A Sangamon County judge Friday said he will decide if Gov. Rod Blagojevich has the power to set both the date and time of special legislative sessions.

A Sangamon County judge Friday said he will decide if Gov. Rod Blagojevich has the power to set both the date and time of special legislative sessions.

Circuit Judge Leo Zappa refused a motion to dismiss the case filed by attorneys for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Blagojevich sued Madigan last year after Madigan called the House into special session several hours earlier than dictated by the governor. Blagojevich said the action violated both the state Constitution and state law, which gives the governor authority to decide the time when special sessions are to begin. Without that authority, Blagojevich argued, Madigan could theoretically wait months or years to convene a special session called by the governor.

In attempting to have the lawsuit dismissed, Madigan’s lawyers said Blagojevich called special sessions at inconvenient times just to punish lawmakers for not approving his legislative agenda. They also said the governor was improperly trying to interfere in the operations of a separate branch of government.

At a hearing Friday, Zappa asked a series of questions that he said will help him decide the case. One was how the courts would enforce a ruling that Blagojevich could set both the date and time of special sessions.

“Is the governor’s office going to be in (court) every time they don’t do what the governor wants?” Zappa asked.

Blagojevich legal counsel William Quinlan said that is an issue that should wait until after a decision is made about the governor’s authority.

“I’m not asking the court to police it,” Quinlan said.

Madigan’s legal counsel, David Ellis, said any number of factors could cause the House to miss meeting at the time set by the governor, including the snowstorm that struck central Illinois Thursday night. He also questioned what standard would be used to say the House met at the proper time, to the minute, within several minutes or longer.

“I think we will be sued every time there is a special session,” Ellis said.

Quinlan, though, said that if Madigan isn’t ordered to meet at the time set by the governor, one man could prevent the entire House from meeting, even if the 117 other members wanted to.

“One person should not be able to prevent both houses from convening,” Quinlan said. “You take the House out and the legislature can’t act.”

Zappa told attorneys for both sides to prepare final paperwork that he will use to make a decision. Quinlan and Ellis both said after the hearing that they hope a ruling will be made in four to six weeks.

During the hearing, Blagojevich's lawyers asked that three of the four counts in their lawsuit be dropped. One of those dealt with a special session for transportation funding, an issue that has since been resolved. The other two dealt with forcing Madigan to ensure that at least half of all House members show up for any special session.

Quinlan said the other counts were dropped to get a speedier ruling on the key issue in the case, whether the governor can set both the date and time of a special session.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527