Legislature’s best: State gets a bipartisan lift from Millner, Sullivan, Saviano, Bradley and Mautino
RICH MILLER email@example.com January 12, 2012 5:18PM
Updated: February 14, 2012 10:16AM
Every year, commenters at my website (CapitolFax.com) vote on something we call the “Golden Horseshoe Awards.” I started the contest as a tongue-in-cheek lark, so I jokingly named it after Springfield’s most infamous culinary offering.
People took the contest seriously, though, and, unfortunately, the name stuck; just like the Horseshoe’s ingredients (cheese sauce, french fries, meat, toast) stick to your arteries. So now I run what some think is a prestigious annual awards contest which has a completely goofy name. Oh, well. There are worse things in life.
I decided to go with the “best of” the Illinois Statehouse rather than do a “worst of” because we always hear about the worst of state government. Besides, there’d be too many nominations to wade through.
So we have categories like the best “do gooder” lobbyist, which was awarded to Jeremy Schroeder of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Secretary of State Jesse White won best statewide officeholder. Overall, we had 32 categories, way more than when I started the thing.
To me, anyway, the most interesting results were for best state legislators. Whether Republican or Democrat, they all shared some specific traits. They are all effective lawmakers, of course. They know how to pass bills. But they also make it a point to work with members on the other side of the political fence, which is more like a mini Berlin Wall in these times of extreme partisan divides.
The debilitating and paralyzing hyperpartisanship that has long infected the U.S. Congress has seeped into Springfield over the past few years, so I was happy to see that none of my readers nominated the Statehouse’s worst offenders.
Sen. John Millner got the prize for best Republican state senator. The suburban Carol Stream resident is retiring at the end of this term, and he was clearly a sentimental favorite. There’s no doubt that Millner is a conservative, but he has a long history of working with Democrats. As a result, he’s been one of the more effective legislators on his side of the aisle. He’s also a gem of a human being.
Sen. John Sullivan was voted best Democratic state senator. Sullivan is from Rushville, a little town in “Forgottonia,” otherwise known as Western Illinois. His conservatism often puts him more in line with his Republican colleagues (a zero percent rating from Planned Parenthood, endorsed by the NRA), and he regularly works with the other side. Sullivan hasn’t convinced any Republicans to vote for his plan to float bonds to pay off past-due state bills, and the GOP will undoubtedly use that legislation against him this November. But his struggle to find a tiny bit of bipartisan consensus impressed my commenters, and impressed me as well.
Rep. Skip Saviano was a no-brainer choice for best Republican state representative. The man is a bill-passing machine. Saviano had a falling-out with House Speaker Michael Madigan, but it hasn’t really slowed him down. Some people use the term “Republicrat” as an insult. But for Saviano, it’s a badge of honor. As a result, he’s one of the best-liked legislators in the building.
Representatives John Bradley and Frank Mautino tied for best Democratic state representative. Both men are known for working honestly with the other side. Bradley’s almost Herculean bipartisan efforts passed the hugely controversial corporate tax cut package this past fall. Mautino was able to find a bipartisan solution to Gov. Quinn’s veto of regional school superintendent salaries and put together a complicated agreement on unemployment insurance reform. Both men are work horses, not show horses. Actually, all the winners are. We need more like them.