Illinois Democrats keep public, Republicans, from attending work groups

(The Center Square) – Newly announced working groups Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch announced are partisan and a sign to one Republican the supermajority party may not have enough votes to advance controversial issues before an election.

Monday, Welch announced Democrats that are part of four working groups to focus on abortion, guns, mental health and social media. He said while the legislature has done a lot of work, there’s more work to be done.

“I have created these working groups to take a balanced and research-driven approach to meaningfully reform our laws in Illinois,” Welch, D-Hillside, said in a statement.

State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, is leading the announced Firearm Safety and Reform Working Group.

“I have never been more committed to finding a solution to make sure no other town anywhere in Illinois has to go through what our town experienced,” said Morgan, who represents the district including Highland Park, where seven people were killed in a mass shooting July 4. “We have the opportunity to work on creating and passing common sense legislation to reduce the violence and trauma communities across the state and the country have faced as a result of the inadequate gun laws and mental healthcare in Illinois.”

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said the working groups are not open to Republicans or even the public and are a move out of former House Speaker Michael Madigan’s playbook.

“I find this just an exercise of keeping people busy, which is what Mike Madigan was very good at,” Butler told WMAY. “When his troops were restless, he found ways to keep them busy and I think that’s exactly what this is.”

A spokesperson for Welch’s office said the groups will “thoughtfully consider any proposals put forth by Republicans, Democrats, stakeholders, community advocates, and more,” and “any legislation introduced by these working groups will also move through the standard legislative process.”

One of the working groups is the Social Media and Online Extremism Working Group.

“A thorough examination of how social media and online extremism have contributed to the flow of misinformation and the spread of radical ideas is important during the current climate in our country,” said group appointee state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego. “I am pleased that Speaker Welch has shown confidence in me by naming me to this working group and I am ready to collaborate with my House colleagues on this enterprise.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, told The Center Square the groups allow the Democratic caucus to discuss ideas “and develop consensus internally.”

“Then we will engage with any Republicans who are more serious about these issues of privacy and bodily autonomy than their standard bearers,” said Cassidy, who is leading the announced Reproductive Health and the Dobbs Decision Working Group. “But if their goal remains the [former President Donald Trump and Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia] agenda, we won’t let them derail the work that needs to be done.”

As to the subject matter for the closed-door groups, Butler doesn’t see anything further the state can do about its already liberal abortion laws. While he sees merit in further discussion on some other things, he said the groups miss the mark on others.

“I see nothing about inflation,” Butler said. “I see nothing about people’s cost of living today. I see nothing about the onerous taxes that we have here in the state of Illinois. I see nothing about property tax reform.”

Another area Butler said there could be more discussion is continued COVID-19 disaster proclamations issued by the governor.

“Some people would say Illinois is a disaster on a few things but this would be a great working group as well,” Butler said. “Let’s talk about the governor’s executive powers.”

There may not be enough support to pass anything with an immediate effective date, Butler suggested, and therefore there may not be a special session.

“I think this is all kind of an exercise in just positioning the Democrats in the fall’s election,” Butler said. “Maybe I could be wrong. Maybe we’ll go back into special session, but I kind of doubt it.”

It’s unclear if there will be a special session. While legislative leaders have signaled one, they have not announced a date.


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July 26, 2022 at 04:01PM

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