A group of Illinois House lawmakers this week began considering whether one of their colleagues is qualified to serve in the General Assembly. It’s a rare process — and part of the continuing fallout from a federal corruption investigation.
That colleague, state Rep. Eva Dina Delgado (D-Chicago), was appointed by local Democratic Party officials to fill the remainder of the term left by former Rep. Luis Arroyo. He and others, like former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, have been targeted in what’s been described as a sweeping federal investigation into corrupt practices by lawmakers and lobbyists alike.
Arroyo was arrested last fall after federal authorities caught him trying to bribe a state senator who was wearing a wire. He resigned from the House soon after.
But several state lawmakers have taken issue with how Arroyo’s replacement was chosen. Two House members — Anne Stava-Murray (D-Naperville) and Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs)— formally challenged Delgado’s appointment because, among other things, they allege Arroyo himself had a hand in selecting her.
House Speaker Michael Madigan said “the full Illinois House of Representatives” would challenge the qualifications of any appointee selected with Arroyo’s involvement.
Durkin and Stava-Murray’s formal petitions triggered the House to form a special Qualifications Challenge committee. State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside) is leading the group.
“Let us all resolve that our work on this committee will show that this House is committed to fairness and justice,” he said during the group’s first meeting on Tuesday.
In a departure from the way legislative committees usually work, this special committee resembles a courtroom. Delgado and her challengers will each get to have outside lawyers represent them, and a court reporter will take down transcripts.
State Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) is the ranking Republican on the committee. She emphasized its quasi-legal nature during the Tuesday meeting.
“We are not interested in personal attacks. We are not even interested on whether or not the committee chose the right person in the appointment process,” Bourne said. “Our focus in this committee should be on whether or not the appointment process was fair and whether or not the selection process was proper.”
Both teams will be able to present their cases starting next month.
Delgado, through her attorney, said the challenges against her are “purely political.” She’s asking the committee to throw them out, arguing the process used to appoint her “followed the law every step of the way.”