Ex-legislator: The people are losing control of the Legislature

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As the Legislature tries to finish up its business for this session, we were talking to a former longtime legislator who bemoaned how things have changed in Springfield.

Truth be told, he said, he didn’t think things worked that well in the decade and a half he spent in the Statehouse back in the 1970s and ’80s. But those days look inspiring compared with the way things operate now.

“The power has really consolidated into the leadership of both parties,” he said. “It’s almost like you don’t need anybody else there but the four leaders. Money has become the big item in campaigns, and I think the leadership controls the money.

“It’s just that simple, and it’s very sad.”

Back in those days, there was much more debate. The Legislature would meet for three days a week, then four and then five. By the end of the session, legislators would start at 9 a.m. and work into the small hours. Now, they spend much less time debating issues.

Back then, “I could hear a debate between Henry Hyde and Harold Washington,” the legislator recalled. “They were from different ends of the political spectrum, but they were both great speakers and you would hear a substantive debate. You don’t hear a substantive debate nowadays. Issues are not really debated.

“I think that there are substantive issues that need to be debated — and then there are political decisions. Now we get political decisions. There is no debate on substantive issues.”

The solution: We need an enlightened electorate and and better news media reporting, he said

“I think the people are going to have to wake up to the fact they are losing control of the government.” he said. “The large corporations have access to the Legislature because they have the money.”

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