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The House “Agri-Culture-Wars” Committee strikes again

Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We’ve talked before about all the non-agriculture bills which have been assigned to the House Agriculture Committee. Yesterday, the committee held a hearing on two bills opposed by pro-choice forces, which sparked a “Women are Not Livestock” protest

The House Agriculture and Conservation Committee, which is dominated by conservative downstate Democrats and Republicans, [yesterday] unanimously approved a measure that would require Illinois abortion clinics to meet tougher regulations to continue providing services.

Under the proposal, clinics that perform more than 50 abortions a year would be required to meet the same regulatory requirements as other medical outpatient surgery clinics.

* Three bills were actually assigned for debate in the committee yesterday. Two passed, but one was held up because a pro-choice Senator had already pre-filed to sponsor the bill, effectively killing it in that chamber...

All three sponsors of the bills denied asking that their bills be sent to the Agriculture Committee and did not know who made the decision to put their bills before the panel, though all complimented House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) for giving their bills a chance to be heard.

“I don’t know,” said [GOP Rep. Darlene] Senger, when asked why her abortion-clinic bill was in front of the farming committee. “These committees have been all over the place this time. I got some other bills in some crazy places right now, too.”

But House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), who chairs the House Rules Committee that assigns bills to committees, said rank-and-file legislators make the request as to where their bills go in the earliest stages of the legislative process.

* As you an see, the “why” behind the bill assignments is a bit murky. The sponsors aren’t taking responsibility, but Speaker Madigan’s office is pointing the finger of blame at them

When asked if the ideological makeup of the committee was the reason for the bill’s assignment, Senger said, “I couldn’t comment on that.”

But Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the legislation went to the committee at Senger’s request.


Senger denies requesting the committee assignment for her bill, or even knowing how it got there. She suggested that other lawmakers or lobbyists may have had some input into the committee assignment.

That could be.

* Back to the protest

“I’m not sure what agriculture has to do with women’s reproductive health care,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, who wore one of the shirts on the House floor.

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said there were agendas floating to erode the rights of women.

“Even worse, they seem to be going to the most inappropriate committees here in Springfield that deal with livestock,” she said. “Personally, I think it should offend every woman in the state of Illinois that those bills were sent to that committee.”

Asked if she thought they were sent there because of the more conservative makeup of the committee, increasing the proposals’ chances of making it onto the House floor, Feigenholtz said, “You think?”


“They’ve spent more time asking questions about road kill and muskrats than they did (debating) this bill,'’ before passing it 13-0, complained Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the bill.

* An unusual defense

Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, who testified for the bill in committee, made one of the few attempts to justify the committee assignment. He maintained the bill is an attempt to regulate potentially unsafe abortion clinics, and said: “They say women are not livestock. We completely agree, which is why they should not be treated like that.'’

* The last word

But even some conservatives, like state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, question the committee’s catch-all jurisdiction over conservative social issues. Bost got a big laugh from the protestors when he presented an unrelated bill with the announcement that “it might actually be an agricultural bill.'’

“I’m always amazed at what goes through the Ag Committee,'’ he said later. “I’m pro-gun, I’m pro-life, but you have to question it.'’



  1. - reformer - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 9:14 am:

    Osterman’s gun control bills used to go to the most liberal committees. I don’t recall Elaine or Sarah complaining about committee assignments when it favors bills they like.

  2. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 9:19 am:

    Clearly a strategy that backfires to some extent. Would these bills have collected this much attention & negative publicity if they had gone through an appropriate committee? Probably not. Plus, it puts some conservative Dems in the position of having to make a vote they might not want to cast.

  3. - Carl Nyberg - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 9:24 am:

    Pat Quinn is governor, right?

    What is the purpose of this bill? Does it have any purpose than to push the buttons of people who give money and get active on the abortion issue?

    I’m looking at the world facing some serious problems.

    And what I see in Springfield is a bunch of preening narcissists.

    Terry Link, Mike Boland and Art Turner were too incompetent to get the media to cover the Scott Lee Cohen story–let’s give it to Hynes and Quinn, they’ll know what to do.

    Most of the state legislatures don’t stand up to leadership b/c they are too lazy or inept to raise their own campaign funds.

    But, hey, let’s argue about abortion. Should be good for some direct mail fundraising. And the doofuses in the media know how to write an article about abortion. Writing about unemployment, labor issues, which manufacturing might benefit from Japan’s problems, nuclear safety, etc. would require some research.

  4. - Gilman - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 9:30 am:

    What’s wrong with regulating abortions? God knows we regulate everything else in this state…

    (Don’t forget to put a tax on abortions to pay for this regulation. And think of the jobs it will create!)

  5. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 9:36 am:

    From the outside looking in, the committee assignment process appears to be just another tool to concentrate power in the Speaker’s office and keep committees and their chairs weak while keeping individual members dependent on his good graces.

    Using the abortion example, strong advocates on either side of the question aren’t going to jump for the chance to get on the Ag Committee. Therefore, their influence on whatever abortion legislation the Speaker deems can reach the floor is bupkis.

    It’s good to be the king.

  6. - Bill - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 9:40 am:

    This bill is typical overreach by the right-wingers. Emboldened by the possibility of success on concealed carry and stung by actions of the lame duckers, they move on to their favorite issue of women’s rights ( or the lack of them). They should have realized that this is their third rail and kept away but NOOOOOOO! Talk about awakening the sleeping bear!
    Whoops! Sorry for the animal analogy!

  7. - Dooley Dudright - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 9:42 am:

    In the aftermath of tax hike/civil unions/death penalty abolition, Rich writes: “Downstate Democratic legislators are screaming for the (concealed carry) bill as a way to help them throw some much-needed red meat at their furious constituents.”

    By extension — tossing a couple of bones for gnawing-on by the Ag Committee helps accomplish the same purpose.

    Give vent to the rage. Things eventually will calm down.

    And the bills won’t pass.

    Very shrewd. Very smart.

  8. - David Lawson aka Federal Farmer - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 9:46 am:

    I admit I haven’t read the terms of this bill, but it seems to me that an abortion clinic is performing an outpatient surgery so I don’t understand why they wouldn’t be held to the same standards and requirements of an outpatient surgery clinic.

    I’m pro-choice, but this sounds like an odd thing to get riled up about.

  9. - fed up - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 9:59 am:

    I also am pro choice but do not understand why an abortion clinic isn’t held to the same standards as other out patient clinics. Maybe their is a good reason not to regulate abortion clinics but besides the need for more security I don’t see what makes them different than other medical clinics.

  10. - D.P. Gumby - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 10:27 am:

    Sounds like an effort to gin up anti-abortion supporters by piggy-backing on the abhorrent situation in Philly and seeking to equate all clinics w/ that place. Two likely Illinois alternatives: 1) all Illinois facilities already comply so this is just a “press release” bill or 2) there are requirements for outpatient facilities that are expensive and unnecessary for abortion services that would unduly burden such services, which fits the strategy of the anti-choice forces of creating more and more obstructions to women exercising their choice.

  11. - amalia - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 10:30 am:

    the sponsor may have asked that the bill go to this committee, but Mike Madigan, you allowed women to be treated like livestock. it’s insulting and irresponsible to have an important issue reviewed this way. hey, Lisa, what do you think about that?

  12. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 11:44 am:

    Abortion clinics are different from other outpatient surgery centers in one important way and that’s that the surgery they do is very, very specific. So for instance, they would be unlikely to have more than 1 X-ray machine (if that) because it’s not used in this type of medicine. They would not have a full pharmacoupia of drugs on hand because they would be unlikely to use them. I can’t imagine an abortion being provided to a man or a 60 year old woman, so they probably don’t have items on hand that might be used for such patients.

  13. - CSI - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 1:41 pm:

    One thing to remember is that K. Burke and Flowers are on the Ag Comm too and both bills passed out on leave so I find it hard to make the case this was a conservative coo.

  14. - sweaty freddy - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 1:44 pm:

    Feigenholtz and Nekritz wear shirts and give speeches to protest the assignments of the bills to Agriculture yet they vote for Madigan as Speaker who assigns these bills to this conservative committee for years. They love the public attention and duping the people that care about the issue that they are on their side but they do not have the courage to confront the Speaker about it. Well played by them and everyone is fooled by their act.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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