Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Abandoning the House Floor

Today the Illinois House will meet at the Old State Capitol.

The last time that happened was in the summer of 2000, when the GOP, led by Gov. George Ryan decided that the gas tax needed to be cut because fuel prices were so high. I think the members convened in the Auditorium of the Michael J. Howlett Building. Wasn’t the plaster being repaired in the House chamber then?

In the veto session of 1973, House members met in the same auditorium for the veto session. Only then it was called the Centennial Building. Both the House and the Senate were undergoing major renovations. House Speaker Bob Blair and Senate President Bill Harris, Republicans both, were going to leave a legacy. Of course, neither knew of the debacle facing the GOP in 1974.

With the State Senate meeting in the Old State Capitol then, the biggest item on the agenda was passage of the Regional Transportation Act.

I knew suburbanites were in trouble after Blair briefed at a Capitol caucus in one of the old committee meeting rooms (where the press room is now, I think).

Blair outlined the bill. I think he had figured out that he couldn’t pass the bill without a public referendum.

As an outspoken (really?) freshman who had argued against the RTA on the House floor in June when Blair had last presented and quickly withdrew the bill, I asked,

Will any amendments be allowed?
The Speaker answered something like,
Of course.
I thought about his answer and asked a follow-up question:
Will any be accepted?
Blair’s answer was short and to the point:
No.
I immediately walked down to the Legislative Reference Bureau to get them started on amendments.

Only one amendment was adopted. It was from my seatmate Bill Maher. It required the RTA Board to be re-apportioned according to population every decade. That has been done just once since then. Lake County’s David Barkhausen sponsored that bill after the 1980 census.

I think we had upwards of a 100 amendments in the works when Blair got someone to move for an immediate vote at about number 70.

My favorite, which did not get presented on the House floor, would have required the state to pay for subscriptions to each of the four daily Chicago newspapers for every household in the 6-county area. All four papers were staunchly in favor of taxing the suburbs to pay to subsidize commuters riding trains downtown.

I figured their real reason for their support was that one could not read a paper while driving a car. (And, yes, my tongue was deeply in my cheek when I asked for the amendment to be drafted.)

The RTA and CTA are back again, of course, seeking still more of a bailout from the suburbs. They unleashed their latest ”woe is me” round of whining the couple of days before the election.

= = = = =
The photos are of the Illinois House chambers, taken in May of 1974. This was after the fall 1973 renovation, which saw the chairs and carpet turn blue and a brass plaque put on the front of the podium saying W. Robert Blair was Speaker when it occurred. Some ways said that the carpet and chairs were blue so they would match Blair’s eyes. Both photos can be enlarged by clicking on their images.

In the top photo, Blair is speaking. Can you find these Republicans?
· Pate Philip in the aisle
· Adeline Geo-Karis in the second row
· Jim McCourt and Bill Kempiners, next to Geo-Karis in the aisle
· John Grotberg sitting next to Geo
· John Porter right behind Blair’s head
· John Friedland with his hand’s behind his head next to Porter
· Is that Bud Washburn sitting next to Don Deuster standing across the aisle from Blair?
· Tim Simms on the phone leaning back in his chair in front to Washburn and Duester
· Is that Paul Randolph on the aisle in front on Simms?
· Harry Leinenweber standing in the aisle holding up his hand
· Bill Walsh, Dick Walsh and Joe Ebbesen looking up at Blair seated right in front of him
· Next to Ebbesen, Vince Malloy looking straight ahead
· Ginny Macdonald and Herb Huskey, to Blair’s left
· Al Schoeberlein to Macdonald’s right
· Is it Charlie Claybaugh on the back row with white hair?
· Gene Schlickman sitting to Claybaugh’s left
· Tom McMaster, standing talking to Clarence Neff
· Cissy Stiehl in the back row behind Ron Griesheimer
· Mary Lou Kent sitting next to Stiehl
· Babe McAvoy standing near the middle of the entrance doors in the back
· Is Joe Sevcik standing behind the back row with the black background?
· Is Elmer Conti the last person seen on the left of the back row?
· Carl Soderstrom’s back in the front row center
Of the Democrats, can you spot the following?
· Jack Williams leaning on a desk on from the center aisle
· Is it Ike Sims standing up in the back row?
· And next to him, is it Louie DiPrima?
· John D’Arco having just climbed the steps
· Harold Washington sitting behind Deacon Davis, both on the aisle
· John Fary in front of Davis (no, you can’t see his drawer full of little bottles of liquor)
· Gene Barnes in the second to the last row, one seat in from the aisle (I don’t see a TV set, so the Watergate hearings must not be on.)
If you can help identify the ones I have missed, that would be appreciated. I’m having trouble with the back row, the person leaning back with hands behind his head behind Blair, the man next to Mary Lou Kent on the center aisle in the back, the man standing in front of Bill Kempiners in the center aisle,

And, if I have misidentified some, please let me know.

The second photograph has more Democrats. There is a Cal Skinner, Jr., I don’t recognize standing up, facing left, in the foreground.

Here’s what I see:
Romie Palmer is standing in the aisle facing Republicans
Standing two rows in front of John Fary on the Democratic Party side is Glenn Schneider
Art Berman standing up next to Fary
I need major ID help here.

The angle does not show Henry Hyde, who was in the back row near the men’s room.

= = = = =
The buttons are from the 1974 campaign. The official one of the opposition committee, kNOw RTA, is the cheap clip-on. Note that folks are invited to buy 20 for $1 by writing State Rep. Don Totten. The "NO RTA" button (which appears larger than it is) was produced by someone who thought out "kNOw RTA" button was too soft, I guess.

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