The Illinois General Assembly spent Thursday in special session approving a special election for an office the state doesn't really need.
"Only in Illinois" is overused, but it continues to apply.
The General Assembly passed a bill Thursday that outlines how the constitutional offices of comptroller, treasurer, attorney general or secretary of state would be filled if the person elected is unable to serve. The bill is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn, who is expected to sign it before he leaves office on Monday.
The issue became a political hot button after Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican, died in December from complications after a stroke. Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has said he will name Leslie Munger as comptroller.
Rauner and Republicans in the General Assembly claim that the incoming governor has the right to name Munger to a four-year term. On Thursday, Democrats pushed through a bill that would require a special election in 2016.
GOP legislators complained that the move by the Democrats was purely political since 2016 is a presidential election year and Democratic turnout will most likely be greater. It's always amusing with politicians complain of the other side "playing politics."
Democrats countered that it was about democracy and allowing voters to choose their state officials.
Munger herself had the best response. She said she planned to run in 2016 if an election was held and wasn't worried because she'd have two years to prove why she should be the comptroller.
Republicans should listen to her. Some legislators threatened to take the issue to court. Just what Illinois needs: Taxpayer-paid lawyers arguing a case in court over an office that isn't really necessary.
The Democrat rush to pass this bill at the last minute is deplorable, but a special election is the best route. Voters should be allowed to select their own officials as quickly as possible.
The real issue, however, is that the comptroller's office isn't necessary. The office operates the state's checkbook, a function that could be incorporated into the treasurer’s office.
That's a move that Topinka favored and several legislators on both sides of the aisle have paid lip service to the idea.
Now is time for action. The General Assembly can start the ball rolling by placing a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot to combine the offices. The savings aren't great when compared to the state's overall budget, but in the current financial crisis every little bit helps.
Making the 2016 special comptroller election the last time a comptroller is elected would be a better result for taxpayers.