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Scott Reeder: People, not politicians, should hold power

January 18, 2019

SPRINGFIELD — In case you haven’t figured it out, some politicians hold the people who elected them in contempt.

Skeptical?

Well, look no further than what state Rep. Lou Lang did last week. Lang, who has served in the General Assembly since 1987, was re-elected Nov. 6 and then resigned last week before his new term would begin.

So, why would the Skokie Democrat do this?

Well, the voters won’t get to decide who will serve in his seat for the next two years, a party boss will decide. What party boss? Well, that would be the Niles Township Democratic Chairman — Lou Lang.

Yep, he gets to choose his replacement.

And guess who might be among those seeking the job? Becky Lang.

That’s right, his daughter. The Chicago Sun-Times reported this possibility last week. Becky Lang wouldn’t tell the paper what her plans were. Lou Lang said he would encourage her to apply.

And after 32 years in the General Assembly, what are Lou Lang’s plans? Well, he is joining a lobbying firm.

So, think about this, folks. He not only is picking his replacement — who could be his daughter. But he’s picking a person he will be paid to lobby.

That stinks.

Former State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, posted on social media, “He ran for office and before even being sworn in to begin to serve his term of office he has resigned. It is shameful. He should be remembered for this self-serving act. Now, his party will pick a replacement to serve for a full two-year term that the voters did not select. And that new state representative will most likely run again with the power of incumbency. Democrats should be ashamed of themselves.”

Sorry, Jeanne. It’s not just a Democrat problem. Or a Cook County problem. It’s an Illinois problem.

For example, in November 2010, state Sen. Gary Dahl, R-Granville, won re-election, and less than a month later, he called it quits allowing Republican bosses to appoint his replacement.

Or there is the case of Sen. Denny Jacobs. The East Moline Democrat who resigned in 2005 after 18 years in the General Assembly. He successfully lobbied Democrat Party bosses to appoint his son, Mike.

But those are just two examples of what is a common practice in Illinois.

The Illinois Constitution requires that the person who fills a vacancy be of the same party as the departing lawmaker. But it leaves it up to the Legislature to determine the process for filling the vacancy.

Not surprisingly, lawmakers decades ago chose to empower party bosses with this task.

That’s unfortunate.

In a democracy, power should rest with the people, not the politicians.

A constitutional amendment requiring special elections rather than appointments for legislative vacancies ought to be considered.

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