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The Illinois state capitol is decorated and decrepit

October 28, 2011

Robin Johnson’s Campaign Methods class took a trip to Springfield this week where we met and spoke with senators John Sullivan (D – 47th District) and Darin LaHood (R-37th District), MC alumna Rachel Bold (who works with Communications and Public Affairs), lobbyist Tim McAnarney, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, saw the Illinois State Vault and became nearly trapped in a century old elevator, all while navigating through protestors and supporters cramping the tactfully ordained halls of the state capitol. 

Wednesday was a busy day in Springfield, with the state senate voting on high-profile legislation change Illinois’s power system to a smart grid. The legislation gained attention of not just politicians but also corporations, like Ameren and Comed — who, besides their consumers, will be effected greatly by the bill and, of course, the lobbyist. Protestors and supporters lined the halls of the capitol building making it sound less like a place of mature political rhetoric (yes, I know) but more like the Peoria River Center during a Riverman’s game.

We navigated through the protestors who wore matching white, green or blue shirts and made our way to the senate floor.

The senate voted on a few lower profile bills—one concerning wind-farms and another on regulations on oxygen containers used by firefighters. The senate then took recess for lunch before addressing a bill on gambling and the smart grid bill, SB1652. During the recess Sen. John Sullivan visited with the class. He gave a brief bio of his career and why he chose to enter politics and then spoke on SB 1652, “If it doesn’t pass today, veto doesn’t sustain here. So we’ll have to come back to it; which is what I want. There’s definitely middle ground there.”

Sullivan said he would not vote for the bill in its current form, because he didn’t feel it included enough oversight by the state to regulate spending.

Sen. LaHood said that he too would not vote for the bill in its current form for similar reasons. As for gambling, LaHood said, “I think we have enough in the state already.”

The class then visited the senate hearing on the gaming bill. Senators got into heated debates over the bill while sitting under a massive painting of a woman in a toga, seated on stone steps and holding a long sword against her right shoulder, while two nearly naked babies held open a bible and propped up an antique ensign.

The class stepped out of the committee hall to meet with State Treasurer Dan Rutherford. Rutherford took us to the State Vault. We made our way down a small, almost microscopic, winding stairwell while Rutherford pointed out the five “Watch You Head” signs. At the bottom was a small entry room with the 16 ton vault. Rutherford informed us that the vault does in fact have over a billion dollars’ worth of merchandise; mostly unclaimed things collected from safety deposit boxes from all over the state.

Everyone opted for the elevator on the way back up to the third floor. The elevator, which had a sign that said it was installed in 1910, made it to the first floor—barely. Once the doors opened it started to fall before being caught by its breaking system. Everyone seemed content with getting off on the first floor, which they had to climb up to get to.

“I’ve been taking students in my classes to Springfield since I began teaching at Monmouth in 2000,” said Johnson. “They get to see first-hand how our state government works — good and bad — and how the governing process is integrated with the political process.”

Ryan Bronaugh
Contributing Writer

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