State lawmakers are sending a strong message to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich: The state isn't going to pay up to memorialize you. Under House Bill 5109, approved by a 85-23 vote Friday in the House, state funds may not be used for a Statehouse portrait of a governor impeached and removed from office.
State lawmakers are sending a strong message to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich: The state isn't going to pay up to memorialize you.
Under House Bill 5109, approved by a 85-23 vote Friday in the House, state funds may not be used for a Statehouse portrait of a governor impeached and removed from office.
Blagojevich suffered that fate in early 2009 after a federal arrest on criminal allegations of misuse of his office. His portrait has not been commissioned for display in the Hall of Governors on the Capitol's second floor.
The bill now moves to the Senate.
"I think the lesson that we learned in history is that when you forfeit your right to hold office, I don't think it is unreasonable to say you forfeit your right to have the taxpayers memorialize your time as governor," said Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, who sponsored the bill. "You've given up that right when you were impeached and convicted by the Illinois Senate."
The measure would allow private funds to create a portrait to be hung in the Statehouse. A portrait would likely cost up to $25,000, Black said.
Those opposed to the plan questioned whether history should be rewritten.
"They're not hung to say you are getting a honor here or you're being elected as the best governor," said Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago. "Those portraits are hung to show who is the governor of the state of Illinois, and I don't think we can erase that history by removing a picture."
Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, said the good points of history as well as the bad need to be remembered.
"I think actually having a portrait of all the governors, including those who weren't on the right track, we'll say, is a great opportunity for young people to learn what is good and what is bad and hopefully can guard against those things that have happened in our history that weren't so enlightened," Boland said.
But Black also sees the bill as a way to save money for the state, noting he pushed the idea after being contacted by a laid-off teacher from his district.
"We do a lot of things around here and spend a lot of money on operations because we've always done that," he said. "And I think we're going to have to change our way of thinking on a bunch of things."
Black added that he didn't want to "pile on" Blagojevich.
"Quite frankly, I like the guy," he said. "But I think there's a price to be paid in public life when you are impeached and removed from office for impeachable offenses."
The debate continued even after the vote.
Davis noted the House allows George Ryan's portrait to hang in the House chamber.
"Governor Ryan looks really good hanging on that wall," she said.
Black fired back that the imprisoned former governor got into trouble long after his service as House speaker, in the early 1980s.
"That is not Governor Ryan hanging above the chamber," he said. "That is Speaker of the House George Ryan. He served admirably in that role. Now if you don't want Gov. Ryan's portrait to hang on the second floor, drop in a bill and have it taken down."
Staff writer John Guidroz contributed to this report. Matt Hopf can be reached at email@example.com.