(The Center Square) – The Illinois House returns to the State Capitol in Springfield for the first time in nearly a year Wednesday, and they’ll take up rules that govern House proceedings.
The rules have been crafted over nearly four decades by former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. Madigan lost his leadership post last month.
New Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch promised to bring changes to the rules. Those proposed changes were filed Monday.
One proposed rule change, Assistant Majority Leader Jaime Andrade, D-Chicago, said, is term limits for speaker. Another change allows remote committee work because of COVID-19.
“The No. 1 concern I have is I still want the public, advocates, lobbyists, everyone, to have their voice heard,” Andrade said.
House Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said other than the remote committee work, Welch’s rules are “functionally identical” to Madigan’s rules, and the public should be concerned.
“The [Illinois] Constitution lays out certain requirements to try and safeguard the interests of the public in the Legislature,” Demmer said. “For too long the House Rules have been used to circumvent those constitutional requirements instead of supporting those constitutional requirements.”
To Republican criticism the rules block good legislation, Andrade said legislators need to work harder to build consensus on their proposals.
“Because what happens is some of the [committee] chairmen are just not in tune to pass some of these bills, and that’s for both, that’s for Republicans and Democrats,” Andrade said.
Demmer said the speaker still has too much control with the new rules and Republicans want more transparency.
“Requirements that bills and amendments be posted for a longer period of time before you can vote on them in order to avoid those eleventh hour, 500-page amendments that get dropped and voted on in no time at all,” Demmer said.
Too often, proposals with broad bipartisan support like a fair mapping process never make the light of day, Demmer added.
The House is in for one day only this month but lawmakers are expected to hold virtual committee hearings in the weeks ahead.