As the end of Michael Madigan’s reign as speaker of the Illinois House drew near a month ago, we used this space to caution that simply removing him from the post was not enough.
To those wishing for a new day in Springfield — free from the corruption that has plagued state government for decades, free from dictatorial rule centralized in the hands of a small cabal of powerful figures, responsive to the public and not just to the special interests — Illinois House members needed to appoint a reformer to replace Madigan.
And then, we said, they needed to adopted changes in the House rules that would ensure participatory governance.
A month later, change indeed is in the air in Springfield. But is it change enough?
We’re somewhat encouraged.
But we also have our doubts.
In electing Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside as the new speaker, Democrats certainly did not go off the establishment board. While his style is more open than Madigan’s and the opposition to gerrymandering he has espoused in the past is intriguing, Welch clearly also has been a Madigan loyalist who has operated successfully within the system Madigan constructed.
The jury, as they say, is out.
How differently and constructively the Illinois House operates this session certainly will provide some measure of the change Welch will bring.
A more significant measure will be the disposition of fair maps.
If we get through the upcoming remapping of legislative and Congressional districts with the same blatant gerrymandering that we’ve seen in the past, well, the proof will be in the pudding.
If we see real remap reform, well, then we’ll know that Welch means business.
So far, it’s hard to judge.
The House adopted some significant rule changes last week. It placed a 10-year limit on the terms of the House speaker and the minority party leader — a meaningful reform that was an essential starting point.
And it adopted rules that make it much tougher for the House Rules Committee to simply bottle up bills without debate or consideration.
Good starts, but only starts. The rule changes don’t go far enough.
Republicans are describing the new rules as virtually identical to the rules of the past, and while they have reason to be dissatisfied, that characterization is a bit overstated.
Change has begun in Springfield. We all must push for more.
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February 13, 2021 at 05:20PM