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Madigan on joy ride after ‘four long years’ of Rauner’s ‘my way or the highway’

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, participated in a debate in Octoer in front of the Sun-Times Editorial Board; House Speaker Mike Madigan, right, at an Illinois House committee in 2017. File Photos by Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, left, participated in a debate in Octoer in front of the Sun-Times Editorial Board; House Speaker Mike Madigan, right, at an Illinois House committee in 2017. File Photos by Rich Hein/Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD — State House Speaker Mike Madigan bid his political nemesis farewell on Wednesday by declaring an end to “four long years” of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “character assassination” and negotiations the Republican governor treated as “my way or the highway.”

At the House inauguration ceremony at University of Illinois at Springfield, Madigan — the longest serving statehouse speaker in the U.S. — was once again re-elected with 72 votes. Freshman state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, became the lone Democrat to vote “present,” which she had vowed to do while campaigning.

“Congratulations. You’re the speaker again,” outgoing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told her father after administering his oath.

As Rauner presided over the Illinois Senate inauguration in the Illinois Capitol as his last official duty, Madigan blamed the outgoing governor for “four long years of character assassination, four long years of personal vilification, four long years of strident negotiating positions also known as my way or the highway.”

“For the last four years, people working with people has not happened in the state of Illinois,” Madigan said. “Rather we simply got a series of ultimatums, my way or the highway.”

But he talked about not just “closing the book” on a difficult chapter of the state’s history, but of learning lessons from it.

“So we can move on to a new chapter where people work with people,” Madigan said.

Madigan thanked those who voted for him as speaker. And for those who didn’t, the speaker offered, “Let’s have people work with people. Let us work with other people.”

Stava-Murray campaigned on a promise to vote against Madigan. In December, she claimed in a lengthy text message to Madigan’s chief of staff that she was receiving warnings from Democratic lawmakers and unions that a “no” vote on his leadership bid would lead to retaliation against her. She also alleged she was “forcibly kissed” by another lawmaker at a dinner for freshman legislators.

Among Republicans, Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, was also re-elected minority leader. Durkin called inauguration a “day for celebrating and unifying.”

“But we all collectively know that we have much work that lies before us,” Durkin said. “Hard work, tough decisions, thoughtful leadership and an understanding of the problems Illinois faces, is the only way to prosperity.

Durkin, too, said that with a new General Assembly and a new governor, he’s “optimistic that for once in many, many years, that we can put politics aside.”

At the Capitol, Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, among others, watched as Democrat John Cullerton was once again re-elected the president of the Illinois Senate. In his speech, Cullerton thanked Rauner for his public service.

“We may have had our differences from time to time, but you took on a challenge when others merely complain from the sidelines,” Cullerton said.

Cullerton credited the Illinois Senate with jumpstarting an end to the budget impasse with a “grand bargain” package he helped craft with former Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

“A two-year budget impasse threatened the very fabric of our state,” Cullerton said. “It ended when we took charge. And Illinois is better because of it. We did those things. And now we must come together and do more.”

Of the state’s future, Cullerton vowed to work on transportation infrastructure, and the expansion of a program to train manufacturers.

He also pushed for a new chapter in a state plagued with debt, often times insurmountable property taxes and a mass exodus of Illinois residents.

“We will not be defined by the failures of the past. As the saying goes, ‘the world only spins forward,'” Cullerton said. “And today, a new chapter in Illinois history opens, just for us.”

Democratic leaders are hoping for some swift legislative action after Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker takes his oath next Monday. On tap first is a push to get a gun dealer licensing measure on Pritzker’s desk. While lawmakers couldn’t override Rauner’s veto, they approved another new version of the bill. A procedural hold that kept it on hold in the Illinois Senate — and away from another potential Rauner veto — was removed on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters after the Senate inauguration, the outgoing Chicago mayor had no warm parting words for Rauner, a one-time friend whom he sparred with politically for most of his four-year term.

“We have fundamental policy differences. And we also have fundamental differences on how to govern, as someone who has never lost a vote in my City Council,” Emanuel said. “Fundamental difference about approach, fundamental difference of philosophy about what government is supposed to do, where you kind of make investments and I would look at what we did versus what the state of Illinois did. He was trying to actually undermine the economic engine of the state and I stood up for the city of Chicago, its people, and its families and its jobs.”

Emanuel said one one of the first pieces of legislation Pritzker will sign into law is a gun dealer licensing measure that was vetoed by Rauner. At the time of the veto, Rauner accused Democrats of playing politics ahead of the March primary. The governor said “it was going to create a big layer of burden and bureaucracy, and really not keep our communities safer.”

“It’s going to be one of the first bills that Gov. Pritzker signs,” Emanuel said. “That tells that that’s exactly the type of partner we’re looking for and exactly the type of focus.”