Judy Baar Topinka memorial service details announced

COUNTRYSIDE, Ill. (WLS) -- Lawmakers are expected to wait until after a memorial is held for Judy Baar Topinka before battling over who will succeed her as the Illinois State Comptroller.

Topinka died Wednesday morning after a stroke. A public memorial service will be held on December 17, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. at6 Local 150, 6200 Joliet Road, in Countryside, Ill.

Behind the scenes, lawmakers are discussing who will succeed Topinka and for how long.

The Illinois Republican Party will try to keep Topinka's seat. The GOP wants Ill. Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner, who will take office on January 12, 2015, to make the appointment to serve the next four years.

"I'm not an attorney, but I think it's common sense that I would have that ability," Gov. Elect Rauner said.

However, Illinois needs a comptroller to continue to pay state bills.

According to the Illinois Constitution, the governor "shall fill the office by appointment. The appointee shall hold office until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified . . ."

Democrat Pat Quinn is the current governor. Should he make the appointment? There are two terms to be filled - the current one that ends in January and a four-year term that ends in 2019.

"We have no real guidance from either the constitution or the statutes on this," Ann Lousin, John Marshall Law School, said. Lousin, who helped write the constitution in 1970, said she's confused. The only way to qualify a new comptroller would be to elect one. But Lousin said spending $30 million on a one item statewide ballot makes no sense.

Also ruled out are next year's municipal elections, the primary on February 24 and general on April 7 because they do not include every precinct in Illinois.

The first opportunity to put the comptroller on a ballot would be on November 8, 2016, in the General Election.

"That might be a compromise. I don't see anything in the constitution that would allow that, but on the other hand I don't see anything that would forbid it," Lousin said.

Gov. Quinn is quietly considering short-term and possibly longer-term replacements. He's out of a job on January 12. Could he appoint himself?

"I know this is Illinois and strange things happen. But that would be a very, very bold move indeed," Lousin said.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan will issue her opinion on the appointment shortly after Topinka's memorial service.

In the meantime, state officials said there are a limited number of checks Topinka approved before her death, which could lead to a possible funding gap for schools and social service agencies if a successor is not chosen quickly.

Operations at the comptroller's office can continue as schedule for "several" days, but a new official must be named to approve future payments.

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