Proposed House rules add speaker term limits, remote committee meetings
Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch speaks at a news conference at the Bank of Springfield Center after being sworn in last month. (Capitol News Illinois file photo)
House Rules Committee meets Wednesday to vote on proposal
By SARAH MANSUR
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — When Emanuel “Chris” Welch was elected House Speaker last month, he stated his intention to revise the rules that govern committees and the procedures for conducting business in the Illinois House of Representatives, including those pertaining to the introduction of new bills.
“We're being sincere in taking a quick, hard examination on these rules,” Welch, D-Hillside, said in an interview with Capitol News Illinois this month, suggesting his willingness to amend the rules, unlike his predecessor, former Speaker Michael Madigan.
Proposed changes to the House rules, which were posted online Monday, will come before the Rules Committee for a vote when the committee convenes in the Capitol on Wednesday morning.
Capitol News Illinois compiled some of the significant amendments made to the House Rules below.
Leader term limits
Madigan earned the distinction as the longest serving House speaker in any state legislature in the country. Madigan’s more than four decade-long tenure as speaker was due in part to the fact that the House rules did not place any limit on the number of terms a speaker could serve.
Under the new proposed rules, no member would be allowed serve as speaker or leader of the minority party for more than five General Assemblies. Since each General Assembly spans a two-year period, any future House Speaker or Minority Leader would be limited to a 10-year term.
The new proposed rules would allow for Madigan to serve another decade because the rules exclude a member’s years of service as speaker that occurred before the current General Assembly. The term limits for speaker and minority leader can be lifted by a vote of 71 members.
The proposed rules would allow for House committees or task forces to meet remotely by video technology, “in the case of pestilence or public danger.” Remote committees are currently allowed in the Senate, but the House failed to pass a measure during the lame duck session in January that would have permitted it for substantive action in the full chamber.
Under the new proposed rules, action taken by members remotely during committee or task force meetings will “have the same legal effect as if the member were physically present when the action is taken.”
The technology used for remote meetings must be adequate to at least identify members who are participating, allow for the public — including the media — to hear and view each member and witness participating, and allow for witnesses to testify.
Special investigating committee
House rules permit members to create a “special investigative committee” that could lead to disciplinary actions against a House member who is the subject of the committee’s investigation.
Most recently, Republicans launched a special committee investigation into Madigan after federal prosecutors revealed that utility giant Commonwealth Edison admitted its executives were bribing associates of Madigan in order to ensure legislation favorable to the company.
In that case, Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, initiated the petition that created a special investigating committee against Madigan.
After the committee was formed, Madigan recused himself and allowed Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, to select the Democratic members of the committee. Ultimately, Welch, who chaired the committee, and the two other Democrats on the committee voted to end the committee’s work without disciplining Madigan.
The proposed rules would formalize the speaker’s recusal from a special investigating committee if the speaker is the subject of the investigation, as Madigan was.
They require the speaker or minority leader — if that person is a petitioner or subject of the petition — to designate the highest ranking member of their caucus to perform the duties and powers of speaker or minority leader with respect to the special investigative committee.
Under the proposed rules, the chairperson of the special investigative committee can establish procedural rules as long as they don’t conflict with the general House rules. Those procedural rules would then be filed with the House clerk and provided to each committee member and the petitioner.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.