SPRINGFIELD — Majority Democrats in the Illinois House adopted procedural rules on Wednesday that the GOP complained are nearly identical to the suppressive ones they labored under in the decades-long rule of former Speaker Michael Madigan.
One month after celebrating new leadership and renewed openness, the Democratic-controlled House convened in its state Capitol chamber for the first time in nearly a year and voted 70-44 on operating rules for its new session. The rules include permission to conduct legislative work remotely by video because of the coronavirus pandemic.
That was among a handful of prominent changes made by the Legislature. While new Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside promised an open, inclusive process, irked Republicans said they saw few of their ideas incorporated.
Even the other major change, limiting the speaker and minority leader to five two-year terms after the ouster last month of Madigan, the Chicago Democrat who ruled the House for 36 of the past 38 years, drew mockery from Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs. He said House Republicans term-limited their leaders four years ago and the Senate imposed limits in 2017.
Majority Leader Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, declared a “historical turning point” in presenting the new outline on Wednesday. He said Welch sought input from House members, that more than one-third of House members participated in video discussions of the rules or submitted suggestions, and that Welch has determined that the process is ongoing.
But aside from term limits and remote legislative work, the only other notable rule change requires that generally all legislation introduced will be assigned to a committee for a public hearing, and not die in the Rules Committee, Madigan's graveyard for Republican bills deemed unfavorable.
Rep. Avery Bourne, a Morrisonville Republican, got Harris to acknowledge that there's no guarantee that, once assigned to committee, a bill will get a hearing. She ridiculed Harris' depiction of a House hosting a competition of ideas.
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