Suburban lawmakers support rule changes in wake of Madigan's ouster as House Speaker

  • New Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch and other lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 13 for the 102nd General Assembly.

    New Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch and other lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 13 for the 102nd General Assembly. Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

  • Terra Costa Howard

    Terra Costa Howard

  • Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego in her home office on Nov. 30, 2020.

    Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego in her home office on Nov. 30, 2020.

  • Tom Morrison

    Tom Morrison

  • Dan Ugaste

    Dan Ugaste

 
 
Posted1/25/2021 5:30 AM

Suburban lawmakers are approaching the Illinois legislature's new session with a list of rule changes that would dilute some of the power former House Speaker Michael Madigan built up over the decades.

One priority the lawmakers have for new House Speaker Chris Welch is a rule change that would take away the speaker's ability to bury bills in committees at will and without explanation.

 

Such a change was seen as futile during Madigan's 36-year run as speaker.

Welch, a Chicago Democrat, said at his inaugural news conference Jan. 13 that he wants "to examine the rules and possibly make changes­ -- possibly make a lot of changes."

Rep. Terra Costa-Howard said her understanding is that a group of Democrats will put forward suggested rules.

"In terms of (power) coming back to members I think that is going to be a discussion," said the Democrat from Glen Ellyn.

A major change backed by suburban lawmakers from both sides of the aisle would ensure that certain bills make it to the House floor, especially if those bills carry bipartisan support.

"If a bill has a certain number of sponsors, that bill should get a vote. We could set some threshold," said Rep. Thomas Morrison, a Republican from Palatine. "Maybe 10 sponsors or a certain number of bipartisan sponsors and those should be at least given a chance to get a committee hearing."

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"If there are maybe 60 members co-sponsoring a bill, or more, why wouldn't that bill be considered?" said Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, a Democrat from Oswego who ran against Madigan for speaker. "If 60 members are co-sponsors of a bill and that's a majority of the caucus, then that bill should be heard." The House has 118 members.

Lawmakers also are targeting Christmas tree bills, named for being adorned with an assortment of unrelated provisions, and shell bills, placeholders that wait in limbo until something substantive is amended onto them at the last minute.

Under Madigan the use of such bills that were gutted, rewritten and quickly reintroduced to the House often frustrated lawmakers.

The rules govern many aspects of how business is done in the House, including how long the speaker can serve. Under Madigan, few House Democrats balked at approving House rules in a vote typically on the first day of the legislative session. The House returns to Springfield Feb. 2.

"I don't think Speaker Madigan was ever going to change (the rules)," said Rep. Dan Ugaste, a Republican from Geneva. "My hope is Speaker Welch will change many."

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