Illinois lawmakers sworn in for the 103rd General Assembly
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The 103rd General Assembly is officially underway as Illinois state lawmakers were sworn in Wednesday afternoon. Gov. JB Pritzker presided over the Senate inauguration and Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias led the House ceremony.
The 2022 election season sent several lawmakers out the door and many statehouse veterans decided to retire. However, Democrats still hold a supermajority in both chambers.
The House of Representatives filled the Performing Arts Center at the University of Illinois Springfield while senators took their oath of office inside the Old State Capitol. It’s an exciting moment for lawmakers new and old as they embark on a new chapter for the Illinois General Assembly.
“Each one of us serves roughly a quarter million people back home. A quarter million people, working families and working folks,” said Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). “What is best for them? What is best for the millions of working families across our state?”
Harmon was elected to a second term leading the chamber and noted the lessons senators could learn from former President Abraham Lincoln. Harmon recalled how Lincoln delivered his “House Divided” speech in the Old State Capitol to challenge the morality of slavery.
“It is my hope that we all think deeply about why it is that we find ourselves here, and what we wish to accomplish for the people of Illinois in the days, weeks, months and years ahead,” Harmon said. “The Senate that I know is one filled with good and decent people, elected to do right by their communities.”
Harmon and Senate Republican Leader John Curran hope their colleagues will work in a bipartisan manner to create a better Illinois. Curran noted that many people talk about divisive politics in Illinois, but he stressed that people have overcome division in the state before. The Downers Grove Republican said everyone should focus on solutions as Illinois families and businesses face many challenges. He also said communities continue to suffer from the great emotional and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our agenda is focused on helping Illinois families and job creators rebuild and renew opportunity in Illinois,” Curran said. “We need real, substantive and sound economic policies that are going to help improve the lives of people in our state.”
The Illinois House saw significant turnover following the November election with over 20 new members taking the oath of office. Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside) told members and their families that he will work with Democrats and Republicans in good faith to pursue the common good.
“Everyone committed to upholding the values of our democracy will be my ally in defense of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Welch said. “Everyone who is ready to do the work and meet the challenges of this moment will have a partner in me, always.”
Yet, Welch also had a clear message for lawmakers and county leaders who frequently disagree with Democrats in Springfield.
“We must stand up to the extremists who want to pull us backward because matters of basic human dignity shouldn’t be subject to the ideologies of politicians and judges,” Welch said.
Lawmakers also celebrated the historic election of the first woman ever to lead a House caucus. Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) said Illinois is a state of possibilities and opportunity. However, she feels the system of checks and balances is at risk with increasing one-party control of state government.
“We must prioritize the co-equal nature of our government and prioritize fulfilling the constitutional duty, one which supersedes party loyalty or providing those checks and balances,” McCombie said.
McCombie said her Republican colleagues chose her to restore, rebuild, and bring balance back to Illinois. She stressed that it will be difficult for her caucus, but they will “claw back in the wake of the worst gerrymandered maps in the country.”
Pritzker congratulated all of the lawmakers who took their oaths of office Wednesday. He said every Senator and Representative will work faithfully to represent their constituents and their interests to the best of their abilities.
“I look forward to spending the next two years working alongside these public servants to accomplish big things to help Illinoisans across the state. To departing members of the 102nd General Assembly, thank you for your service. MK and I wish you luck and happiness in your future endeavors.”
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