Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Madigan's Lincoln Library Bill: Dead In the Water?

A suspicious Senate blocks the Speaker's pitch to transfer control of the Springfield institution

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Michael Madigan's last-minute bid to turn the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum into a separate state agency is apparently going nowhere.

The Illinois Senate, suspicious of the House Speaker's motives, thwarted his efforts before adjourning for the summer on Saturday. John Cullerton, the president of the Democrat-led chamber, declined to call the controversial bill to the floor, citing the need for more research. It could go up for a vote when Springfield opens up this fall, but Madigan should not expect a senatorial sign-off. Not this election year.

The proposal is bold, even by Madigan standards, and would shift oversight of the tourist destination from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) to a clouted-up standalone firm. The House Executive Committee voted 10-1 to pass the legislation last week.

Madigan argued that the IHPA has blocked important advances at the Lincoln museum, and that the institution would do better business as its own entity. But patronage-monitoring critics, and fellow Democrats like Cullerton who want to keep Illinois blue, raised eyebrows at Madigan's friendship with Eileen Mackevich, the museum's executive director. (Mackevich has clashed with IHPA boss Amy Martin over potential acquisitions and exhibitions, among else.)

"You know, in America people have friends," Madigan told "Illinois Lawmakers" host Jak Tichenor, in a defense of his bill. "This is not a communist country. People have friends. I have friends, you have friends. And this is my reference where I say some people want to be negative, they want to be critics they want to engage in a lot of simple political gossip. So be it. That agency should be left to chart its own course.”

Watch Madigan lay on the charm and talk himself out of trouble around the 12-minute mark, via Capitol Fax:

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