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Obama Library Proposal On Track to Receive $100M In State Funding After Controversy

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State Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, called for a new vote after a questionable, and possibly illegal, move two weeks ago.

State Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, called for a new vote after a questionable, and possibly illegal, move two weeks ago.

Illinois legislators, under the direction of state House Speaker Michael Madigan, will re-vote to move forward on a controversial bill giving an unprecedented $100 million to Chicago’s proposal for the Barack Obama Presidential Library. The move comes two weeks after Madigan and the Democrats on the Illinois House Executive Committee used a sleight-of-hand parliamentarian maneuver to use a previous meeting’s attendance as a unanimous vote to send the measure to the House.

In the April 17 information meeting, Committee chair Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) made the move to use the previous meeting’s attendance, where members listened to and discussed a measure related to gambling and not the library, as the official vote of the measure, House Bill 6010. The vote was recorded at 9-0 despite only three members present, not enough for a quorum on the 11-member committee. Rep. Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein) later heard about his affirmative vote in-absentia and spoke to WBEZ-Chicago about the matter.

“The roll call appears to be unequivocally out-of-order.  It is often the case that the majority party in Illinois will simply change the rules to get what they want accomplished,” Sullivan told WBEZ.  “In this case they didn’t even care to change the rules, they just flat-out broke them.”

Under current House rules - and the rules of many state Houses across the country - a committee is not allowed to vote on a measure unless a quorum is present. In this case, six members should have been present for the vote. To further complicate matters, no member of a committee may vote unless they are present during the vote. Both of these rules were violated at the committee hearing, a meeting Madigan attended.

After the backlash from some media outlets, Madigan reversed course on the matter and stated the committee would hold a proper vote on April 30 to avoid instances of impropriety. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown accused the Tea-Party of the brouhaha on matter despite the committee, and the House as a whole, having a Democratic super-majority, meaning no Republicans have to vote for the measure to pass.

The $100 million in state funding for the library is an unusual and unique part of Chicago’s proposal. Presidential libraries inside the Presidential Library System of the National Archives are built solely with private money. The Abraham Lincoln Library was funded by the state, but is not part of the official library system.

Chicago, where Obama’s political career started and flourished, is in the running for the presidential library alongside Hawaii, where Obama was born, and New York, where he went to law school. Neither location has proposed state money to further their proposal’s chances.

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Justin Shimko

Justin Shimko is an award-winning writer and political analyst. He began as a reporter in his college days at the University of Oklahoma, writing for The Oklahoma Daily (rated as one of the best collegiate newspapers in the nation) and The Oklahoman, the statewide newspaper, winning awards from the CSPA and the Society of Professional Journalists. He later moved on to research and writing work for a number of political campaigns. His email is [email protected]

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