Week in Review: Rules of the House, Blue Collar Jobs, vaccines & more


Meet the new Rules, same as the old Rules. On Wednesday, February 10, the Illinois House of Representatives met for a one-day session at the State Capitol. For the first time in nearly a year, the House met for session in the House chambers, following CDC guidelines for social distancing and requiring smaller groups of legislators to come to the floor separately to cast their votes in a staggered manner.

The purpose of the one-day session was to adopt the new House Rules for the 102nd General Assembly. After promising reforms and declaring that it was a new day for the House, new Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch and his House Democratic Caucus rammed through partisan Rules that made few substantive changes to the Rules enforced for decades by former Speaker Michael J. Madigan. 
Illinois House Republicans advocated for new House Rules that would truly reform the process by increasing transparency, accountability, and small “d” democracy by allowing individual members to have their bills heard in committees. We must move on from the ways of the past to give Illinoisans the honest, transparent state government they deserve. The process has to change and it starts with the House Rules. Here are the Illinois House Republicans’ four highest priorities for the House Rules:

1. Rights of Members to have their bills called in Committee
Each member of the House shall have their bills sent to a substantive committee, posted for a vote in a substantive committee, and called for a vote in a substantive committee. All 118 members of the House of Representatives should have the right to have their bill called for a vote before a committee. This change is not mandating that all bills advance from committee. The change simply grants all 118 members the right to an up or down vote on their bills in committee. Give the members an opportunity to move the legislation that they believe is important to their district or the State.

2. Notice to the Members and Public on what will be up for action in committee and on the Floor
Require a Daily Notice on the House Calendar listing all Legislative Measures that the Speaker will call for consideration that Legislative Day. Require a Daily Notice on the House Calendar listing all Legislative Measures that Committee Chairpersons will call for consideration that Legislative Day. Such daily notice will provide transparency to the general public, and grant all members the ability to fully prepare for debate. These are measures that are used in the United States Congress, and provide those in Congress advanced notice of what will be up for business that week. A more prepared legislator allows for more robust and informative debates on matters before the body.

3. Create Waiting Period for Floor Amendments, Concurrence and Budget Bills
Create a reasonable public review period of at least one calendar day before consideration of floor amendments and concurrence motions and budget bills. The Rules would prohibit consideration until the calendar day after notice is posted for a hearing, or the calendar day after the measure is reported directly to the House from the Rules Committee. Current rules allow consideration one hour after the amendment is reported to the floor by the Rules Committee, or require a one-hour posting notice if referred to committee. Under these Rules, the House can be voting on a $40 billion budget with an hour’s notice. Does that really allow a member to truly know what is in that budget? Does the public know what is in it? We need to give everyone the chance to review all pieces of legislation and know what is being voted on in the House before taking final action. We need to be transparent with our actions.

4. Increase the ability of members to debate legislation on the House Floor
In order to provide for a more thorough debate on legislative matters before the House, changes to the House Rules are needed so that those members who wish to debate a matter are given the chance and members receive as much information as possible to make an informed vote. To ensure that this occurs, it should take 71 votes to rule a fiscal note and all other notes inapplicable, a move to previous question must require a recorded vote (rather than voice vote), and a more streamlined debate process implemented. If we want to be the best legislators we can be, we need to be as informed as possible before we vote. A strong and vigorous debate allows that to occur.

House Republican Floor Leader Mark Batinick released the following statement following floor debate on House Resolution 72, the House Rules for the 102nd General Assembly:

“HR 72 does not include the changes needed to ensure that legislation from the House has been thoroughly reviewed, debated, and considered. House Republican priorities were not included in these rules, denying action to move forward as a State into honest, transparent governance.

“House Republican priorities include daily notice of what legislation will be called for consideration on a given Legislative Day. We have had too many instances where significant bills were brought forward for debate at the eleventh hour, most recently during the lame duck session.

“As we debated these rules changes, I realized how wonderful the last 48 hours have been. We all knew that we were coming to the House floor to debate the rules and everybody seemed to like that.

“As lawmakers, we need an adequate amount of time to read bills in their final form and determine our position on each issue. Allowing lawmakers on our side of the aisle mere minutes to understand everything included in several-hundred-page bills is not the process that will produce the policy that Illinoisans deserve.

“Giving daily notice of what legislation is being considered would allow the public to be more informed of what is being considered in the House, allowing them a more active role in the legislative process. The U.S. Congress requires daily notice of legislation to be considered and our chamber’s methods should be no different.

“For decades, the majority party has treated us like mushrooms: keep us in the dark and feed us ‘manure.’ The problem is, when the majority party treats us that way, they are treating the entire general public that way. The people of the State of Illinois deserve better and deserve more transparency.”

Deputy House Republican Leader Tom Demmer stated that the House Rules should support, not circumvent, the Illinois Constitution. Demmer pointed out how the new Rules are over 99% the same as they were under former Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who was ousted as Speaker in January after ruling the House for 36 of the past 38 years. HR 72 was adopted by a partisan vote of 70-44.

New House Rules allow for virtual committee meetings. Illinois House Republicans opposed many aspects of the new House Rules. We did, however, support one feature of the new Rules that will move the legislative process forward under pandemic conditions. The new Rules allow House committees to convene, hear testimony, and take votes based upon electronic technology. Virtual House committee hearings will allow legislators and witnesses to meet remotely and conduct business during the ongoing pandemic.

House Republicans Tout Data Center Tax Incentive; Push Gov. Pritzker to Implement Blue Collar Jobs Act. Illinois House Republicans are calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to unfreeze the Blue Collar Jobs Act ahead of his annual budget address Wednesday to help Illinois attract companies and create jobs.

"Nothing helps the middle class more than creating good paying jobs," said state Rep. Keith Wheeler. "That's precisely what the Blue Collar Jobs Act does. It sends a message that Illinois is open for business."

The Blue Collar Jobs Act was a bipartisan package passed in 2019 with Gov. Pritzker's support that creates construction tax incentives for businesses. It was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 this year, but Pritzker delayed it citing the pandemic's revenue losses.

House Republicans believe that the ongoing pandemic and economic slowdown are the reasons why we need the Blue Collar Jobs Act to take effect now as a way to create jobs and boost our struggling economy.

"The best stimulus check we can give our citizens are steady, good paying jobs," said Rep. Mike Murphy.

State Rep. Jeff Keicher said Pritzker knows the benefits of the act because he is making a pitch to the New York Stock Exchange to bring their primary data center to the western suburbs with tax incentives for building data centers. On Wednesday, Crain's Chicago Business reported the governor's administration also wanted to make a pitch to the NYSE to move their headquarters to Illinois.

"We want to work with the governor to put job creation first," Murphy said.

Keicher pointed to last year's announcement by Facebook to build an $800 million data center in DeKalb as evidence companies want to move to Illinois and take advantage of the Blue Collar Jobs Act and Pritzker's commitment to bring jobs to the state to boost the economy.

"Those reforms are showing significant benefits and they should be maximized to bring more good paying jobs to Illinois," Keicher said.

Slow vaccination process in Illinois. Under current rules for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, many Illinois residents who are eligible to receive the vaccine cannot get shots. While all senior citizens are being told they are “at risk” and are being urged to get vaccinated, the current supply of vaccine is not nearly enough to actually carry out the procedure for everyone.

In addition, supplies of vaccine are being requested for large groups of additional Illinois residents. Additional supplies are needed for police officers and other first responders. Health care workers, frontline workers of all sorts, and schoolteachers are also requesting priority supplies. Widespread press coverage of chaotic conditions at some Illinois vaccination sites is adding to the overall atmosphere of concern and uncertainty. At the same time, neighboring states such as Indiana are expanding vaccination eligibility for all persons aged 60 and up.

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