Empty chairs at empty tables: No one shows up for Springfield redistricting hearings
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WIFR) - State lawmakers plan to return to Springfield Tuesday to start the veto session. Their main focus will be the new congressional maps for the next decade.
Both chambers have held redistricting hearings across the state, but hardly anyone from the public has participated. Thursday’s House redistricting hearing in Springfield lasted less than 12 minutes.
Thursday was the first time the committees returned to the Capitol. However, there were more reporters than lawmakers in the room. No one from the public showed up to testify virtually or in-person.
Lawmakers could vote on the congressional and judicial subcircuit maps as early as next week. Yet, Democrats haven’t released their proposed maps yet. Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) was the only committee member in the House committee room.
Committee holds multiple hearings, but advocates refuse to testify
Butler stressed that the majority party continues to ignore groups who testify. That’s why he feels no one is showing up to give their suggestions for the new maps.
“People want an open transparent process where they know what’s going on,” Butler said. “That they get ample time, at least two weeks, which multiple groups have said, to respond to any maps that are introduced, and to do it in an open and transparent manner.”
Butler is also concerned that Democrats are trying to create judicial subcircuits in counties that have never had them before. Democrats are focused on changing the subcircuit for Cook County, but some worry they’re looking at significant structural change to courts across the state.
Chair Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) said she doesn’t know when the maps will be ready. She also explained she didn’t know when the public will know the schedule for more redistricting hearings.
“We’ll hear more after Friday’s hearing,” Hernandez said. “I will tell you this. If I do get any information, Leader Butler, I’ll share that with you.”
Check out the sign outside of the House committee room Thursday morning. Anyone that may have wanted to participate in Thursday’s hearing wouldn’t have known anything was happening in this room.
Senate redistricting hearing gets spicy
The Senate committee room was also empty except for Sen. Steve McClure and legislative staff. Republican senators grilled Democrats about a report of secret meetings with Democratic members of Congress.
Crain’s Chicago Business reported earlier this week that members of the Pritzker administration and aides for the Speaker and Senate President are meeting with the Democratic delegation to see what they would like their districts to look like.
Republicans want to have someone from the Pritzker administration testify before the committee to explain their involvement in the process.
“Neither I nor Chair [Omar] Aquino have knowledge of the report,” said Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago). “That’s the answer that we have. Again, you may not like my answer but it is the answer. And it is an honest one.”
Republicans later asked if members of the Democratic delegation plan to testify to let lawmakers and the public know their plans for the new district lines. Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) also asked Sims if he could guarantee that the committee will hold hearings to discuss the maps before voting on them.
Sims said they will have a hearing to allow for public discussion. Although, it’s still unknown when that will take place.
“If given enough time, I think the public can have effective communication with the members of this committee,” McClure said.
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