The new Illinois General Assembly is open for lawmaking and both chambers will have the same leaders as they’ve had for years.
The leader in one chamber, though, is two years into a rules-imposed 10-year term limit. In the other chamber, there’s no limit for the longest-serving state legislative leader in the nation.
At a swearing-in ceremony at the University of Illinois Springfield campus on Wednesday, the 101st edition of the Illinois House took the oath of office. Members also selected the next speaker.
The choice state representatives had was either Democrat Michael Madigan or Republican Jim Durkin. Madigan won a record 18th term as House Speaker, getting 72 votes. Durkin got 44 votes.
While all the Republicans in the new House voted for Durkin, freshman state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, was the only Democrat who voted present, meaning she didn’t support Madigan.
State Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, said Stava-Murray should find ways to work with her colleagues.
“Don’t work to try to alienate yourself,” Davis said. “There are still things that you want to get done and you need 60 members in the House and 30 members in the Senate.”
Democrats have 74 members in the House, the most Democrats since the legislature was downsized decades ago.
Stava-Murray said she’s on the Democratic team, but that doesn’t mean staying silent when the leader isn’t doing enough to address harassment and intimidation at the statehouse.
“I think dissent is patriotic,” Stava-Murray said. “It makes us stronger to be able to say ‘that’s OK, I respect a difference of opinions. To me, only dictators get 100 percent of the vote.”
While Madigan didn’t get 100 percent of the vote, he did get all but two Democrat votes. Stava-Murray voted present and state Rep. Lou Lang didn’t vote after he resigned earlier this week to become a lobbyist.
State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, referenced the culture of harassment at the statehouse in her statements supporting Durkin.
“How can anyone expect to thrive and grow when they fear their state government’s plans for them?” Mazzochi said. “When your idea of helping one person in Illinois is to put a punishing burden on the back of someone else in Illinois? … [Durkin] doesn’t ostracize members for different policy views, or send people to go talk to them to change their mind. And he certainly doesn’t force-feed votes through fear of retribution or retaliation.”
The Senate also selected a leader and it’s the same one that’s been there since 2009.
State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, said Senate President John Cullerton works in a bipartisan manner, and that’s why he should get another term.
“His goal is to bring as many people together as possible, but that’s how laws get passed and that’s how change happens,” Castro said.
State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, said bipartisanship is why he wanted Bill Brady to be the Senate President.
“Leader Brady has the ability to reach across the aisle to find common ground on difficult issues as well as consider the effect of legislation on different regions of the state,” Fowler said.
Ultimately, Cullerton won. But Senate rules changed in 2016 put 10-year term limits on leadership posts in that chamber. Those rules took effect in 2017, meaning Cullerton is already two years into that 10-year term. Those rules don’t impact the House.
Story by Greg Bishop of the Illinois News Network.