Friday, September 29, 2017

Madigan couldn't be both Speaker and party chairman under proposed legislation

Madigan couldn't be both Speaker and party chairman under proposed legislation, Metamora Herald

By Cole Lauterbach and Greg Bishop| Illinois News Network

A new bill in the Illinois House would force Michael Madigan to choose between his role as House Speaker or Democratic Party Chairman.

State Rep. Margo McDermed's bill would bar a legislative leader from also holding their political party's checkbook. Madigan, D-Chicago, is the only person in the nation that this measure would apply to, as he's the only statehouse leader that is also the head of his state's political party. Madigan has served as speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives since 1983, save two years when he was minority leader. He has led the Illinois Democratic Party as its chair since 1998.

Considering that McDermed's bill would have to pass multiple committees in the Madigan-controlled House, she says it's highly unlikely to even see a committee hearing.

"There's no chance of this bill seeing the light of day. Ever," McDermed, R-Frankfort, said. "But we can't solve the problem until we name the problem."

The result of having a governing chamber leader also be responsible for bolstering his political party, as McDermed said, is that every facet of the House gets viewed through a political lens that centers around the next election. She said this often degrades bipartisanship and sews discord among members.

"The Illinois House is run as a political adjunct of the Illinois Democrat Party," she said.

State Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, was the only Democrat not to endorse Madigan in his reappointment for speaker in January, instead voting present. He thinks it’s a problem with too few people having too much power. But if the public got behind such a measure like McDermed’s bill, he said state legislators may be emboldened to speak out.

"The fact that the perception is there is something that we really need to look at," Drury said. "If we want the public to trust its government, then we have to do things that make us trustworthy."

Steve Brown, spokesman for the House Democrats and the state Democratic Party, said he couldn't respond to questions about the bill because he hadn't yet read it. Illinois' Republican chair, Tim Schneider, is a Cook County commissioner.


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