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Speaker’s tone more relaxed — Madigan seems to enjoy new political landscape

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan talks with reporters in Springfield in 2015. File Photo.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan talks with reporters in Springfield in 2015. File Photo.

A new year, a new Madigan?

State House Speaker Mike Madigan, the longest serving statehouse speaker in the U.S., on Monday sounded a lot more relaxed after vanquishing his nemesis.

Speaking after a House Democratic caucus in the Illinois Capitol, Madigan prodded a reporter about his employment and where he lives, and inquired about another’s Hawaiian shirt.

After four years of locking horns with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, the powerful Democratic speaker also said he is eager to work with his Republican counterpart, House GOP Leader Jim Durkin.

Asked why he was running a TV spot touting the Democratic agenda, Madigan asked, “Why not? What’s wrong with communication?”

Madigan, 76, will soon preside over the largest supermajority since he became speaker, with lawmakers taking the oath on Wednesday. Madigan has spent 34 years total as speaker, and he’s expected to be handed another term during the inaugural ceremony.

And the Southwest Side Democrat has survived the millions of dollars spent by Rauner to try to tarnish his name via countless ads and fliers. He’ll start the new year with a hefty 74 House Democrats and a Democratic governor.

Besides a bevy of press releases and statements regarding his handling of #MeToo allegations, Madigan infrequently held news conferences last year. That’s in contrast to the first two years of Rauner’s administration, when the speaker held dozens, routinely claiming the Republican governor was holding the budget process “hostage.”

As election season picked up last year, those news conferences became scant.

On Monday, Madigan stepped out of the House Democratic caucus to say he’s “anxious” to work with Durkin, whom he described as having a “successful relationship” with.

“I’m very anxious to continue to work with him,” Madigan said. “I think that if we set a tone in this session where we recognize that the state has got some serious problems, we should get together — people working with people to work on solving the problems that all of us will be better off, including the people of the state of Illinois.

Lawmakers returned to Springfield on Monday for the lame duck session, where they’re expected to take up two bills supported by Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker: one to provide an immediate 15 percent raise to agency directors and assistant directors at key agencies, and another to end the tenure of the current members of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority and appoint new ones by Feb. 28.

Madigan said legislators will take up the two measures this week.

And Durkin’s office said the Republican leader is supportive of both pieces of legislation.

“Leader Durkin will be supporting both legislative requests from Governor-elect Pritzker as a gesture of good faith moving forward into the 101st General Assembly,” said a Durkin spokesman.