SPRINGFIELD — First it was on, then it was off. Now it will be on, but more likely during the Illinois General Assembly’s veto session in November.
For a while Monday, the General Assembly’s website said the House Tourism Committee would be holding a hearing on the Lincoln hat controversy in October in Chicago. Within hours, though, the website said the hearing had been canceled.
Committee chair Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, said the posting was premature.
“That was posted in error,” Williams said. “I still hadn’t heard from some of the main witnesses.”
Williams said that after talking with other committee members they came to the conclusion an initial hearing on the issue would more appropriately be held in Springfield rather than Chicago. She also said her guess is the hearing wouldn’t be held until the veto session because “logistically it is very difficult to find a date in October that works for anyone in Chicago, let alone anyone in Springfield.”
The veto session is scheduled for Nov. 13-15 and 27-29.
Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, has called for hearings on whether a $6.5 million stovepipe hat purchased by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation was ever owned by Lincoln. It was part of the Taper collection of nearly 1,400 Lincoln related items bought by the foundation for $25 million.
Questions about the hat’s authenticity had been raised for years and resurfaced last week with a report by Chicago radio station WBEZ that a DNA test was performed on the hat that was inconclusive and two historians evaluated the available records about the hat and determined they could not attest to its authenticity.
Butler and others have said hearings are necessary because the foundation is trying to secure state funding to pay off the remaining $9.7 million of the $23 million that was borrowed when the collection was purchased.
Butler wanted hearings held before the election since the foundation has said it will sell parts of it to raise money to pay off the debt. Williams, though, said she didn’t think a short delay would hurt.
“While it is certainly an urgent issue, I don’t think a few weeks or a month will make a difference in the ultimate outcome of the story,” she said.