|Democrats control the Illinois General Assembly and can easily pass their party’s legislation through the House and Senate – and can block any spending or economic reform Gov. Bruce Rauner proposes.
But the majority party holds another source of power that gives its leaders more influence over the legislative process and, ultimately, Illinoisans’ daily lives.
That power comes from the legislative rules that Illinois House of Representatives Speaker Mike Madigan uses on an everyday basis to advance his agenda in Springfield.
New research from the Illinois Policy Institute provides an analysis of legislative rules in all 50 states, and shows that Illinois gives more power to its House speaker than virtually every other state in the nation.
Four of Illinois’ current legislative rules stack the deck in favor of the House speaker and the Democratic majority.
- Under current legislative rules, Madigan has the power to appoint – and remove – Democratic committee chairs, and thereby bestow and take away the $10,000 stipends that accompany the positions.
- Illinois is 1 of only 18 legislative chambers that compensate leaders in every standing committee in the legislature.
- By comparison, more than two-thirds of state legislative chambers provide no additional compensation to committee chairs.
- Madigan can substitute members of legislative committees – thereby getting the votes he wants while protecting committee members from taking votes that are unpopular in their districts.
- The Illinois House is 1 of 29 legislative chambers with rules that explicitly authorize the substitution of committee members.
- Seventy of 99 state legislative chambers have no explicit rule authorizing temporary substitution of committee members, and 33 state legislative chambers prohibit them entirely or do not make use of substitutions in practice.
- Madigan has the sole power to dictate when a bill will be called for a vote.
- Illinois is 1 of only 3 states with an explicit rule authorizing the House speaker to skip from bill to bill with no advance notice.
- At least 55 state legislative chambers have confirmed that bills are called in a predetermined order.
- Madigan can kill bills before they have a chance to be heard, as the Rules Committee – chaired by a longtime Madigan ally – determines whether a bill will be vetted or sit in Rules Committee until it dies.
- Illinois is 1 of only 9 states that require bills to go to a rules committee before being vetted by a substantive committee.
- By comparison, 41 states do not require bills to go to a rules committee before being sent to substantive committees.
- Illinois is the only state that requires a supermajority to sponsor a bill in order to force it out of Rules Committee.
Compared with other states in the country, Illinois’ House speaker has unprecedented power to control Illinois’ legislative and political agendas – to the detriment of ordinary Illinoisans.