(The Center Square) – A bipartisan chorus of lawmakers calling on Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to step down from his leadership positions or resign from the General Assembly got louder Thursday as lawmakers also called for a special session to address ethics reforms.
Ethics reforms were top of mind for legislators earlier this year when they created a commission to formulate ideas. That was after months of revelations of federal investigations, lawmakers wearing wiretaps, indictments, and office raids. But then the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois released a deferred prosecution agreement with utility ComEd that implicated Madigan. While Madigan hasn’t been charged with a crime, some expect that to come soon. It’s also brought renewed focus on Illinois public corruption problems.
Illinois House Minority Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, released a statement Thursday calling on Madigan, D-Chicago, to step down immediately from his legislative seat and for the legislature to vote on a new speaker.
“Federal charges outlined in the ComEd prosecution highlight a scheme solely for the benefit of Speaker Madigan,” Durkin said. “Madigan is unable to execute his responsibilities as Speaker of the Illinois House.
“I call for the immediate resignation of Speaker Madigan from the Illinois House of Representatives, and will be filing a resolution to have the House Chamber vote on a new Speaker immediately,” Durkin said.
That’d require a special session. That’s something that can be called by either the governor, the Senate President or the Speaker of the House, which is Madigan.
Asked Thursday if he would rely on Madigan to call a special session, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’s not relying on Madigan but didn’t say if he would call one to focus on ethics.
“There’s also more that we need to learn and the U.S. Attorney clearly is on a path here. We’re going to learn more,” Pritzker said. “There’s no doubt about it. And from that information, it will inform us on how to write the laws that will prevent that in the future.”
Also on Thursday, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, joined the bipartisan chorus for Madigan to step down from his leadership roles in the House and the Democratic Party of Illinois.
State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said enough has been made clear and called for a special session.
“The checks that ComEd wrote, they were cashed,” Schimpf said. “The cronies were hired for these jobs. That did take place and this culture of corruption that we have in Springfield, that is a leadership failure on the part of Speaker Madigan.”
Messages seeking comment from Madigan’s office regarding a special session and Durkin’s call for Madigan’s resignation were not returned.
State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, told WMAY he would like to see a special session of the legislature to deal with ethics reforms.
“The time has come to do them,” Manar said. “These [various ethics reforms proposals] have been around for a very, very long time and I think most of them would receive broad bipartisan support from both sides of the aisle.”
But Manar said Madigan should only step down if he’s indicted, something he said: “could be coming at any time.”
Pritzker Thursday said the speaker needs to speak up.
“I think the speaker has an enormous amount to answer for,” Pritzker said. “There are questions that the public needs to hear the answer to. I do too. So that’s what I would start with here, questions, about, you know, what happened here?”
Pritzker wouldn’t say if he’d call for a special session anytime soon to focus on ethics reforms.