SPRINGFIELD, Ill. —Illinois’ often maligned lieutenant governor office would be eliminated under a constitutional amendment proposed Wednesday by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The lieutenant governor becomes governor if the state’s executive officer leaves or is removed but otherwise has few constitutional duties.

Gov. Pat Quinn said he favors keeping the office as an “ombudsman for the people” with a focus on expanding the state’s broadband service and environmental policies. Quinn served as lieutenant governor for six years before becoming governor after Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment in January 2009.

Democrats across the state balked when pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen became the surprise winner for the party’s lieutenant governor nomination during last week’s primary. Powerful Democrats, including Madigan and Quinn, pushed Cohen to resign after allegations of abuse made by his ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend
were reported.

Cohen, of Chicago, dropped out of the race Sunday night but has yet to submit his formal withdrawal to state election officials. His almost-candidacy has prompted several pieces of legislation focused on the lieutenant governor

Madigan’s proposal requires state lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment, which would then be placed on the ballot for the November general election. At least three-fifths of the people voting on that question or a
majority of total voters in the election would have to vote yes for the amendment to become law.

The state’s attorney general would become the successor to the governor’s office. The changes wouldn’t take effect until 2015.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said eliminating the office entirely is a “crisis mode” solution. Instead, Lang proposed allowing gubernatorial candidates to choose their running mates before the primary and run together during the entire election season, similar to the way presidential candidates select running mates.

“I think that’s moving the pendulum too far,” Lang said. “If a problem develops here, we say let’s just eliminate everything about it.”

Under current law, candidates for the offices run separately in the primary and the nominees run as a pair during the general election. The unusual system has resulted in pairings of politicians who don’t know or particularly like each
other, including Quinn and Blagojevich.

Though the office remains vacant, the lieutenant governor is given a salary of $135,669, and lawmakers designated $2.1 million for the office for 2009.