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Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 10:01 pm

State government as business

Here’s an idea: Ditch the Illinois Senate

It’s time to take the governor at his word and run state government as a business. As always, a nationwide search has been initiated to produce a blue-ribbon committee to establish the course of action.

The governor’s last nationwide search, as you may recall, found an Elvis impersonator and Megan Harlow, ex-showgirl trophy wife of a $50,000 campaign contributor, to be Blue Ribbon Salt Dome Committee people. This latest search found four retirees having morning coffee at Bob & Ray’s Café to serve as members of the Blue Ribbon $$$ Committee.

• Yanks Avatar, retired computer programmer and a code master, ruled by pure logic. In other words, Yanks has no social skills whatsoever. I think you’ll agree that a man who is not subject to the concerns of human sensitivity is a real plus in the development of a true business model.

• E.Z. Randolph, retired owner of EZ Loans. He buys a new Cadillac each year — if that doesn’t prove that he knows business, I don’t know what does.

• James “the Colonel” Blackwell, retired from the U.S. Army. The Colonel is still secretive about his military service, meaning he was either an Army lawyer or an assassin. His fellow committee members would like to believe that he was an assassin, because the alternative is too frightening to contemplate.

• “Dollar” Bill Mathews, retired car salesman and winner of the coveted Salesperson of the Decade award for selling a 10-year-old Buick with a cracked engine block to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for $46,859 (rust-proofing $1,008 extra).

No more hardcore business acumen was ever assembled — blue-ribbon material all!

Topic 1. The Legislative Branch.

Yanks spoke first because he does not understand that discussions need to include input from those who are not him.

“There’s no business reason, or fair representation reason for that matter, to have a bicameral system,” Yanks declared. “A unicameral system is not only more business efficient — it’s also considerably less expensive. A no-brainer! Eliminate the state Senate!”

The Colonel: Explain it to these other two dolts.

Yanks: Unproductive use of time. No need to explain it — it’s obvious.

The Colonel: Explain it — or I’ll kill you!

Yanks: Good point. From a business standpoint, it’s a simple matter of eliminating redundant functions. It’d be like having two completely autonomous bookkeepers at EZ Loans.

The Colonel: Explain the ‘fair representation’ part.

Yanks: Unnecessary — it’s obvious.

The Colonel: . . . or I’ll kill . . .

Yanks: Point well taken. Two houses exist in the federal system because of the Great Compromise, the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Individual citizen representation was not the reason for the two houses — politics, pure and simple, caused the aberration. Senators, especially at the state level, are an unnecessary expansion of geographical representation already accommodated at a more personal geographic level, a House of Representatives.

Dollar Bill: Huh?

Yanks: Idiot.

The Colonel: Give us an example, or I’ll. . .

Yanks: Excellent point! Think in terms of city aldermen: You have one alderman per geographic area — a ward. What purpose, then, to combine two or three wards or parts thereof, make another district, and elect another person in a completely different organizational body to represent you? You’re already represented geographically. And because both bodies must independently agree on action, it’d take two years to get the pothole fixed instead of six months.

E.Z.: But we need senators — won’t work without ’em.

Yanks: Why? And it already does work. It works in Nebraska, Canadian provinces, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand. Even Britain has only one ‘working’ legislative body, the House of Commons. Their House of Lords is ceremonial.

The vote: Four-zip. The Illinois Senate is gone. Savings: $250 million. The Senate chamber will become a food court with a yearly profit of $2,000,134. Senate offices will become self-storage rental units. Yearly profit: $1,500,666. That’s more than a quarter-billion bucks gained before the second cup of joe.

Topic 2. Other Elected Offices.

No discussion necessary. By a vote of 4-0, the lieutenant governor stays but is only paid when called to work. And the treasurer or the comptroller goes — flip a coin. Savings: $28 million and change.

Topic 3. The Executive Branch and State-Agency Operations. These specifics are on the table for tomorrow’s session (because E.Z. needs a nap):

• Moving state government from Springfield or Chicago to cyberspace.

• Eliminating all state-government employees and positions having anything to do with constructing a mission statement.

• Basing the governor’s salary on an objective measure. Because it is the “business objective” of state government to break exactly even each year (no borrowing), any deviation comes out of the governor’s personal pocket.

• Renegotiating employee benefits. The Colonel will head up negotiations: He’ll be fair, but there’s no need for state employees to plan any activities for those three personal days a year.

• Handling sick-time abuse. The Colonel proposes handling such cases one-on-one. As the Colonel often says, “They didn’t give us sick days during the war!”

• Expanding the committee to include Megan Harlow.

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