Tim Butler explodes after Illinois Democrats block township bill vote
A Republican lawmaker from Springfield said Friday afternoon that he feared his bill to allow for a referendum in Capital Township on a potential merger with Sangamon County government has been effectively killed by the Democratic leadership of the Illinois House.
Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he has heard nothing from Democrats who control the chamber about whether they will change their minds and allow a full House vote on House Bill 2994 by the end of business Friday, the House’s self-imposed deadline for House bills to pass the chamber during the spring session.
Butler’s emotional speech late Thursday on the House floor appeared to have done no good, at least in the short term.
He pounded his fist, screamed and threw a paper calendar listing pending bills across the Illinois House chamber, saying he was frustrated Democrats wouldn’t allow a House vote on his bill.
“I’ve got a bill that is important to my community that the leadership will not call,” Butler told the seated lawmakers.
In a three-minute speech shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday, Butler accused Democratic leaders of “putting your thumb” on the bill “for political reasons.”
Butler and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, who was elected to lead the House in January, isn’t fulfilling his promise to bring a “new day” to the chamber.
Butler said Welch promised to allow more Republican-sponsored bills to be debated than his predecessor, Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and ease the strict control over House business that Madigan exercised for 38 years.
Welch’s promise “is a bunch of BS right now,” Butler said, looking to the Democratic side of the aisle. “Listen to your own words,” he said. “Listen to the speaker’s words.”
Butler said the 45 Republicans in the 118-member House represent 5 million Illinois residents.
“And our bills are being ignored,” Butler said. “I’m sick of it. Sick, sick, sick of it. You guys have got to live up to your words. The speaker has to live up to his words.”
Welch aide Jaclyn Driscoll declined to comment on Butler’s statements.
Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, a Democrat, has said he opposes Butler’s bill and informed Democratic leaders in the General Assembly that he doesn’t want the legislature to pass special legislation dealing with Springfield and instead consider dissolving townships around the state that are entirely inside municipalities.
Langfelder and other Democrats and the mayor’s allies in city government have said residents of the township, which shares most of Springfield’s boundaries, would be better served if the township merged with the city.
Butler has noted that 74% of Capital Township voters in a 2018 advisory referendum said they want to see the township merge with Sangamon County government. The referendum didn’t ask voters whether they would prefer Sangamon County over Springfield in a merger.
Republicans who control Sangamon County government said they favor a merger with the township because the county has a track record of saving money for taxpayers. They said county officials have performed some Capital Township functions for more than 100 years as part of a unique arrangement allowed through special state legislation.
Butler, sponsor of the bill, said he was told this week by House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and Democratic staffers that HB 2994 was placed “under review.”
He said he also was told the bill probably wouldn’t receive a vote by the end of business Friday.
Special approval from Welch or a committee he controls would be needed for the bill to receive a House vote after Friday.
Butler said he received no explanation for the review though the bill passed out of a House committee unanimously, and even though all 45 Republicans and 22 of the 73 Democrats in the House have committed to vote for the bill. That’s more than enough to pass the full House and send the bill to the Senate for consideration.
Butler, 54, a member of the House for six years, told the SJ-R after his speech that he has never been so upset on the House floor.
His outburst harkened back to 2012, when former Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican and now a member of Congress, threw a stack of papers during a session of the full House and protested the way Madigan used his power in the chamber. A video of the incident, in which Bost threw more paper than Butler did, went viral.
Butler’s speech drew a swift rebuke from Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, who said in another floor speech Thursday night that Republicans were inflating the gap between the number of Republican-sponsored and Democratic-sponsored bills that have received House votes.
Jones said 68 Democratic bills have been called for votes, compared with 48 for Republicans.
“So stop playing games,” Jones said said in Butler’s direction. “I think we all need to recognize the decorum that we should operate under on the House floor and not act like little children and throw stuff.”
A news release Friday from Welch that touted accomplishments during his first 100 days as speaker didn’t mention his previous vow to try to work more collegially with Republicans, but it said he has “placed an importance on a new style of leadership, one that is more inclusive and represents the diversity throughout the state.”
Welch, the first Black speaker of the House, said his leadership team is the most diverse in the state’s history.
Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, who was named speaker pro tempore by Welch, said in the release, “Members of the General Assembly have noticed a more open, decentralized leadership style that allows everyone to advocate for their communities and work their bills as peers.”
Contact Dean Olsen: [email protected]; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.