* WGN-TV Political Reporter Tahman Bradley recently interviewed House Speaker Chris Welch. An excerpt…
TB: Let’s move on and discuss what the House will look like under Speaker Welch. Now, all bills filed on time will be required to be assigned to committees, but the committee chairmen can still decide whether or not they come to a vote. In other words, your committee chairmen can kill Republican ideas before they’re even brought up. So what’s different?
SCW: Well I mean first of all, I think that this is representative of a democracy. We are a super majority and we have the ability to govern the state because we won elections. But what our colleagues on the other side of the House should do is instead of complaining about rules that they helped to write many, many years ago - many of these same rules were in place when Lee Daniels was a Republican Speaker of the House - they should work their bills, they should work with those chairmen and get those bills out of committee, because the chairmen are in charge of those committees. And I think that’s very important. Not the speaker, not the minority leader, it’s each individual chairperson of those committees. They taught me as a freshman legislator eight years ago, work your bills, go to both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans and my friends on the other side of the aisle should do that as well.
TB: Mr Speaker, why not allow an up or down vote on every bill that’s filed?
SCW: Well, you know, one of the things that the rules allow us to do is manage this process. Tahman, you’ve covered Springfield for a long time, a lot of bills get filed. We have to be out of there by May 31st at midnight, or a different process kicks in. And our friends on the other side of the aisle use a tactic to slow things down. We want to get things done, and they want to slow things down. And so if you don’t have rules in place that allow you to manage the process, they’ll kill good legislation just by slowing you down.
TB: Mr. Speaker, the Springfield practice of unveiling major pieces of legislation at the 11th Hour has long been complained about. What steps have you taken to end the practice of a lawmaker filing an amendment with only a few hours left in session? There are a couple minutes of debate and the next thing you know people are voting on something they’ve not read.
SCW: Well let me correct something that you said there. It’s been a long standing practice, but not because it’s a surprise. The negotiation process, many times you’re in working groups that have been going on for weeks and months, and the work of those working groups come about the agreement at the very last minute. And so, we have to eliminate the political spin and get past that rhetoric and recognize that a lot of amendments that are filed is the work of bipartisan working groups, agencies and several different parties. Just like with this past lame duck session with the Black Caucus pillars. Those bills were worked on for months, several people at the table. And so when there’s this talk that amendments were popping out at the last minute, that’s not quite true. Those things have been worked on for weeks and months as part of the process.
Please pardon all transcription errors.