Illinois lawmakers approve special comptroller election in 2016

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- He hasn't even been sworn-in yet, and Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner's been handed his first defeat in Springfield.

Lawmakers in the democrat-controlled house and senate Thursday afternoon overwhelmingly passed a bill calling for a 2016 special election for state comptroller. That's after the death last month of republican comptroller Judy Barr-Topinka.

Governor-Elect Rauner had wanted his appointee to serve a full four-year term. Thursday's votes cut that term in half, calling for a special election 2016, a presidential election year, which traditionally gives the edge to state democrats.

Christine Radogno (R) Senate Minority Leader: “Passing this bill today, I think, really is just sort of a naked power play."

And sparks flew on this all day; republicans accusing democrats of violating the state constitution for political gain.

John Cullerton (D) Senate President: "People voted for Judy. They wanted Judy. But she can't serve. So let's have the people have the right to replace her as soon as it's practical."

Governor Quinn’s appointee, Jerry Stermer, will fill the comptroller spot just until next week, when Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner takes over. He wanted his appointee, businesswoman Leslie Munger, in the job for a full four-year term. By 2018, lawmakers will likely have voted to merge the offices of comptroller and treasurer as 36 other states have done.

State Senator Matt murphy (R) Palatine: "They're gonna pass a law that i think is unconstitutional and start this new year with a legal fight."

A legal fight over vastly different interpretations of the Illinois constitution. Republicans believe their incoming governor has the right to a four-year appointment. Democrats, not so much.

State Senator Kwame Raoul (D) Chicago: "One would have to not be able to read the English language to not understand what the intent of the framers of the last constitutional convention said. It's plain! It's plain English!"

Christine Radogno (R) Senate Minority Leader: "To me, that smacks of opportunism, that's what this is about. I mean, the fact of the matter is, democrats in this state tend to do better in presidential years."

This also sets a confrontational tone between an incoming republican governor and the democratic leadership in the general assembly.

Bruce Rauner anticipated that. He, of course, will be sworn in on Monday

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