ByÂ Deanna Bellandi-Associated Press
CHICAGO | As Republican governors across the nation gain momentum with conservative agendas, IllinoisÂ Gov. Pat Quinn has stood out for signing a string of laws over the past three months achieving longstanding liberal goals: abolishing the death penalty, legalizing civil unions and raising income taxes.
Itâ€™s an extraordinary start toÂ Mr. Quinnâ€™s first full term in office and, if nothing else, guarantees the Chicago Democrat will be remembered as more than just the guy who replaced oustedÂ Gov. Rod R. Blagojevichafter his arrest on federal corruption charges.
WhileÂ Mr. Quinn deserves some of the credit, passage of the headline-grabbing laws had less to do with the governor and more with timing and the Democratic majorities in the Legislature where powerful House SpeakerÂ Michael Madigan andÂ Senate PresidentÂ John Cullerton run the show. The success of the liberal initiatives also does not ensure thatÂ Mr. Quinn will have an easy time pushing the rest of his political agenda at the state Capitol, where he is widely seen as indecisive and less than deft at negotiating with lawmakers.
The law abolishing the death penalty passed without any help fromÂ Mr. Quinn, who signed it even though he said he supported capital punishment. He spoke out for civil unions during the fall campaign and helped round up votes, but that issue also was driven by its legislative sponsors.
And whileÂ Mr. Quinn called for higher income taxes for two years, lawmakers didnâ€™t take action until they were safely past the November election, whenÂ Mr. Madigan andÂ Mr. Cullerton made clear they supported a tax increase twice the size of whatÂ Mr. Quinn proposed – and then delivered the necessary votes to get it passed.
â€œItâ€™s not the fact that weâ€™re the most liberal state in the world, itâ€™s just that thereâ€™s a sort of tipping point that weâ€™ve gone over and that allowed this particular situation, all these things to come to a head at the same time,â€ saidÂ Chris Mooney, a political science professor at theÂ University of Illinois at Springfield.
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