Rules approved on a partisan vote Tuesday in Illinois House

Every two years, legislative bodies set the rules governing the way they will operate. Throughout the country, there has been a movement to make these rules more transparent, and to empower individual legislators rather than consolidating power and control to those in leadership positions. With the beginning of a new General Assembly in Illinois however, Speaker Madigan rejected all calls to reform the way the Illinois legislature operates and presented the same set of rules that have been adopted since 1995.

The rules that were recently adopted by the Illinois House of Representatives allow the Speaker of the House to maintain near-complete control over the legislative process – including if a bill can get called for a vote or can even be heard in committee.

State Representative Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) stated, “Today, we saw the same partisan rule proposal that we’ve seen for decades. The people of Illinois deserve to have a legislative body that is transparent and where each Representative is empowered to represent their constituents to the best of their ability. We, as House Republicans, offered reasonable reforms to the House Rules with the introduction of House Resolution 62. These reforms would have increased transparency in the legislative process and ensured that all Illinoisans get fair representation. Unfortunately, Democrats chose to once again vote for the status quo- keeping power centralized with Speaker Madigan.”

House Republicans proposed their version of rules that offered the following reforms for incorporation into the House Rules resolution for the 101st General Assembly:

1. Require Committee Vote for Bipartisan Bills & Resolutions Pending in Committee – Require that when a bill or resolution in committee has at least five co-sponsors from the majority caucus and at least five co-sponsors from the minority caucus, the Committee Chairperson must provide an opportunity to the bill sponsor to present the bill for consideration and a committee vote.

2. Create Waiting Period for Floor Amendments – Create a longer public review period before consideration of floor amendments and concurrence motions by prohibiting consideration until the calendar day after notice is posted for a hearing or the calendar day after the measure is reported directly to the House from the Rules Committee.

3. Create Waiting Period After Committee Testimony – Require that the initial testimony and discussion of bills in committee must occur before a vote of the committee on the reporting motion; and such committee vote may not occur on the same calendar day that testimony was heard.

4. Require House Vote for Bills & Resolutions Supported by Bipartisan Supermajority – Provide that a motion signed by 71 members guarantees a vote of the House on a bill or resolution. At least five members affiliated with the majority party and five members affiliated with the minority party must be included among the 71 or more signatories. Such bills would be discharged from a standing/special/Rules committee, or transferred from the regular calendar, and placed on an order of business that the House must go to each day that it convenes in regular session; and sponsors of bills on the order would have the right to call their bills for a vote whenever the House is on that order.

5. Extend Time for the House to Consider Motions to Discharge Standing/Special Committee – Provide that for six session days after the committee reporting deadline the House may still consider motions to discharge from standing or special committees. Currently, bills remaining in committee on date of the reporting deadline are immediately re-referred to the Rules Committee, which means that the motion to discharge from standing committee, which requires 60 votes for adoption, is no longer an option.

Bourne stated, “With the adoption of Madigan’s House Rules, the Illinois House will continue to operate the same way that it has for decades – silencing voices of the minority party, keeping all of the control at the top, and limiting the influence of rank-and-file legislators. I’m disappointed that there were no Democratic lawmakers who joined us in calling for reform to our process. We can do better.”

The Madigan-supported House Rules passed on a partisan vote of 73 democrats supporting the measure and 42 republicans opposing it.