Transfer of power: Demmer crafts government reform package

Bills seek to get rid of "backroom deals and power grabs" by leadership, give legislators more say

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DIXON – State Rep. Tom Demmer has filed a package of bills and constitutional amendments designed to fix a broken state government system.

The Dixon Republican collectively calls the proposed reforms the Get Government Back on Track package.

Demmer said he worked with his staff to write the four bills and two constitutional amendments. The package was assembled in an effort to get bipartisan support, he said.

"It's probably too early in the process to assess that support, but I think there are a lot of items that both parties can agree on," Demmer said. "There's a logjam in the process, and the idea is to get multiple options for bringing good ideas to fruition."

House Bill 7878 would set up the Joint Committee of the General Assembly on Rules and Operations. The bipartisan panel of legislators would review and make recommendations on such things as House and Senate rules, committees, procedures, and structure of the General Assembly.

Demmer said legislators from both parties agree the current system isn't working. The overriding theme of the reform package is to whittle away at the House power structure that allows a few leaders to obstruct progress.

"The House rules consolidate too much power in the hands of leadership," Demmer said. "Rank-and-file legislators of both parties are often frustrated when they file a good bill only to have it buried in a subcommittee that never meets, or sent to a committee that never allows a vote.”

The House alone has 56 committees and many more subcommittees, which makes it hard for people to truly participate in the lawmaking process, Demmer said.

"The current system is a relic of the backroom deals and power grabs of years gone by," Demmer said. "If we want a different result, we have to build a different system.”

Another part of the package, HB3119, takes a page from the federal legislative process. The bill would give the governor fast-track authority, which would empower the state's leader to call for a vote on a specific bill.

The governor can now call special legislative sessions on specific issues, but many of those sessions have been adjourned with no action taken. Fast-track authority would guarantee that the requested bills would come up for a vote.

HB789 would create a Board of Repealers to review and make recommendations on how to eliminate outdated, irrelevant, or conflicting laws, instead of just adding more to the books each year.

HB495 would change the way Illinois is represented in the electoral college. It calls for awarding presidential electoral votes by congressional district rather than the current winner-take-all format.

One of the constitutional amendments resurrects a previous movement to combine the state treasurer and comptroller offices.

The other amendment aims to add teeth to and close loopholes in the balanced budget requirement already in the state constitution. It would mandate that the auditor general certify the budget, determine in advance how much revenue will be coming in, and prohibit pushing the budget process into the next year.

"The requirement is there, yet we haven't had a balanced budget for years – we have it in theory, but not in practice," Demmer said, adding that he plans to later introduce a second legislative package that focuses on property tax relief and job creation.


Constituents can go to to contact state Rep. Tom Demmer, find more information, or participate in Demmer's 2017 legislative survey. He also can be reached at his district office, 1221 Currency Court in Rochelle, IL 61068, or by calling 815-561-3690.