Editorial: Some lawmakers willing to stand up for democracy in Illinois
The political reality in Illinois -- as in Congress, for that matter -- is that nothing controversial gets a vote unless chamber leaders allow it and most lawmakers won't vote on a controversial measure until their leaders tell them which lever to pull.
But on rare occasions, there are noble exceptions, legislators who consider an issue so important they are willing to defy their party's leadership and accept the risks of having their future legislation banished to committee oblivion and facing expensive primary opposition.
With an electronic Rally In Place scheduled that you can still participate in, today is a day to show support for democracy in Illinois and celebrate some state lawmakers who are making it a priority.
Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has obstructed every effort in the past 10 years to reform how legislative boundaries are set in Illinois. The movement has been equally impeded in the Senate, led previously by Chicago Democrat John Cullerton and now by Oak Park Democrat Don Harmon. So, it is no small matter that a Democrat in the House -- Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn -- and a Democrat in the Senate -- Melinda Bush of Grayslake -- are leading efforts in their respective chambers to produce change.
And they are not alone. The 16 sponsors of HJRCA 41, the House version of legislation that must pass by May 3 if Illinoisans are going to get a chance to vote in November for a constitutional amendment to end gerrymandering, include suburban Democrats Mary Edly-Allen of Libertyville, Joyce Mason of Gurnee, Anne Stava-Murray of Naperville and Emanuel Chris Welch of Hillside along with Chicago Democrats Kelly M. Cassidy, Sonya M. Harper, Lindsey LaPointe and Jonathan "Yoni" Pizer, and Riverside Democrat Michael J. Zalewski.
House Republicans signed on for the cause have been led by Ryan Spain of Peoria and include other downstate representatives Dan Brady, Terri Bryant, Tim Butler, Dan Caulkins and Jeff Keicher.
Democrats standing with Bush behind SJRCA 18, the Senate version of the bill are Julie A. Morrison of Deerfield, a longtime advocate of redistricting reform, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant of Shorewood, Laura Ellman of Naperville, Laura Fine of Glenview, Ann Gillespie of Arlington Heights, Suzy Glowiak Hilton of Western Springs, Pat McGuire of Joliet, Laura M. Murphy of Des Plaines, Heather A. Steans of Chicago, David Koehler of Peoria and Scott M. Bennett of Champaign.
Republicans signed onto the bill include suburban senators John F. Curran of Naperville, Donald P. DeWitte of St. Charles, Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods, Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove, Sue Rezin of Morris and Craig Wilcox of McHenry and downstate senators Neil Anderson, Jason A. Barickman, Scott M. Bennett, William E. Brady, Dale Fowler, Steve McClure, Jason Plummer, Dale A. Righter, Chapin Rose, Paul Schimpf, Brian W. Stewart, Dave Syverson, Jil Tracy and Chuck Weaver.
Remember these names. It is a roll call of independence reflecting elected officials who placed the interest of democracy above their party or their self interest. Some of them will be participating at 11 a.m. today in an electronic Rally In Place scheduled to demonstrate public support while we're under the governor's stay-at-home order. The rally will be hosted on Zoom at https://bit.ly/3bGjQtf, by the good-government group CHANGE Illinois. There's still time to join them and share your support. Sign up at www.changeil.org/get-involved.