The governor delivered the annual “State of the State” address this past week, and he struck an optimistic and conciliatory tone in the speech. I hope folks on both sides heard his words and will take them to heart.
Unfortunately, the governor’s speech came one day after a colossal fight on the floor of the Illinois House over its “Rules,” which will govern the operation of the House for the next two years. Everything from how bills are considered to what committees will exist are in the “Rules.”
A study was done recently showing that, under Speaker Michael Madigan, our Illinois House Rules have become the most undemocratic in the country. Madigan’s Rules regularly prevent thousands of bills from being considered by the representatives, whether in committee or on the floor, with no true right of appeal. You could have 60 co-sponsors for a bill—over half the House, enough to pass the bill—but it still can’t even get a committee hearing if Madigan doesn’t bless it. Madigan’s Rules were also panned by the study, because of the total control they give him over who serves as a committee chairman—a position that comes with an immediate $10,000 raise for the representatives whom the Speaker chooses to elevate. And, Madigan has absolute power over when a particular bill is called, so we never know when measures will be brought to the floor. There have been times over the past two years where we’ve been given, literally, about 30 seconds to consider a bill and then vote on it.
Now, you’d figure that, in the wake of a study like this, there would at least be a feint at reform of the Rules. Instead, Madigan proposed even more draconian Rules (which I hadn’t thought possible) for the historic 100th General Assembly. We will go into our 200th anniversary as a state with a set of House Rules that the founders of Illinois wouldn’t recognize as fitting for a free people. You deserve better!
I wanted to give you an update after my last op ed about the re-election of Michael Madigan as our House Speaker in mid-January. I’d mentioned that one Democrat voted “present.” I didn’t think much of it at the time, but just last week, the results of that vote came to light. The member was stripped of his committee chairmanship, which means an immediate pay cut of $10,000, and despite being a former federal prosecutor, he was tossed off the Judiciary-Criminal Committee, where he had previously served with distinction.
But it gets better. It turns out, after the vote, Speaker Madigan gave each Illinois Democrat Representative an exquisite crystal clock, engraved on the back with the inscription, “The Honorable Michael J. Madigan. Longest serving Speaker of a state House of Representatives in United States history.” Well, everyone got a clock but our unfortunate “present” voter, who took to Facebook to complain about the snub.
The Democrats elect the most despised political figure in the state to run the Illinois House. They vote in a set of Rules that would make Vladimir Putin blush. And the lone Democrat who voted “present” complains that he didn’t get his engraved crystal clock.
Only in Illinois!
We all know this has to stop. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s time to come together and fix this mess.