Jim Dey: On the outs, Madigan critic still on the move

Jim Dey: On the outs, Madigan critic still on the move

When readers last heard of Democratic state Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood — it was late January — he was being punished by House Speaker Michael Madigan for opposing Madigan's re-election as the man in charge of the Illinois House of Representatives.

After Drury declined to support Madigan's re-election as speaker — the only one of 67 House Democrats to do so — Madigan stripped Drury of his seat on an important committee where he served as vice chairman. The move not only cost Drury a coveted spot on a key committee, but also a roughly $10,000 stipend for serving in a leadership role.

The veteran Chicago Democrat drove home his point that Drury is persona non grata by giving special clocks commemorating his lengthy tenure as speaker to all of the House Democrats save one — Drury.

The former federal prosecutor took his beating like a man, promising he will not be cowed by Madigan's intimidation tactics.

"History is littered with the awful consequences that follow from people remaining silent when speaking up and taking action is the proper course," he said.

Last week, Drury backed up his words by introducing a package of 12 bills and three constitutional amendments that he said are designed to "dismantle the status quo" that divides legislators' personal interests from the public interest.

He described his proposals as a "prime opportunity to show the public (state elected officials) are on their side."

Drury's words raise the question frequently asked by taxpayers chagrined by the political process — just whose side are our elected officials on?

That's also the question many legislators will ask Drury when they see he's targeting their power, perks and privileges. He's not going to be popular with those who think business-as-usual in Springfield is A-OK.

His three proposed constitutional amendments would:

— Set term limits for legislative leaders. Speaker Madigan will love that one.

— Bar members of the General Assembly from holding any other public office and block legislative leaders from maintaining outside employment.

— Would require "fair election maps." In other words, it would end gerrymandering by barring legislators from drawing their own House and Senate districts.

If that isn't enough to make some legislators' heads explode in disgust, Drury has some other legislative beauties.

He's taking direct aim at public corruption with bills to allow statewide grand juries to be called to investigate public corruption, create the crime of "theft of public funds," criminalize making "false statements" to police who are investigating a crime and, finally, mandate a prison sentence for individuals convicted in public corruption cases.

Still not satisfied with the numbers of powerful toes he has stepped on, Drury is looking for even more with several measures limiting the ability of legislators to leave office and work as lobbyists.

Finally, Drury would move Illinois' primary election date from March to June. That's another strike at party power-brokers who rely on the current cold-weather primary date to keep voting numbers down and make it easier for party leaders' favorites to be nominated.

Drury said his proposals reflect solutions to the "undisputed, nonpartisan complaint people have with government in Illinois."

"They don't trust it," he said.

Drury said that he makes it a habit to poll his audiences when he meets with constituent groups. Many people, he said, think taxes are too low, and many other people think public spending in Illinois is too high. Drury said the response is different when he asks his audience if they distrust state government.

"Everywhere I go, 100 percent of people raise their hands," he said.

To win that trust back, Drury said it's necessary to "build a foundation" on which the public can rely.

The three-term legislator said that many of the "structural government reforms" he has proposed have been raised in previous Legislatures and that he's hoping to attract "widespread support."

"If we're going to be responsive, ...there should be overwhelming support," he said.

The General Assembly, however, doesn't have a great reputation when it comes to embracing reforms that jeopardize its members' political and financial interests.

It ignores them, if possible.

If there's a high-profile public issue, members of the Senate and House will pass reform measures, but do so in different legislative sessions so no final bill ever goes to the governor for signature.

On the redistricting issue last year, both the Senate and House passed different bills, never trying to reconcile the bills' differences but allowing legislators to tell their constituents they voted to end gerrymandering.

So no one should expect Drury's package to get anything but the cold shoulder from legislators.

That's not to say that Madigan & Co. don't have a sense of humor about good-government proposals and those naive legislators who push them.

As punishment for not supporting his re-election for speaker, Madigan stripped Drury of his membership and vice chairman's role on the Judiciary-Criminal Law committee. So he's no longer there, but nine of Drury's 12 bills now are pending before the Judiciary-Criminal Law committee.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or by phone at 217- 351-5369.

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catsrule wrote on February 14, 2017 at 9:02 am

There is nothing virtuous or in the interest of constituent service about Scott Drury's opposition to Speaker Madigan, its all about generating publicity for himself and possibly a not so subtle effort to solicit funds from billionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner. Remember Ken "bought and paid for" Dunkin? Those who know Mr. Drury know he is arrogant and has a very large ego, always ready to remind anyone who will listen that that he was a former federal prosecutor. Mr. Drury has not accomplished much during his time as a member of the General Assembly except bring attention to himself. He has done virtually nothing to help the growing number of poor residents of Highwood where his office is located.

C in Champaign wrote on February 14, 2017 at 10:02 am

Perhaps, if you have issues with the proposals made by Representative Drury, and clearly you do, a discussion as to why some or any of the proposals he has made don't at least merit debate would be better than resorting to personal attacks. 

catsrule wrote on February 14, 2017 at 11:02 am

Some of Rep. Drury's proposals have been previously suggested by members on both sides of the isle and merit discussion, especially those pertaining to public corruption. I have watched and listened to Rep. Drury speak before the IL GA and like many, tire of his grandstanding and efforts to justify votes in opposition to legislation sponsored by his side of the aisle as being virtuous and or independent, even if not in the interest of the majority of his constituents. No better example than his explanations for voting no on the AFSCME fair arbitration legislation in both 2015 and 2016. While a matter of public record at the ILGA website, you can also find a number of Rep. Drury's quotes at the Capitol Fax blog.

C in Champaign wrote on February 14, 2017 at 12:02 pm

I don't pretend to know or defend Mr. Drury's personality, but I do not think that should impact the merits of his poposals. The fact that others on both sides of the aisle have made similar proposals in the past, which have ultimately been blocked by Mr. Madigan, would suggest that there is support for them. I also believe that much of what Rep. Drury has proposed here, given a fair discussion, and a floor vote that is not just for show, would pass with bipartisan support, be signed by the governor, and be generally supported by the people of Illinois.

Unfortunately, the "punishments" doled out by Madigan are well know, and considered standard operating proceedure in the legislature. Retaliation is the norm for any in his party who stand in opposition to even the smallest items, without his permission of course. If a Democrat Representative in this state ever votes against Mr. Madigan, you can be sure that they were given leave to do so for political reasons, and that the vote in opposition ultimately has no impact on an outcome favorable to the Madigan agenda. The fact that votes are influenced by controling job postings, income, and campaign funding, and sometimes even opposition in your own party primaries by Mr. Madigan is the very definition of corruption.