Paying the price

Paying the price

Rep. Scott Drury, a Democratic member of the Illinois House from Highwood, got clocked, and that wasn't the worst of it.

Everybody, including state Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, knows members of the Democratic caucus of the Illinois House don't mess with Speaker Michael Madigan.

But, in a display of principle-driven courage, Drury did it anyway. He was the only Democrat in the 67-member caucus who refused to support Madigan's bid for another term as speaker. He followed up that effrontery by voting against House rules that give Madigan complete control of the legislative process.

Last Thursday, Drury paid the price for his apostasy, once in a small, inconsequential way and the second time on something that matters.

Drury, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, not only was stripped by Speaker Madigan of his position as vice chairman of the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee but thrown off the committee altogether.

Madigan's move sent a double message to any member of his caucus who deviates from the speaker's strong-man style of leadership — cross me and you'll pay, not only figuratively but literally.

Madigan's decision to remove Drury from the vice chairmanship of the committee will cost Drury a roughly $10,000 stipend paid on top of the $67,800 legislative base salary.

So Drury is paying a high price for suggesting that Madigan no longer is, assuming that he ever was, the best person to lead House Democrats. He lost a valued committee assignment and money, and can look forward to being treated like he's Typhoid Mary by timid House Democrats.

Some may write this chapter off as politics-as-usual, and it is. That's part of the problem in our politically dysfunctional, effectively bankrupt state.

Too many Illinois legislators do little more than show up in Springfield, collect their pay and take orders from their party leaders.

To them, it's easier to do what they're told and collect the perks for doing so than risk their committees, pay, office space and parking places by acting as the independent agents they pretend to be when they go back home and talk to their constituents.

Speaking of perks, Drury lost one of those as well, although it's of no consequence.

Over Drury's objections, Madigan became the longest-serving leader of any state legislative body in the history of the United States. He's held the speaker's post for all but two years since 1983, and has long since earned the reputation as the most powerful politician in Illinois.

That may be a stretch, but he's certainly the most powerful member of the Illinois General Assembly.

To commemorate his new historic status, Madigan gave expensive engraved crystal clocks from Simon Pearce to all his toadies in the Democratic caucus. As a non-toady, Drury didn't qualify, something he noted but expressed no concern about.

The clocks are nice enough, even though scarred on the back side by Madigan's tribute to himself.

"The honorable Michael J. Madigan. Longest serving Speaker of a state House of Representatives in United States history," the inscription reads.

Drury was philosophical about his punishment but unapologetic about expressing publicly what some House Democrats say privately about Madigan's leadership.

"No elected official should fear being punished for representing his or her district, and no one should remain silent when it happens," Drury said. "History is littered with the awful consequences that follow from people remaining silent, when speaking up and taking action is the proper course."

Drury, of course, is correct. But, more importantly in the eyes of his House colleagues, he's also on the outs with the boss man. It's a fine example he sets, but not one any House Democrat is likely to follow.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion

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JustAnOpinion wrote on January 30, 2017 at 8:01 am

Rep Drury did exactly what all of the House members should have. This is what is wrong with Illinois.  How can anyone who is honest with themselves keep putting the king back on his throne? He is the common denominator is this mess of a state for the last 20 years. These legislators are more concerned with continuing their free health care and pensions than doing what is right for Illinois. Unfortunately, everyone of these spineless wonders will be re-elected because the citizens obviously don't care. If any of the incumbants are re-elected this next go-around, it will be further prove that the citizens of Illinois are OK with being the laughing stock of the United States. But I guess we can't get much lower that we already are.

David Prochaska wrote on January 30, 2017 at 4:01 pm

“History is littered with the awful consequences that follow from people remaining silent, when speaking up and taking action is the proper course.” True enough.

Also true: this editorial is another example of the pot calling the kettle black.

In the middle of a full-blown political crisis after the Trump administration's first week in office, amidst calls for Rodney Davis to respond to constituents with something other than lies (see http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2017-01-30/davis-throws-support-b... ), what is the reaction of Jim Dey and the News-Gazette?

Why, avoid the elephant in the room, and respond with... the silence of moral cowardice.

Just as the paper endorsed "nobody for president" last November.

Now, however, the Trump administration has ripped off the mask of ‘Republican respectability’ that the News-Gazette likes to wear. They did it in ways too numerous to mention.

But take just one: freedom of the press. The paper has always pretended that it is a stanch defender of freedom of the press. Yet in response to Steve Bannon saying that the press should 'keep its mouth shut' -- not to mention Kellyanne Conway's 'alternative facts' -- Dey and the News-Gazette respond... by changing the subject.

By "remaining silent, when speaking up and taking action is the proper course.”

leftylib wrote on January 30, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Great opinion piece N-G.  I wish more politicians on both sides of the aisle had this type of courage that Scott Drury displayed.

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