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Illinois House spent $143K for alternate location during May’s pandemic session

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, talks with Illinois State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, and Illinois State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, an extended session of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center, May 23, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. 

(The Center Square) – The truncated COVID-19 session the Illinois legislature organized in late May in Springfield had an additional $143,000 taxpayer cost so the House could legislate while remaining socially distant.

The legislature was in session in January, February and part of March before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Session days were then canceled to reduce the spread of the virus.

With a May 31 deadline to pass a state budget with simple majorities, leaders planned to return for three days, May 20-23.

While some legislators did not attend because they either tested positive for COVID-19 or had other health concerns, the Illinois Senate held its session in the Senate chambers for the upper chamber’s 59 members. The Illinois House opted for an offsite location at the Bank of Springfield convention center for its 117 members.

The invoice from the Bank of Springfield Center put the final cost at $143,857. Of that, $50,600 was for audio and video equipment rental and nearly $5,500 for stage hands. Catering cost $48,900. Parking cost about $5,600. The facility rental was $20,000.

Of the nearly $49,000 in catering costs, most was from Saputo’s restaurant, a known favorite of House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. The restaurant is located just south of the Bank of Springfield Center.

The total bill for Saputo’s was more than $18,000. Coffee alone from Saputo’s cost $3,800 for the three days. Other caters also provided a variety of meals for lawmakers.

The Bank of Springfield Center also provided drinks to members of the House at $2 a pop. The total cost there was $4,500. Water and tea at $2 per serving were the most popular options.

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