Here is just one small reason Illinois is in such a sorry state.
When he appears in federal court in Chicago, state Rep. LaShawn Ford is called the defendant, the result of his indictment in late November for bank fraud.
But in the more hospitable climate of Springfield, where members of the Illinois House and Senate hold court, Ford is called Mr. Chairman, the result of a recent decision by House Speaker Michael Madigan to appoint Ford, who is from Chicago, as the chairman of the new House Committee on Restorative Justice.
Really. This is not a joke — an indicted member of the Illinois House will lead the new restorative justice committee.
There's more symbolism than substance to being chairman of a legislative committee. So what's galling, at least for those naive people who still have the capacity to be outraged by the monkey business in Springfield, is Speaker Madigan's indifference to the image of an indicted legislator leading a committee dealing with criminal justice issues.
Unfortunately, they do whatever they want in Springfield because voters let them.
Almost anyone can be a committee chairman in the Legislature because there are so many committees — 45 in the House and 23 in the Senate.
Committee chairmen and ranking members of the minority party are paid a special stipend of roughly $10,000 a year in addition to their annual legislative salary of about $68,000. (There are more generous stipends for legislators who serve in party leadership posts.)
Legislators who behave — at least in the eyes of party leaders — get to be a chairman or ranking member. Those who don't behave don't get the bonus pay. The system is good for legislators like Ford, who needs the extra money for legal fees. It's not nearly so good for taxpayers, but what in Springfield is?