as comptroller.

But in the context of the democratic process, it’s hard to take umbrage with the idea that elected officials should be elected by the voters rather than appointed to fill a full four-year term. As stupid as it is to have an elected comptroller, that’s the situation.

As most people who pay attention know, Topinka died suddenly after being re-elected in November to a four-year term that begins today. Attorney General Lisa Madigan concluded that Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner had the legal right to fill Topinka’s vacancy with a four-year appointment of Leslie Munger to the post. Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative Democrats, however, clipped the four-year term in half by meeting in a special session Thursday to pass legislation calling for a special election for the remaining two years of Topinka’s term.

Democrats, who dominate the state, hope and expect to win the office back in 2016. Republicans fear and expect the same thing. So members of the GOP are angry that Democrats used their legislative supermajority to take away that which Republicans worked so hard to win.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called the Democrats’ action “shameful,” suggesting they were slapping Republican Rauner in the face before he even took office.

Nonetheless, the Democrats have the better part of the argument. As a practical matter, they did the right thing even though they did it for the wrong reasons. Had it been the Democrats benefiting from a four-year appointment, they wouldn’t have lifted a finger to change things.

What really matters about the comptroller’s office was not discussed in much detail. It ought to be abolished, along with the treasurer’s office, their functions consolidated into one unit that would save taxpayers roughly $10 million a year and work just fine.

Speaker Madigan, however, opposes that good-government proposal because he supports the bad-government status quo that provides unnecessary offices for his political associates to seek. Undoing that long-standing Illinois practice is just one of the huge challenges facing Illinois’ new governor.

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January 8, 2015

Rockford Register Star

Free speech lives despite attempts to silence it

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are not easily extinguished. Masked gunmen who killed 12 people at a satirical magazine needed only to look around the world to see that their dastardly deed did not silence free thinkers.

Quite the opposite. Charlie Hebdo, the French magazine attacked by terrorists on Wednesday, is planning its biggest issue ever. The surviving staff plans to print 1 million copies of the next edition, well more than the typical run of 30,000.

Other French media are offering assistance, and journalists and cartoonists from across Europe are expected to contribute to next week’s edition.

Rallies took place across France and Europe on Wednesday and Thursday as people mourned the deaths of the French journalists and the law enforcement officers assigned to protect them.

There were at least 150 rallies in France alone. In Paris, a giant illuminated sign written in English summed up the sentiments of the crowd: “We are not afraid.”

In the United States, we often don’t appreciate the rights granted by the First Amendment.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans can’t name any of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, according to the State of the First Amendment Survey released last year by the Newseum Institute.

Freedom of speech was the right the respondents knew best: 68 percent. Freedom of religion was next at 29 percent.

One-third of those surveyed think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

Would those survey results be different if taken today? Sometimes it takes horrific events to remind us how precious our rights are.

Ever since Salman Rushdie wrote “The Satanic Verses,” a novel accused of being anti-Islam, extremists have tried to stifle free speech.

Rushdie was “sentenced to death” in 1989 by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini because of that novel. He hid from Islamic extremists for more than a decade.

“I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity,” Rushdie told The Associated Press. “‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”

The terrorists who invaded Charlie Hebdo did not silence speech. They created martyrs in the name of free speech.

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January 7, 2015

The (Freeport) Journal Standard

‘Judy’s Amendment’ should be approved

So many people advocate the consolidation of Illinois’ two financial offices, comptroller and treasurer, that you would think that such a measure would be a slam-dunk in the General Assembly. Sadly, there’s no such thing in Illinois politics.

On Monday, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner appointed Leslie Munger to fill out the four-year term of Judy Baar Topinka, who died in December. Rauner, Munger, Topinka, incoming state Treasurer Mike Frerichs, outgoing Treasurer Dan Rutherford and a host of others think Illinois should have one financial office that invests the state’s money and pays its bills instead of the current divided-duties setup.

Topinka called for consolidating the offices as far back as 1997. Her death may provide the impetus for change.

Legislation that would combine the offices is being called “Judy’s Amendment.” Democratic state Sen. Kwame Raoul and Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy plan to introduce the measure Thursday when lawmakers return to Springfield on Thursday for a special session.

Their proposal would put the question to voters in the 2016 election.

The state Senate passed bills calling for such a referendum in 1998, 2000 and 2011. Those bills never went any further because they got stuck in the House Rules Committee, which is where legislation goes to die.

Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, who controls what gets voted on in his chamber, is concerned about whether there would be proper oversight and safeguards in a combined office.

We’ll let Topinka answer that one.

“Now everything is computerized,” she said during a meeting with the Editorial Board in 2012. “We use the same numbers so we don’t have to reconcile the same numbers. We’ve got the auditor general, we’ve got the bureau of the budget, we’ve got four legislative committees that look at this, we’ve got the legislative audit commission. We’ve got enough oversight to choke a horse.”

If lawmakers only do one thing Thursday - and we hope they do only one thing - it should be to approve “Judy’s Amendment.”

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