Nearly 5,000 bills died in the Rules Committee last session. And that is not by accident but by calculated design.
When bills are introduced in the Illinois House, they must first go through the Rules Committee, controlled by Speaker Madigan. It is where bills the Speaker doesn’t like go to die.
If bills are introduced that Speaker Madigan disapproves of, then the bills never see the light of day. If a bill doesn’t receive Madigan’s good graces and he doesn’t instruct his allies in the Rules Committee to move the bill, then it will never be heard. No matter how many legislators support the bill.
This is just one of the many examples of how Madigan is able to retain so much power in the state, all while having just a 21% approval rating from Illinoisans.
Madigan retains this power with the help of Democrat members that get elected with his campaign funds in exchange for their promised loyalty to Madigan. That means electing him as Speaker and voting for his rules.
These rules give Madigan the power to decide which bills are heard, they cloak the House’s work in secrecy, and make it harder to hold elected officials accountability.
Loyalty goes both ways for Madigan and the Democratic state reps. They give him his power and his power allows him to swap out committee members to protect potentially vulnerable legislators from being on the record for taking an unpopular vote. He protects these reps because they protect him.
One reason why committee chair positions are so coveted in Springfield is because they come with a $10,000 raise. The money involved in holding legislative power allows Madigan to reward those who will not cross him and will happily take the money and follow the Speaker’s orders.
Former Democratic State Rep. Scott Drury was the Vice Chair of the House Judiciary-Criminal committee. In January 2017, Drury voted “present” for Madigan as Speaker and voted against the Speaker’s rules and was quickly stripped of his vice chair title and bypassed of the opportunity to collect the $10,000 stipend awarded to chairmen.
Voting for Madigan’s rules are detrimental for several reasons. For example, Madigan’s rules have killed reform efforts like establishing a taxpayer’s bill of rights, putting new government hires into a 401k system to stop the bleeding of the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, and countless other bills to address the state’s growing debt, and saving people’s homes from some of the highest property taxes in the nation.
Madigan’s rules allow for greater dysfunction in Springfield. He has the power to call for votes for any bill he chooses at any time. This means he can call for a bill to be voted on with minutes notice, not allowing for any productive debate or allowing representatives to fully vet and understand a bill that could positively or most likely negatively affect their constituents.
Republican Floor Leader, State Rep. Mark Batinick offered some reasonable proposes to ensure a fair, transport lawmaking process that gives power to all legislators and their constituents rather than just one man.
Common sense reforms like allowing a bill sponsor to present their bill and have a committee vote if the proposed legislation has bipartisan support, to allow for a day for legislators to review amendments or concurrences after being put on the calendar so there are no rushes to vote with little comprehension of what’s in the bills, and to extend deadlines to discharge bills from committees so they don’t return to the dark abyss of the Rules Committee without consideration.
Unsurprisingly, these rule adoptions were rejected by the Democrats.
The main takeaway: the rules are calculated to benefit the Speaker and those loyal to him. But, in this system, who is the one group that is never put into the equation? The taxpayers. The Illinois residents who are forced to prop up a system that is built to serve politicians and not the people they represent.
On the campaign trail, House Democrats Sam Yingling, Terra Costa Howard, Karina Villa, and Marty Moylan promised they would act independently to serve working families, they would hold government accountable, they promised a new day in Springfield.
If their first actions, voting for Speaker Madigan and giving him carte blanche, are any indication of what the future brings, it will unfortunately look a lot like the past.