Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan earned the title of longest-serving legislative leader in U.S. history in 2017. He’s led the House of Representatives for 33 of the last 35 years.
Now he’s setting another record: longest-serving state Democratic Party chairman in Illinois history, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Party officials re-elected Madigan to his sixth term as chairman April 23. He’s held that post since 1998.
Madigan is the only legislative leader in the country to also serve as a party chairman, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. In September 2017, state Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, filed a bill that would prohibit this practice, barring any member of the General Assembly from “concurrently [serving] as the chairperson for a statewide political party.”
McDermed’s bill did not make it out of the House Rules Committee, a major source of Madigan’s legislative power. When a state representative introduces a bill, it goes to the Rules Committee. Lawmakers are then supposed to assign the bill to a relevant committee for further discussion. In practice, Madigan is able to muzzle debate on any given bill by hoarding it in the Rules Committee, which is chaired by his longtime ally, state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago.
Under the House rules, Madigan doles out committee chair positions and the stipends that come with them, controls who votes in committees, dictates when a bill will be called for a vote, and decides what bills make it to a vote in the first place.
Taken together, the powers of a single politician in Illinois’ legislative process are unparalleled when compared with other states.
And as long as Madigan continues to head a political party while wielding the legislative powers that come with a Democratic majority in the House, those rules aren’t likely to change.