99th General Assembly Sworn In
The 118 members of the Illinois House were sworn in at noon Wednesday at the University of Illinois Springfield with Secretary of State Jesse White presiding.
The ceremony for the 19 new members of the 59-member Senate took place simultaneously at Capitol chambers with new GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner presiding. Rauner was sworn in Monday.
New members of the legislature from East Central Illinois include 103rd District State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana), 52nd District Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), and 106th District State Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City.) Democrats maintain strong majorities in both chambers.
Senate Democrats lost one seat in the Senate during the November election, reducing their veto-proof supermajority to 39 members. House Democrats will keep a 71-member supermajority in the new session.
As lawmakers were sworn in Wednesday, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called on both parties to join together:
"If we work with Gov. Rauner and his administration, and I believe we will, the 99th Illinois General Assembly will be historic where we will accomplish great things," he said.
Durkin laid blame for deficit budgets and a lagging state economy on Democrats.
"We have change upon us. It has been twelve years since we've had a two party system in the state of Illinois," said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, who referred to the election of Gov. Rauner when she was sworn in to a fourth term Wednesday.
House Speaker Michael Madigan defended his party and payments made for pensions and overdue bills. Madigan is also leader of the Demcoratic Party in the state. He took the opportunity to urge bipartisanship.
"My pledge to the Governor is to work professionally and cooperatively with Mr. Rauner on the issues facing the people of the State of Illinois and the government of the state," he said.
Madigan also called for improving the mental health system to prevent tragedies like the Newtown school shooting and urged investmentment in education.
He was again selected House speaker by the 99th General Assembly in a vote along party lines Wednesday. The Chicago Democrat is the country's longest serving House speaker. He's served all but two years in the role since 1983.
Madigan says the biggest issue ahead is the state's budget and that both sides must work together in dealing with an expected $5.7 billion deficit next year.
He also called for creating a bipartisan mental health task force to prevent tragedies like the Sandy Hook school shooting from happening in Illinois.
Senate President John Cullerton says he wants to work with Gov. Bruce Rauner to provide better funding for schools, raise the minimum wage and make it easier to open a new business in Illinois.
Cullerton is a Chicago Democrat who was elected Wednesday to a fourth term as leader of the Illinois Senate. He says opening a new business in Illinois is too cumbersome. Cullerton said he wants to work with Rauner to create a "one-stop shop'' for new companies.
Cullerton also says he looks forward to working with Rauner and lawmakers in both parties to address Illinois' many "tough challenges.''