SPRINGFIELD — A bill aimed at limiting the use of external search committees at Illinois' public universities was approved unanimously Wednesday by the Senate Higher Education Committee.
The amended legislation, HB 5914 , sponsored by Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Righter told the committee the bill was prompted in part by "some concerns raised and reported in the Champaign County area in regards to the use of public funds" for a number of executive searches at the University of Illinois.
The News-Gazette reported Sunday that the UI had paid nearly $6 million to nearly two dozen firms over the last nine years  for everything from presidential searches to help with hiring a new men's basketball coach.
Righter said he was not aware of similar concerns with search expenditures at other Illinois public universities.
Righter told committee chairman Edward Maloney, D-Chicago, that he would discuss the legislation with UI representatives before calling it for a full Senate vote.
"I will absolutely have whatever discussions are needed before I would take it to the Senate," Righter pledged.
Following the committee session, Righter said he "would sit down with representatives of the university, including, hopefully Doctor (Robert) Easter (the new UI president), and have a conversation about some of the things that we've read in the press and learned about how student money and state money is being used to pay for search firms that a lot of people would say, 'Hey, you know what, they ought to be able to handle that in house.'
"And I want to learn more from their perspective about why they're doing that, and express to them a little more directly the taxpayer's side of this, to the extent that I represent them."
Righter predicted the legislation would have widespread support in the Legislature.
"I don't think there's any question that this is a popular measure, but I still want to sit down with the officials from the university and, in fairness to them, hear what they have to say."