There is no shortage of goofiness at the Illinois Statehouse these days. Some players are goofier than others, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich usually gets most of the coverage.
Blagojevich has the top job, so he naturally gets the attention, and many of the things he's done this year certainly qualify as goofiness, from his silly lawsuits against the House Speaker, to his truly gigantic tax hike proposals, to his numerous false claims about his accomplishments, to... well, you read the papers, so you know the story all too well. The point is, Blagojevich is definitely not alone.
For instance, it's no secret that Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington wants to run for governor in 2010. He ran for governor last year and lost the GOP primary, and ever since he's attempted to set himself up as a top Republican critic of Gov. Blagojevich.
Brady is a popular, well-liked legislator, but he has had his goofy moments this year.
During debate on the state budget bill last summer, Brady said he hoped that the governor would veto the bill. Then, a few minutes later, Brady voted for the very bill that he said he wanted Blagojevich to kill.
But that's not all. After Gov. Blagojevich did actually veto part of the budget bill, Sen. Brady began agitating to have the General Assembly override those vetoes.
Now, it's not as simple and clear-cut as it looks. The governor's vetoes were blatantly political and in many cases harmful and hypocritical. But Brady has jumped around more on this thing than an espresso-chugging frog.
Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora), like Brady, is trying to move up the political ladder with a run for US Congress. Lauzen voted against the budget bill when it came up last summer, but last week he was calling for a veto override. If that doesn't make sense to you, then you're not alone.
The House Republicans have been hemming and hawing for months about how to pay for what's known in Springfield as the "capital bill." What we're talking about here are construction and repair projects on things like roads, bridges, schools, etc.
The House GOP leaders say they're for the multibillion dollar capital program favored by Gov. Blagojevich, and claim they can support more gambling to pay for the projects, but they've refused to actually climb on board a single gaming proposal in months, even though the Senate Democrats, the Senate Republicans and the governor have all endorsed a specific proposal. Instead, they appear to be waiting for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan to come up with something. Lots of courage there.
Then there's Speaker Madigan. The House's čber leader was infuriated when Senate President Emil Jones broke his word and refused to allow a Senate vote to override the governor's budget vetoes. Jones had promised to support the budget right down the line, no matter what. But Jones blamed Madigan for interfering with his chamber's attempt to pass a completely separate bill for an earlier capital plan and used that as an excuse to back away from his budget agreement.
Last week, Speaker Madigan used Jones' actions as an excuse to refuse to pass two bills which were part of that overall budget agreement. Without those bills, schools won't receive hundreds of millions of dollars in aid this year, the State Police and Secretary of State may run out of cash for operations in January and not-for-profit agencies which care for the developmentally disabled won't receive a crucial injection of state funds. But, hey, what's so wrong with threatening widespread misery when there's a political fight at hand? Oy.
Still, though, nothing quite says "goofy" quite like Rod Blagojevich.
A couple of weeks ago, Blagojevich announced that he was using some of the money he vetoed from the budget to pay for free mammograms for Illinois women. The money really wasn't coming from the vetoes, which I've already told you before, and there is already lots of money for mammograms in the state budget.
What I didn't tell you before was that Blagojevich actually vetoed a $40,000 appropriation to a group called Sisters Embracing Life. The money was supposed to be used to provide breast exams for minority women. Perfect.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.