In this issue:
- Abrupt end to last week’s session
- ComEd trial revealing Illinois corruption
- Our bill backlog
- Illinois headlines
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Session comes to abrupt end with not enough lawmakers to pass partisan bills
Republicans are in a super-minority in the Illinois House, holding just 40 seats, compared to the Democrats’ 78. It takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the House. Last week saw around 400 bills pass the House, as lawmakers rushed to get bills passed before last Friday’s deadline.
Many of these pass unanimously or with big bipartisan majorities, but some go through on party-line votes. And toward the end of the day last Friday, Democrats started having trouble rounding up the necessary number of votes to pass party-line bills. One of my fellow Republican representatives noticed some votes seemed to have been cast by people other than the representative authorized to cast them. What happened over the next few minutes was shocking.
Around 10 p.m. on Friday, a bill was voted on which initially appeared to have enough votes to pass. House rules require that members vote their own switches; that is, only the representative is allowed to push the button casting their Yes or No vote. But it looked as though some of the members who were recorded as Yes votes were not actually in the chamber, and therefore could not have cast their vote in favor.
Representative Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) asked for a “verification” of the vote, a process by which the House clerk reads the names of those recorded as voting Yes, and then verifies that they are actually present in the chamber. After a long delay, it was determined that at least four members who were recorded as Yes on the bill were not in the chamber – meaning that they could not have voted for the bill, someone else had pushed their Yes button.
The four absent members’ votes were removed from the roll call, which meant the bill did not have enough votes to pass. Session was abruptly adjourned a few minutes later.
On some occasions a representative will vote a fellow representative’s switch when that representative is away from his or her desk at the moment a vote is called and the representative’s intentions on the bill are well known. But when it is done so brazenly, and for so many members that it changes the outcome of a vote, then something is wrong.
This kind of mischief is why people are cynical about politics. I am glad that House Republicans were able to call it out and put a stop to it.
ComEd corruption trial puts Springfield backroom deals on full display
Last year the former Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, was indicted on several corruption charges. Madigan will go to trial next spring. In the meantime, a trial is underway for four executives from the utility company ComEd for the role they allegedly played in the Madigan corruption scandal. The trial is uncovering the way corrupt deals were made in Springfield for far too long.
“Through wiretapped conversations, internal documents and the sworn accounts of key insiders, prosecutors in the ‘ComEd Four’ bribery trial have laid bare the political machine as it existed during Madigan’s decadeslong run at the apex of the political food chain,” is how a Chicago Tribune reporter described what was being revealed in the courtroom.
Madigan accumulated immense power as Speaker of the House, state Democratic Party chairman, and boss of his Chicago ward, often exercising his power through “fear and intimidation.” It allowed him to control what legislation got enacted, whose careers got advanced and which lobbyists and special interests got what they wanted from state government.
The specific allegation in the ComEd case is that the company paid Madigan-connected subcontractors and hired Madigan-connected workers in exchange for the Speaker pushing the company’s preferred legislation through Springfield.
Madigan stepped down as Speaker in January 2021. His trial is set for April 2024.
Our current bill backlog
When a vendor provides the state with goods and services, they submit the bill to the Illinois Comptroller for payment. The Comptroller processes the paperwork and pays the bill when funds are available in the state’s checking account. Currently the total amount of unpaid bills is $2,019,532,939. This figure changes daily. Last year at this time the state had $3.4 billion in bills awaiting payment. This only includes bills submitted to the Comptroller for payment, not unfunded debts like the state’s pension liability, which is well over $100 billion.