SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - House Republicans unveiled their main goals for the spring session Wednesday. Caucus members hope to "reimagine Illinois" with significant reforms.
Republicans renewed their call for fiscal responsibility, job growth, public safety, and an end to corruption in Springfield. Members want to use the first year without former Speaker Mike Madigan to try and pass many of the proposals they've had for years.
They hope to ban lawmakers from lobbying while in office, allow citizens to petition for amendments to the state's constitution, and give every lawmaker the opportunity for a floor vote on their proposals. Republicans also plan to pass bills requiring balanced budgets and complete transparency in the budgetary process allowing for public comment.
"This is important that people realize that House Republicans are not the party of no. We're prepared to move forward," said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). "We want this state to survive, we want this state to thrive. We want our kids and grandkids to have availability, we want them to have opportunity."
Fiscal responsibility and public safety
The caucus also hopes to pass strong economic policies to bring business investment back to Illinois and create apprenticeship programs. Members would also like to reduce property taxes across the board.
In terms of public safety, Republicans say they'll work to address the delays with FOID card applications and renewals and review the significant changes to the bail system recently approved through the Black Caucus criminal justice law. Members would like to create a "Back the Badge" program to recruit and retain police officers.
Republicans feel these ideas could finally address longstanding issues that "plague" Illinois and restore faith in state government. Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville) said many voters and Democrats share the same ideas.
"It's a comprehensive package and platform so that if we grow our economy, we won't be in as challenging of a financial situation. If we have a transparent budgeting process, we can truly fund our priorities instead of maybe some pet programs that are included in the budget."
Getting an up or down vote
Republican bills rarely left the Rules Committee under Madigan's reign of power. Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch (D-Hillside) already declared all legislation must move out of the Rules Committee during the first year of each General Assembly.
GOP members are glad they'll have a shot for committee debates. But, they hope their proposals actually get votes on the House floor. Many Democrats have filed legislation to address the same issues. Republicans said they're willing to vote for a Democrat's bill as long as reforms happen.
"Absolutely. There's no pride in ownership," Durkin said. "To me, it's not important if my name's attached to it or Avery Bourne or Mike Murphy's."
Murphy, a Springfield Republican, introduced a bill two years ago that would only pay lawmakers for each day they work. His proposal never made it out of committee. However, that could have prevented the controversy last month when Madigan's first successor resigned after just short of three days on the job.
"When we had three Reps from the same district in the same month, I got a call from Comptroller [Susana] Mendoza. She said she liked my bill, but she's having Katie Stuart introduce a similar bill and wanted to know if I would be Chief Co-Sponsor. I said, 'Most certainly,' because it doesn't matter if it's Katie Stuart's bill or Mike Murphy's bill."
Murphy stressed his caucus would back their word with action.
You can learn more about the entire Reimagine Illinois platform by clicking here.