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Republicans tiring of minority status
By Nicole Milstead | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/30/2009 12:01 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - Legislative Republicans want to change the Illinois Constitution to give them some say in any decision to increase taxes.

But that and other GOP-sponsored plans are bottled up in the General Assembly so Republicans, who hold scant power in state government, roared in a protest that included a fleeting expletive and walked off the House floor Wednesday to protest their treatment at the hands of Democrats.

Approving a budget, raising taxes, and passing most laws requires 60 votes in the 118-member House. Democrats control 70 votes. Anything that raises state debt requires 71 votes, so Republicans have gained some say.

Now, they want to make tax increases face the same so-called supermajority vote.

In recent weeks, Republicans have increasingly voiced their displeasure with the internal rules that govern how the House conducts business and have challenged them on ethics and advocated opening the process.

Ironically, these are the same rules that Republicans adopted when they briefly controlled the Illinois House back in the mid-1990s. After Democrats won back the chamber following the 1996 elections, they decided to use the Republicans' rules, which largely centralized power with legislative leadership and then-GOP House Speaker Lee Daniels of Elmhurst.

Looking back, Republicans said it was wrong then and is wrong now.

"That was wrong," said House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego. "It's time to change."

But Democratic leaders aren't warming to the idea of amending the constitution to make it harder to raise taxes.

"I think that is a really bad idea," said Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat and House majority leader.

Republicans, who hung tea bags from their floor microphone stands, haven't seen any action on their plans for laws that would bring in business leaders to look at what government programs could be cut or another proposal that'd require the state to eliminate a program whenever a new one is added.

As their efforts to try to force Democrats to act were stymied Wednesday, GOP members on the House floor began shouting, including an expletive. Republicans then walked out but later returned for a brief floor session.

Afterward, Currie suggested an outlet already exists for Cross's plans.

"If he wants have more opportunities on the floor of the Illinois House," she said, "he better do a better job of electing Republicans."