Lincoln Library back in the news
An issue that hadn't been heard from in a while has made a surprise comeback.
Nearly three years after Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan first embraced the idea of making the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a separate entity, he's again taking up the banner of secession.
Madigan recently filed legislation — HB 136 — that would make the library a state agency all by itself, separating it from the state's Historic Preservation Agency.
Under the Madigan plan, the Lincoln library would be governed by an 11-member board appointed by the governor.
The Lincoln library is overseen by the Historic Preservation Agency's executive director and board. The library also has its own advisory board, which has no authority, and its own executive director. Further, the library has a foundation board that raises money.
In other words, the status quo is a morass that's badly in need of some kind of managerial re-engingeering.
In a statement, Madigan said the current structure "does not provide the museum with the clear leadership or flexibility the museum needs to fill its role as a world-class institution."
"This legislation puts the museum under the direct leadership of a board whose only responsibility is to the museum and this crucial piece of our history," Madigan said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has supported the idea of separating the library from the preservation agency. But he and Madigan have never been able to get together on the details, the result being that the issue was swallowed up by other legislative issues.
Frankly, there's no good reason why the two men weren't able to work out their differences, assuming they had any real differences, on the library. But there's no good reason why the state hasn't had a budget for nearly two years either.
That's the way things go in politics. So in that context, it's worth wondering why Madigan brought the library issue up now, when the Democratic-controlled General Assembly is seemingly paralyzed by budget issues.
The library and its governance is important. But it's clearly not the most important issue in state government. The budget and related issues are No. 1 by a long shot.
Nonetheless, it would be a step forward for the library if some form of Madigan's proposed restructuring of library governance is addressed — perhaps in the immediate aftermath of the Legislature working out a compromise budget/economic reform agreement with Gov. Rauner.