The 103rd Illinois General Assembly began Wednesday with two separate inauguration ceremonies in Springfield.
Legislators in the Illinois House and Senate their oaths of office. Democrats officially reasserted their supermajorities in the Senate and the House. Democrats outnumber Republicans 78-40 in the House and 40-19 in the Senate.
Republicans, not seeing the “red wave” they wanted in November, saw party leadership in both chambers change. State Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, was elected Senate minority leader, while state Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, was elected House minority leader — becoming the first woman to hold the title.
Party leadership remained the same for the Democrats, who re-elected Senate President Don Harmon to a second term at the Senate’s Old State Capitol inauguration. Speaker of the House Emanuel “Chris” Welch retained his position during the House inauguration ceremony at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Gov. JB Pritzker, who was sworn in Monday, oversaw the Senate inauguration on Wednesday.
“These public servants have pledged their time and energy to working to make our great state an even better place to live, a sacrifice for members and for their families that does not go unrecognized,” the governor said in a statement.
Former state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, would have been sworn into his fifth term as a representative on Wednesday if not for him stepping down effectively New Year’s Eve. He announced in November he would leave the House to serve as president of the Illinois Railroad Association. Menard County deputy sheriff Jason Huffman filled-in to conclude his term with the 87th House District in the lame duck session.
To select Butler’s replacement in the 95th House District, a committee composed of Republican Central Committee chairpersons from Christian, Macon, and Sangamon counties voted last week at the Sangamon County GOP headquarters. The man they selected — local businessman Mike Coffey — was officially sworn in as the new representative Tuesday.
State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, took the oath of office after winning her first Senate race in November. First appointed to fill the vacancy of now Deputy Gov. Andy Manar in 2021, Turner became the first elected Black legislator to serve Springfield in the General Assembly.
“Living in Springfield my whole life, it is an honor to continue being your voice in the Capitol and serve as the voice for the people of the 48th District,” Turner said in a statement. “My top priority is to better the lives of people in Central Illinois and find solutions to the challenges we face.”
State Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, faced no opponent in his election to the 54th Senate District. In addition to being sworn in to his second term in the legislature, McClure also gained a new title as minority floor leader.
He had previously served as assistant minority leader when representing the 50th Senate District in the prior General Assembly.
“It is a tremendous responsibility to be tasked with presenting the Republican perspective during debates in the chamber and an honor to be asked to serve in this important position by my colleagues,” McClure said in a statement.
Checks and balances
A common refrain among Republicans on legislative matters is a lack of bipartisan opportunities to work together. McCombie, the first woman to lead a party in the House, again made that case on Tuesday.
She is facing an uphill battle in the House, where Democrats gained five seats in the November election. This was due to the gerrymandered nature of the state, McCombie said, but vowed to work with Democrats when the chance presents itself.
“We are problem solvers,” she said. “So use our knowledge, benefit from our talents and hear our hearts. Let us show you that any preconceived notions about Republicans is false. We want to govern. So, I ask you, please don’t disregard our value.”
Welch entered his second term as Speaker of the House, replacing the long-serving and now legally-embattled former House Speaker Michael Madigan in 2021. He also signaled support of bipartisanship.
“So while Leader McCombie and I will certainly have our own disagreements, it is my hope that even our disagreements can be productive when we remember that the reasons why we’re doing the work are very similar,” he said. “That’s a commitment I make to every member — whether Democrat or Republican – because I am not Speaker of the Democrats but Speaker of the House.”
Harmon, also entering his second term as Senate president, presented a challenge to the 59 senators. The Oak Park Democrat asked those in the chamber to make sure they were in position to serve others in their district and not themselves.
“Be guided by that truth, whether it be politically convenient or not,” he said. “If your motivations are elsewhere, the Illinois Senate is not for you.”
Harmon also welcomed new Republican leader Curran, replacing state Sen. Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Hills, to the office. He also urged collective work on the issues facing Illinoisans, namely inflation and over-taxation.
“Our agenda is focused on helping Illinois families and job creators rebuild and renew opportunity in Illinois,” he said. “We need real, substantive and sound economic policies that are going to help improve the lives of the people in our state.”
Farewell to the 102nd
Tuesday was the last day of the 102nd Illinois General Assembly and the final day in the legislature for several Republicans and Democrats in both chambers.
House Republicans saw an exodus after losses in the November election. Former House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, announcing this week that he would be leaving the legislature. State Reps. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, lost in the secretary of state and state treasurer races respectively.
Locally, it was state Rep. Sandy Hamilton, R-Springfield, who received special recognition on the House floor on Tuesday as her abbreviated term ended. Hamilton was appointed as former state Rep. Mike Murphy’s replacement in December 2021 after the Springfield GOP legislator left to serve as CEO and president of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
Deciding not to cast her name for the 95th House District vacancy left by Butler, Hamilton did not rule out a return to the General Assembly. She lost in a contentious 48th Senate District race to Turner in the midterm election.
“I’ve only been here a short time, but this has been such an honor to be a part of this and go through this with all of you,” she said.
Contact Patrick Keck: email@example.com, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter.
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