Though Illinois' late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka won't serve the term she was elected to in November, her views could still make an impact on the office. Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association says that the best way to honor Topinka's memory and continue her legacy into the office's new term would be to combine the state comptroller and treasurer positions, an idea Topinka advocated for during her life. He thinks Gov. Pat Quinn should take up the issue during the special legislative session planned for Jan. 8, which already has questions about how to find Topinka's successor on the agenda.
The situation also raises another question voters should answer sooner rather than later: Whether to save money and improve efficiency by combining the state offices of comptroller and treasurer.
Topinka favored consolidation, which could save taxpayers $12 million a year, and supported a proposal in 2011 to consider mandating a merger by amending the Illinois constitution.
The Senate unanimously approved a voter referendum, but the House never took up the issue. "Give me a vote straight up or down," Topinka reportedly asked Speaker Michael Madigan, but the House leader ignored the request, voicing concern that a single office would deprive the state of sufficient fiscal oversight.
For the record, the Better Government Association wholeheartedly supports the consolidation of government offices when it's likely to eliminate duplication, expand services and save tax dollars. We call that "smart streamlining" and it's the key to reducing Illinois' most-in-the-country units of government.
Read the rest of Shaw's thoughts on government consolidation at Reboot Illinois.
Another government change that would be welcomed by many in 2015: redistricting reform. I'm getting an early start on my Christmas 2015 list. I wanted to get to work on it now so soon-to-be-Gov. Bruce Rauner will have plenty of time for the shopping, bartering, haggling and (his specialty) deal-making that'll be required to get it.
The best thing Gov. Rauner could give his constituents as he nears the end of his first year in office is a constitutional amendment to give all Illinois voters fair legislative district maps. That is to say, maps that aren't rigged to protect incumbents for as long as they choose to hold office.
It's something we voters almost got for ourselves this year. A massive citizen initiative called Yes for Independent Maps worked for more than a year to meet the state constitution's strict standards for placing a constitutional amendment proposal before voters. But the effort failed after too many of signatures collected by volunteers and paid workers were ruled invalid.
Find out at Reboot Illinois how Rauner could make this happen by the time the holidays roll around again.