House OKs bill to make Lincoln Library its own state agency

House OKs bill to make Lincoln Library its own state agency

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House on Tuesday approved a proposal to make the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a separate state agency.

House Speaker Michael Madigan's initiative was endorsed on an 84-29 vote Tuesday. State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, voted for the measure, but all area Republican representatives voted against it.

Urbana attorney Steve Beckett, who is chairman of the library and museum's advisory board, figured prominently in the debate over the bill Tuesday. The advisory board would become the governing authority of the complex, rather than the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The advisory board, rather than the governor, would have authority to name an executive director.

Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, acknowledged that Beckett "is very knowledgable in historic matters," but he questioned Madigan about whether Beckett would work full-time for the museum and library.

Madigan said he believed the advisory board met "once a month."

Harris then asked Madigan if Beckett had any knowledge of the Rutan ruling dealing with patronage hiring.

"If he doesn't," Madigan said, "we'll give him the memo we give to everyone else."

Harris said he was worried about putting the "jewel in our crown" showplace to a part-time board that meets once a month. And he said he was concerned about the legislation, which surfaced for the first time last Friday.

"This needs a lot of work before we make this change that just pops up in a day and a half," he said. "I certainly respect the sponsor's intention to make the change. I just don't understand the change and I don't feel it's being given enough discussion."

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