LIVE: Welch becomes first Black speaker of the House in Illinois history

2:39 p.m.

Mark Denzler, president & CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association:

“Congratulations to the many public servants who took their oaths of office today. While the pandemic undoubtedly presents numerous challenges, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and manufacturers across the state stand ready to work with lawmakers to help lead the way out of this crisis. This pandemic has taught us the importance of creating and nurturing a strong manufacturing sector in Illinois,” he said. “Manufacturers are not only developing life-saving vaccines and treatments, but also producing needed personal protective equipment, keeping store shelves stocked with important goods and nutritious foods and powering our homes and businesses. By working together, we can build on these incredible accomplishments, put more people back to work and make sure Illinois comes out of the pandemic stronger than ever.”

2:38 p.m.

Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action:

“Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA) congratulates Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch on his election as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. As a co-sponsor of both the Reproductive Health Act and HB40, which guarantee that abortion is safe and legal in Illinois, Speaker Welch has proven he is a champion for reproductive rights. We applaud his work requiring Illinois health insurance plans to cover contraception without a co-pay and his co-sponsorship of the Equal Rights Amendment. We look forward to continuing to work with Speaker Welch to ensure that Illinois is a safe haven for reproductive rights and access to health care.

“We also urge Speaker Welch to continue his leadership on reproductive rights and push for the repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, as well as promote the enactment of PPIA’s other 2021 legislative agenda items including family planning funding for lower-income and uninsured people, passing the Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children’s Health (REACH) Act, and supporting policies to address Black maternal health disparities.”

2:37 p.m.

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit issued the following statement congratulating state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch:

“When I announced my intention to run for Speaker of the House back in October, I did so because I believed our caucus deserved a choice in leadership. Today, I am proud to have voted for Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who has shown time and time again that he is in it for the people of Illinois.

“Our state is facing tremendous challenges and it is imperative that we solve them together. Speaker Welch has shown that he will unite the state for the betterment of all Illinoisans, and I look forward to working with him in the 102nd General Assembly.

“I am energized by Speaker Welch’s vision and dedication, and I am proud to be a small part of the historic election of Illinois’ first Black Speaker of the House.”

2:27 p.m.

Durkin’s remarks, in part:

“It’s often been said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Now in the first time in many decades, 50 years since he was first elected, the name of Michael J. Madigan has not been offered as speaker of the House. Mr. Madigan’s record will long be reviewed and analyzed. His legacy leaves broken promises to Illinois taxpayers, listen, a legacy driven by absolute power and control, so much that his business model forced the largest public utility to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago. That’s an admission of fact.”

“The legacy is also one that’s failed … with unbalanced budgets, broken pension systems, and tax increase after tax increase with nothing to show for it.”

“What we have here in this unique and rare opportunity to break from the past, and fix the problems because they are apparent as the mask on our face. Consider the future. If you wish to move from the past you will have a partner in Jim Durkin and the House Republicans,” Durkin said.

“We must work quickly … because these problems that are identifiable could become unfixable.”

“I will repeat, we must stop creating problems, we must, must, must solve our problems.”

“It’s time to have a fresh start, to hit the reset button in state government,” and remember the mission to make the state better.

2:23 p.m.

“Today will be the last time I talk about us as Democrats and Republicans because I was to talk about us being united. We are going to work together to move this state forward,” Welch said as speaker.

“Before we get to work, I honestly believe that we have to thank and acknowledge that our state would not be where it is today without Speaker Madigan,” he said. “… While our state has many problems, our schools are better, more children have access to healthcare and our working class families ” have more benefits.”

“2020 was terrible but 2021, let’s commit to make it our bounce back year. I will work with you all to rein in the cost of prescription drugs, create options for displaced workers and to help people keep their insurance. We will need to work together to make difficult decisions … to control spending, while we protect our most vulnerable residents, leader Durkin.”

“Let us move forward into the next General Assembly together leader Durkin as a united General Assembly, remember our shared values, remember we do share a lot, focusing on the good of each other. Not trying to tear each other down and remember our motivation in making changes to make a positive impact on those we serve.”

1:39 p.m.

Durkin is elected minority leader in the House for for the 102nd General Assembly.

1:38 p.m.

Secretary of State Jesse White: Welch, with 70 votes, is declared elected speaker of the House for the 102nd General Assembly.

Welch got 70 votes; Durkin received 44 votes.

1:21 p.m.

Republican state Rep. Amy Elik nominated Jim Durkin for speaker.

“I ask you to join me in supporting an honorable man who would represent a much needed change in our state,” Elik said.

State Rep. Jeff Keicker seconds the motion for Durkin’s bid.

1:14 p.m.

“In five years, tomorrow, in 15 years, you will be able to proudly say that in the middle of the chaos of this country when white supremacists attempted to take over our nation that we stood together to elect the first African American to Speaker of the Illinois House of Representative,” state Rep. Delia Ramirez said when she seconded the motion. “We did that. That is how you are an accomplice, a partner and work to justice for all.”

12:59 p.m.

State Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, asks for everyone to stand to recognize Michael Madigan’s service.

“No matter where you stand on favorability, I ask for you to stand in recognition of Madigan,” he said, speaking in nomination of the next speaker. He acknowledged Kifowit, Willis, Williams and Hoffman and asked for a standing ovation for them as well.

“I rise for this historic moment to nominate Emanuel Chris Welch as speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives for him to be the first African American to be elected as speaker of the House in the state of Illinois,” West said.

“Yes we are walking in uncharted territory with COVID-19 still running rampant in our communities, major budget crisis, and remap, all while following in the footsteps and monumental legacy of Michale Madigan,” West said. “Welch did not choose this moment, this moment chose Welch.”

12:53 p.m.

The oaths of office have been administered for the 118 members of the Illinois House of Representatives.

12:52 p.m.

Matt Paprocki, president of the Illinois Policy Institute, offered the following statement:

“This is a historic day for the General Assembly. For the first time in nearly four decades, Speaker Madigan was not voted into power by members of his own party.

“No state gives their House speaker as much power as Illinois. Under Madigan’s 36 years as speaker, Illinois’ finances deteriorated from a perfect credit rating and just under $6 billion in unfunded pension debt to the lowest credit rating in the nation and over $144 billion in pension debt. And the state’s notoriety for public corruption has been backed up by 1,978 public corruption convictions since Madigan first became speaker, more than any other state and over one a week.

“This vote must become a catalyst for lasting, meaningful change. Illinois can only reverse its culture of corruption and recurring financial crises by dismantling the system that has allowed for one person to control so much power, starting with the House Rules. For the first time in nearly four decades, state lawmakers have an opportunity to change this power structure and finally put an end to the endless cycle of debt and corruption. This moment in Illinois state politics should not be just about a new face, but about a new way of doing the people’s business.”

12:43 p.m.

The 102nd term of the Illinois General Assembly begins the process of swearing in, reading off members of the House in alphabetical order.

12:19 p.m.

House Speaker Michael Madigan released the following statement Wednesday:

“As I prepare to pass the Speaker’s gavel to a new generation of Democratic leadership, I want to thank the people of my district and the members of the House Democratic Caucus for the faith and trust they have placed in me over the years. I want to thank my staff for their hard work on behalf of every member of this caucus. It has been the honor of a lifetime to help bring people of different experiences and backgrounds together to serve our state.

“It is time for new leadership in the House. I wish all the best for Speaker-elect Welch as he begins a historic speakership. It is my sincere hope today that the caucus I leave to him and to all who will serve alongside him is stronger than when I began. And as I look at the large and diverse Democratic majority we have built—full of young leaders ready to continue moving our state forward, strong women and people of color, and members representing all parts of our state—I am confident Illinois remains in good hands.”

11:52 a.m.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider released the following statement in response:

“House Democrats have chosen to go from Mike Madigan, the most corrupt politician in America, to Rep. Chris Welch, a top Madigan lieutenant who has been credibly accused by multiple women in court documents of harassment, assault, and retaliation.

“It’s now clear that House Democrats are doubling down on allowing Madigan’s corrupt machine to continue running state government. In Madigan’s stead, they have promoted a serial harasser and assaulter of women. But in spite of that, Welch passed the most important test this fall – he’s been a loyal Madigan ally for years but performed most recently as Madigan’s human shield in legislative hearings investigating the sweeping corruption scandal that ultimately brought Madigan down.”

This decision is a travesty for the people of Illinois, and we will make sure every voter understands that House Democrats just can’t quit Madigan.”

11:21 a.m.

The House Republican Women’s Caucus has released a statement: “We applaud the House Democratic women who are courageously trying to end the status quo and toxic culture in Springfield. We strongly urge them to stand strong for all the women in our state in electing a leader that will stand for the principles we have all been fighting for, not only for us, but for our daughters and future generations.”

11:20 a.m.

During debate on the sweeping police regulation and criminal justice reform bill, state Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, mentioned the speaker’s race.

“You guys are going to fire a person that has disproportionately hurt Black and Brown communities, and I applaud you for that,” Chesney said.

11:19 a.m.

Welch now has votes the 60 votes to secure the speakership for the Illinois House. Official on-the-record vote sometime after noon. This would mean longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan could be issuing his final “sine die,” ending an historic tenure as speaker.

Even if Madigan’s speakership ends, he still controls Democratic Party of Illinois political funds.

11:10 a.m.

Welch now has the votes to become the next speaker, according to one source.

10:11 a.m.

Illinois state Rep. Chris Welch received 55 votes to be the next speaker in the most recent Democratic caucus, according to two sources. He needs 60 votes to be the next speaker, replacing longtime Speaker Michael Madigan. That vote expected shortly after noon.

(The Center Square) – The new term of the Illinois Legislature begins Wednesday afternoon and all eyes are on who will be the next speaker of the House.

Longtime Illinois politics observer and University of Illinois Springfield professor Kent Redfield said whoever becomes speaker, they have to pledge to be independent of Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who’s held the seat for all but two years since 1983.

“Whether [Madigan] finishes out his term or not, I don’t expect him to be the controller behind the curtain, I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Redfield said.

During the latest house Democratic caucus straw poll overnight, state Rep. Chris Welch reached 50 votes of the 60 needed to secure the speakership. Rep. Jay Hoffman received 15 votes and eight Democrats voted present. Rep. Ann Williams withdrew her candidacy, saying she couldn’t get the necessary support. Democrats plan to caucus again at 8 a.m. Wednesday before session kicks off at noon.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said late Tuesday that Welch, D-Hillside, had lobbyists reach out for Republican support for Welch’s speaker bid. Durkin said Welch, a Madigan ally, should be disqualified from the position after blocking Madigan from testifying in a House investigation of the ComEd bribery scheme.

“To me, I consider Chris Welch an extension of Mike Madigan and we’ve got to break from the past,” Durkin said. “And trust me, Mike Madigan is going to do everything he can to pass the baton on to someone who’s going to continue the model of Madigan Inc.”

ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine after signing a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors last summer. In the agreement, ComEd admitted that officials with the company paid $1.3 million in jobs and contracts to Madigan associates in an effort to influence the speaker.

Welch and Durkin clashed through news conferences and letters over the House Special Investigating Committee that Welch chaired looking into the ComEd scandal. Republicans wanted to subpoena Madigan. Welch and Democrats on the committee blocked that and ended the committee’s work without hearing any testimony other than what ComEd volunteered.

Welch couldn’t be reached for comment, but he said early Wednesday that he thinks he has the 60 votes necessary to succeed Madigan, according to media reports.

Welch’s past issues with women have also come to the surface.

In 2002, an ex-girlfriend told police who were called to Welch’s home that Welch slammed her head against a countertop after an argument. The woman did not press charges, the Chicago Tribune reported. And in 2010, Welch was named federal sexual harassment lawsuit. In that case, a for sexual a different woman alleged she lost her school district job because she ended a relationship with Welch while he was the school board president, the Tribune reported.

“This verbal argument occurred nearly two decades ago,” Welch said in a statement. “I will be honest that I have reconciled with the individual since that night. In fact, after our dispute we sought out the authorities ourselves. Their family lives in my district and are proud supporters of my public service and work.”

Welch also blamed Republicans for digging up dirt on him.

“I must convey my dismay over the lack of decency displayed by the GOP politicians and their urge to use this report against me. At no other occasion have these events been brought up and I firmly believe my Republican colleagues are threatened by the potential growth of my profile,” he said. “I understand that the circumstances around this incident are troubling and I will, to the best of my ability, answer questions while respecting the other individual’s privacy.”

Durkin said nothing has been done with his request to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to put a temporary parliamentarian in place Wednesday if balloting for speaker becomes protracted.

Redfield said there is a historical precedent for dozens of ballots if no candidate gets the majority votes needed to lead the chamber. That could take days.

Madigan has not withdrawn his nomination.

No matter who is speaker, Redfield said it’s going to be a tough two-year term.

“Throw redistricting on top of fixing the budget crisis and restoring ethics to Illinois politics,” Redfield told WMAY.

The state’s budget is nearly $4 billion out of balance. A legislative commission on ethics and lobbying reforms has been stalled.

State Sen. Bill Cunningham, the assistant majority leader, said one issue the incoming legislature must focus on is helping businesses.

“One thing we really need to look at is assistance for the hospitality industry, for bars, restaurants, hotels,” said Cunningham, D-Chicago. “Those are the areas that have really been hurt the most and we need to find a way to help them. That needs to be right at the top of the list of things to do.”

But, Cunningham also advocated for closing what he called loopholes in the tax code. Republicans and business groups have opposed that move, saying it will mean a collective $500 million tax increase.

Republicans also said the priority needs to be on fixing problems like the state’s unemployment system.

In addition to serving as Speaker of the House, Madigan also serves as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. The dual roles give Madigan control over the party’s political funds and control over what legislation is allowed to move through the state’s lower chamber.

Madigan’s reputation has taken a series of hits over the past several years. The most recent and serious was his implication in a nearly decade-long bribery and patronage scandal involving ComEd.

Before the ComEd scandal, Madigan faced heavy criticism for what some women described as a hostile work environment in Springfield. In 2019, the Illinois Legislative Inspector General found two Madigan employees harassed other employees and should never be allowed to work for the state again.

In June 2018, Madigan’s longtime Chief of Staff and Clerk of the House Tim Mapes was fired after House employee Sherri Garrett publicly accused him of bullying and repeated harassment over several years.

Just a few months earlier, in February 2018, Kevin Quinn, a longtime political operative of Madigan’s, was accused by campaign staffer Alaina Hampton of sexual harassment. He was later fired from both his political and state government jobs.

During Madigan’s tenure as speaker, Illinois’ fiscal position has deteriorated to among the worst in the nation. Illinois has the worst credit rating in the U.S. at just one notch above junk bond status, and the state’s five public pension systems are the worst funded in the nation. That’s despite Illinois taxpayers paying among the highest combined state and local taxes in the country.

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