Incoming Illinois House Democrat calls for ‘no’ vote on Madigan for speaker

Incoming Illinois House Democrat calls for ‘no’ vote on Madigan for speaker

Illinois House Rep.-elect Anne Stava-Murray is making an unprecedented call to dump the longest-serving legislative leader in U.S. history.

Opposition to Mike Madigan on the vote he values most is transcending party lines.

For the first time in the Chicago Democrat’s nearly 35 years holding the speaker’s gavel, a member of his own caucus in the Illinois House of Representatives publicly stated her intention to reject him as speaker of the House in advance of the January vote.

And she’s calling on other House Democrats to join her.

Incoming state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, confirmed Nov. 12 on Facebook that she would fulfill her campaign pledge to reject Madigan as speaker of the House.

“Legislators are deciding THIS WEEK on whether or not to commit to vote for Madigan as speaker,” she wrote.

“I have committed to voting ‘nay,’ a campaign promise I will keep. Some other reps are currently considering speaking out against bullying and voting ‘Nay’ to Madigan and community support could help them commit sooner.”

House members will soon decide whether to grant Madigan his record-breaking 18th term as speaker.

The vote

The vote for House speaker is fairly simple, and will likely take place Jan. 9, 2019, when Illinois House and Senate members are inaugurated. Here’s how it works:

First, a temporary clerk of the House calls for nominations for speaker from House members, all of which require a second. Then, after nominations are done, House members take a roll call vote where they each voice the name of their preferred speaker. No debate is permitted before the vote.

The nominee who receives 60 votes or more becomes speaker of the House for the following two years.

This means Stava-Murray’s call for a “nay” vote on Madigan could conceivably come in one of two forms. The first is to vote “present,” and the second is to cast her vote for another nominee. She could even cast a vote for herself should another House member second her nomination.

Madigan was first elected speaker of the House in 1983, following his controversial redrawing of Illinois’ legislative maps and a constitutional amendment that reduced the size of the House to 118 members from 177. House members have elected him speaker for all but two years since then.

Save for Republican control of the House from 1995 to 1996, only two Illinois House Democrats have ever rejected Madigan as speaker.

The first was former state Rep. Richard Mautino, D-Spring Valley, who dared to cast a “present” vote for speaker in 1987. He was immediately deprived of a vice chairmanship on a House committee. Two years later he would vote for Madigan, who promptly made Mautino chairman of the House Insurance Committee.

It would be 30 years until another House Democrat refused to cast a speaker vote for Madigan.

In 2017, state Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highland Park, voted “present” for speaker. Drury will not be returning to the General Assembly in 2019, since he entered this year’s race for Illinois attorney general.

The power

Support for Madigan as House speaker should not fall along party lines, as the power he has amassed through the speakership has done nothing less than undermine democracy in Illinois.

No other state legislative body in the nation grants such extreme powers to the House speaker. Through the House rules, which like the speaker vote are passed into law by Illinois lawmakers, Madigan wields the power to:

  • Dole out committee chair positions and the stipends that come with them
  • Control who votes in committees
  • Dictate when a bill will be called for a vote
  • Control what bills make it to a vote

Republican leadership expanded the power these rules granted legislative leaders in the 1990s, and Madigan has been more than happy to continue that trend in the two decades since Democrats took back control of the House.

But it’s not just the rules from which Madigan draws power. He is also the only legislative leader in the nation to head a state political party. As chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, Madigan controls policy, politics and purse strings at the same time.

A September 2018 Illinois Policy Institute analysis revealed more than 60 sitting state representatives received nearly $15 million in total from Madigan’s campaign committees, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Those representatives have collectively cast 281 votes for Madigan for speaker.

Stava-Murray has not taken any money from Madigan-controlled committees, according to public records.

To be sure, the new Democratic House member from Chicago’s western suburbs will draw Madigan’s ire for her choice to stand up to the status quo. It remains to be seen how many of her colleagues will stand with her.

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