Positively Naperville: House Rules Channel Greater Power to Majority Party Lawmakers

Each month Rep. Grant Wehrli publishes a column in the Positively Naperville newspaper. Below is the column that was published in early February:

On January 9, members of the new 101st General Assembly took the oath of office. The inauguration was followed by receptions, where Republicans and Democrats spoke of bipartisanship and how both parties will work together to solve the problems of Illinois.

The first test of this pledge for peace came to the House floor in late January, when the majority party presented the proposed rules for how business will be conducted in the House of Representatives during 2019-2020. Unfortunately, promises to work together were shelved, as rules that strengthen the Democrat majority’s ability to advance their agenda, and weaken Republicans’ ability to move legislation that benefits their constituents, were adopted in a party-line vote.

You see, there are two primary votes Speaker Mike Madigan requires of his caucus at the start of each General Assembly. The first is the vote to keep him in power as Speaker of the House. The second is the adoption of Madigan’s rules that solidify his ability to single-handedly decide which bills are brought forward to the House floor for debate, and which bills are never granted a committee hearing, and therefore die in his House Rules Committee.

In the 100th General Assembly that just ended, nearly 9,300 bills were filed in the House and Senate. Approximately 1,300 were ultimately approved. But of the substantive bills that were filed, thousands died because they were never moved out of the House Rules Committee. Bills that sought to address important issues like property tax relief and the unsustainability of the pension system never saw the light of day.

In Illinois, 118 State Representatives are elected as the voice of roughly 108,000 Illinoisans from our home districts. In a true democracy, ideas brought forth from right-leaning Representatives would be granted the same consideration as those championed by the left. Sadly, that is not the case. The Rules that govern our House activity essentially disenfranchises large groups of Illinoisans because their “voice,” brought forward through legislation filed by their State Representative, is silenced.

I believe that all bills should be heard. Each initiative deserves a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from a substantive committee, and those that clear the committee process should be brought to the floor for formal debate and a vote. As your voice, I will always push for true democracy, so that 118 individuals with differing opinions and unique constituencies, can come together, discuss the merits of all bills, and vote in line with the opinions of the 108,000 people who sent us to Springfield.