SPRINGFIELD — The new class of Illinois lawmakers will be sworn into office Wednesday, giving Democrats big majorities in both the House and Senate that could help Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker enact his agenda if they go along.
The last two years of partisan fights, budget wars and tough elections have fueled significant turnover: About 30 percent of the lawmakers who take the oath will be different from the person who sat in the same seat two years ago.
Several Republicans who voted to raise income taxes in 2017 didn't run for re-election again, and some big names left for other reasons — with several departures robbing the General Assembly of some of its most influential women.
Former Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno stepped aside just before the budget stalemate was resolved. House Speaker Michael Madigan's top deputy, Barbara Flynn Currie, didn't run for re-election. Juliana Stratton will be sworn in as lieutenant governor in less than a week. And state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton won't return after her narrow loss in the Republican gubernatorial primary to Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The biggest names, though, are back. Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are set to be re-elected to their leadership posts. House Republican leader Jim Durkin and Senate GOP leader Bill Brady also will continue in their posts.
The turnover comes on top of a lot of turnover two years ago, too, as lawmakers departed during the first half of the state's two-year budget impasse. That means even the sophomore lawmakers in Springfield haven't had as much experience putting together state budgets as they otherwise would have.
"It's going to be a lot of work educating people," said Democratic state Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago, a top budget negotiator.
The outgoing 100th General Assembly raised income taxes over Rauner's veto in order to end a budget impasse that hurt Illinois social service providers and universities, putting them in a hole from which the new class will have to keep digging them out. Lawmakers also changed the way the state doles out money to school districts to try to help lower-income districts.
Days before he leaves office, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday touted that schools change and renewed his calls for lawmakers to approve his agenda, minutes after Madigan referred to the governor's term as an "epic struggle."
"Change is hard. Change takes time," Rauner said from his Capitol office Tuesday. "And the folks that created the massive problems in our state certainly are resistant to change. That's understandable. That doesn't mean that our recommendations are somehow wrong or flawed or incorrect at all. That means it's gonna take time to communicate with the voters and get the changes done."
Not long before Rauner spoke to reporters, Madigan adjourned the House with a final speech that didn't refer to the governor by name.
"We all know that over the last four years, why, all of us as members of the legislature have been involved in an epic struggle with the executive department," Madigan said. "What happened, happened."
Now, the 101st class takes office as the state faces $7.1 billion in unpaid bills. Democrats will hold a 74-44 advantage in the House. In the Senate, Democrats will have a 40-19 margin.
Those big totals give Democrats enough votes to override vetoes and accomplish some other big tasks without Republicans' help, if they stick together. But they likely won't always.
New state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray of Naperville already has said she won't vote for Madigan for speaker. And Democrats could split on some of Pritzker's big priorities. At least one Democratic lawmaker has said he won't vote to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Sports betting and gambling expansion is always controversial, and votes don't always split along party lines.
Firearm legislation also splits lawmakers more by region than party. That means some of Madigan's Democratic members in Downstate districts with a strong hunting culture may be less inclined to vote for new restrictions than some Republicans in suburban districts.
Despite any Democratic infighting, the new Springfield landscape poses big challenges for Republicans. Accomplishing their goals will be harder than it was under Rauner, even though Democrats held control of both the House and Senate under him, too.
Madigan and Durkin this week both have expressed a willingness to work with the opposite party when possible, a pledge that could get tested during fights over controversial issues in the months ahead. Pritzker wants to raise the minimum wage and change the state's income tax structure, ideas that Republicans likely won't support. Other areas, though, offer some room some compromise.
"I'm very anxious to continue to work with him," Madigan told reporters about Durkin. "I think that if we set a tone in this session where we recognize that the state has got some serious problems, and we should get together, people working with people to work to solve the problems, that all of us will be better off."
Durkin on Tuesday backed two early Pritzker proposals as an act of good faith ahead of the new governor taking office Monday. One proposal would allow him to pay state agency directors more money and another would oust members of the Illinois Tollway board.
"To me, it's important that we develop this level of trust," Durkin said. "And the votes that we have offered today, I believe, are the first sign of goodwill."