Rising to the Challenge

start-1414148_1280.jpg“Michael J. Madigan” … “Michael J. Madigan” … “Michael J. Madigan”

It’s one of the most nerve-wracking moments of Inauguration Day: you’re sworn in with 117 other Representatives and, immediately thereafter—on a stage in front of thousands of people—you have to speak aloud your choice for Speaker of the House.

Despite some uncertainty about whether the Democrats would stand behind him, we heard “Michael J. Madigan” 66 times, from 66 of the 67 Democrats in the Illinois House, with 1 voting “Present.”

And so, as the historic 100th General Assembly convenes, it will mean the 17th term as Speaker for Michael J. Madigan. By the end of this term, Speaker Madigan will have ruled the Illinois House for 34 years, making him the longest-serving state house speaker in American history. Illinois turns 200 years old in 2018, and at our bicentennial, Michael Madigan will have presided over the Illinois House for roughly 1 out of every 6 years of our state’s existence.

On the Republican side of the aisle, we’ve gained 4 new seats, emerging from the super-minority for the first time since 2012. We will have a very different leadership team, with numerous members who are newer and younger than before. The Republicans are for the most part united, hopeful, and optimistic that the upcoming term will be more productive and successful than the last one. We’re looking forward to the important debates to come during these crucial next two years.

However, Michael J. Madigan is still in firm control of the Illinois House Rules, the committees, and the agenda, so any optimism on our side is tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism. In the Illinois Senate, it was recently revealed that the leader of the Democrats, John Cullerton, has been quietly and directly negotiating with the leader of the Republicans, Christine Radogno, in hopes of working out a compromise to break the state’s budget impasse. Not so in Madigan’s House!

Against this backdrop, I occasionally wonder what Abraham Lincoln, who served in the Illinois House, would think of what has become of his House, and of his home State. What would Mr. Lincoln say if he were to stride onto the House floor next week? (I can’t imagine he would be happy!)

I’m often asked what it’s like being in Springfield. On the one hand, serving in the Illinois House is an incredible honor and privilege. There’s nothing like it. On the other hand, that same service can be just as frustrating as you would imagine it would be: we’re facing a terrible crisis of confidence, an unbalanced budget, and mounting debts, with many refusing to even acknowledge the problems.

Going into my second term as your state representative, I know we can rise to the challenge. These past two years, I saw moments of bipartisan compromise on smaller issues, and I know we can get there on the larger issues. Thank you for giving me the continued opportunity to work for you to turn our state around, and to return Illinois to its rightful place as one of the strongest, safest, and most prosperous states in the Union.