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Jim Durkin

Just a couple of weeks into a job that most people couldn’t imagine being held by anyone other than the guy who had it for decades, Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch is putting together a House that looks both familiar and different at the same time.

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The Illinois House on Wednesday elected its first Black speaker to replace the longest-serving legislative leader in modern U.S. history, picking Democratic Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch for the job and pushing aside Michael Madigan after he was implicated in an ongoing bribery investigation.

For Illinois, the year seemed to begin on a hopeful note. The state was running a budget surplus for the first time in many years. By February, unemployment had fallen to an all-time low. But things were about to change amid a backdrop of pandemic and government corruption scandals that rocked the foundation of power of the nation’s longest-serving state legislative leader.

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