February 10, 2021

Ending corruption in Illinois starts with reforming the power of the House speaker


MEDIA CONTACT: Melanie Krakauer (312) 607-4977

Why changes to the House Rules matter
Ending corruption in Illinois starts with reforming the power of the House speaker 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Feb. 10, 2021) – Voters tired of corruption should note Illinois has its best chance ­­to dismantle the unprecedented powers of the House speaker today when lawmakers return to Springfield.

The main item on the Illinois House of Representatives’ agenda is a vote on the House Rules, the set of procedural bylaws that guide the chamber.

Analysis from the Illinois Policy Institute found changes to the House Rules would go a long way toward returning power to the rest of the Illinois House and putting an end to corruption in Springfield.

What are the House Rules?
The House Rules are procedural rules that govern the operations of the chamber and grant the Illinois House speaker power. Current House Rules give the speaker influence over which bills make it to the floor, when they are voted on and who votes on them. Illinois grants its House speaker more power than any other state grants theirs.

Who decides on the House Rules?
The newly elected speaker, state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, will lead House lawmakers in a vote. The Rules only need a simple majority to be passed.

Why does Illinois need to change the House Rules?
Lawmakers are required to vote on the House Rules at the start of every legislative session. Current rules grant the speaker extraordinary power, including the outsized ability to influence decisions over which bills become law.

What has the House proposed to change in the House Rules?
The House has previewed new Rules which would impose a 10-year term limit on the offices of House speaker and minority leader – a rejection of the 36 years former House Speaker Mike Madigan spent as the longest-serving legislative leader in modern history. In addition, it’s taken a step to prevent bills from getting stuck in the House Rules Committee by requiring it to refer all bills to a substantive committee during the first year of the session. The proposed Rules also would prevent the speaker or minority leader from sitting on the Rules Committee.

The General Assembly is also expected to address changing House Rules to allow remote meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What additional changes should be made to the House Rules to prevent corruption?
Additional changes to the way the House does business are necessary if lawmakers wish to put an end to corruption in Springfield. They include:

  • Require lawmaker approval for committee chairpersons and minority spokespersons through majority vote and end unnecessary temporary committee substitutions. This would change the current rule that gives the speaker discretion to name and substitute committee members, allowing him or her to influence lawmakers and manipulate the process.
  • Enact a set schedule for the House to operate on, instead of allowing the speaker to change any order of business at any time. In addition, by taking away last-minute “gut and replace” bills and requiring a bill to be read in its final form on three different days, lawmakers could be given enough time to understand what they are voting on.

Amy Korte, vice president of policy at the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute, offered the following statement: 

“No state gives their House speaker as much power as Illinois. Meanwhile, corruption costs Illinoisans an estimated $556 million per year in lost economic growth and investment.

“Illinois can only reverse its culture of corruption by dismantling the system that has allowed for one person to wield so much power, starting with the House Rules. The proposed reforms have addressed some obstacles to taxpayers having a voice in Springfield. But Illinois could better balance the power structure if lawmakers take the opportunity to go further with a new way of doing the people’s business.”

To read more about the reforms to the House Rules, visit: illin.is/NewRules.

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977.