(ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK) – An Illinois House committee critics say acts as a gatekeeper will remain a hurdle for some legislation after the House rules were approved in committee.
At issue was the role served by the Rules Committee, typically the first place a bill is sent once it’s introduced. The main purpose of that committee is to determine which committee the bill gets sent to next for debate and revision. But, critics say, too often that is nowhere — the bills are left to die.
State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, complained Monday in Springfield that holds bills back from substantive floor debate.
State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said that doesn’t happen often. “Rarely do we actually use that gatekeeping role to keep from the opportunity for debate the bills you care about or that other members of the House care about.”
Demmer fired back and said the Rules Committee acts as a procedural roadblock. “What we see in the Rules Committee is predetermined actions, actions that only prevail and do not fail, and that’s not the normal way that a committee functions.”
State Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva, said hundreds of bills in the previous General Assembly never made it out of Rules.
Currie also fought back against a different criticism, one that hundreds of bills could be called for a vote on the floor with short notice. She said members should be able to do their homework. “It upsets me to think you don’t want to do your homework. You want to be spoon fed what is going to happen on the floor.”
Andersson said its not right to allow only a few hours notice prior to votes on bills that are hundreds of pages long and haven’t been heard in committee. He said he’s not asking to be spoon fed but what’s really going is more like forced feeding, “to insist that you enter into something virtually unprepared on a given day, and my point was even if that’s a fair statement, how about we do better.”
The Senate approved their rules after inauguration earlier this month. They included term limits for legislative leaders.
State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said the Democrats will not follow suit. “It is not the plan to propose leader term limits as part of our rules.”
“I don’t favor that because I think who the leaders are is a member driven process. It’s not a process that should be driven by public input,” Lang said. “Who runs the chamber called the Illinois House of Representatives should be decided by the members and nobody else.”
To the complaints raised by Republicans, Lang said the minority will always complain about the tyranny of the majority, regardless of party or state.
Lang said longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, “has great prerogatives to determine the procedures and what bills will be called and to set the agenda,” like in every other legislative body.
Madigan has been Illinois House Speaker for over 30 years.