House cutting committee bloat is a victory for taxpayers

By Austin Berg, Illinois Policy Institute | Jan 31, 2019

House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) was in Springfield on Jan. 29 when his colleagues took a vote on House rules that give him more power than any other state speaker in the nation.

As expected, the House approved the rules 73-42. What might not have been expected is that it also reduced the number of standing committees, cutting 15 while adding four. It also cut eight special committees.

This is a win for taxpayers and good-government advocates alike.

In 2017, the Illinois Policy Institute notes, Madigan created a dozen new committees, making Illinois home to the highest count of paid committee chairs in the nation by far. Each of these committee chairs receives a $10,000 annual stipend. And minority spokespeople for every committee get the same stipends as their Madigan-appointed counterparts.

The glut of committees was especially concerning given how few meetings many of them held.

One committee remains problematic: Rules. Every bill first heads to the Rules Committee before being assigned to a substantive committee, such as the Personnel & Pensions Committee or the Higher Education Committee. But Madigan appoints a majority of the Rules Committee members, and therefore can effectively kill any bill at will by letting it “die” in Rules.

It is virtually impossible for rank-and-file lawmakers to discharge a bill from Rules for a hearing and a vote. The Illinois House is one of only two in the country that muzzle debate in such an extreme manner, according to a 2017 IPI analysis.

The following standing committees were eliminated or consolidated:

  • Business Incentives for Local Communities
  • Business & Occupational Licenses
  • Community College Access & Affordability
  • Construction Industry & Code Enforcement
  • Cost Benefit Analysis
  • Economic Justice & Equity (Economic Opportunity Committee becomes Economic Opportunity & Equity Committee)
  • Elections & Campaign Finance
  • Elementary & Secondary Education: Charter School Policy (Elementary & Secondary Education: Licensing Committee becomes Elementary & Secondary Education: Administration, Licensing, & Charter Schools Committee
  • Environment (Energy Committee becomes Energy & Environment Committee)
  • Fire & Emergency Services
  • Government Consolidation & Modernization
  • Government Transparency
  • Insurance: Property & Casualty (Insurance: Health and Life Committee becomes Insurance Committee)
  • Mass Transit
  • Tourism, Hospitality & Craft Industries
The rules created the following new committees:

  • Adoption & Child Welfare
  • Appropriations – Capital
  • Child Care Accessibility & Early Childhood Education
  • Prescription Drug Affordability & Accessibility

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