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New lawmakers: young but experienced

He was a coal miner while secretly nourishing the hope of becoming a politician. In 1979, at age 20, he was elected to the village board of Du Bois and was appointed village president in 1981. In last November's general election, he defeated an incumbent state representative who was assumed to be an easy winner.

Coal miner-turned-state Rep. Terry W. Deering (D-115, Du Bois) has become, at age 32, one of the 118 House members who will shape the laws that govern Illinois. Rep. Deering already has some ideas about his new job. A strong believer in individual town meetings, he plans to open one or two satellite offices and travel from town to town to make himself accessible to his constituents.

Deering considers education funding one of the top issues facing Illinois today, but he is against making the two-year income tax surcharge permanent: "We are losing business and industry in Illinois, and instead of taxing and taxing to make up the lost revenue, we need to get industry into the state and put more and more people to work."

Deering is one of 14 new state representatives sworn in on January 9. The House of Representatives opened the day in a festive mood. Amid flowers and cheers from families and friends, 11 Democrats and three Republicans took their oaths. "This [the ceremony] is something I'm going to treasure the rest of my life," Deering said afterwards.

Sworn in along with Deering were other young newcomers, like Rep. Dan Cronin (R-40, Elmhurst), 31. Although a new lawmaker, he is new neither to Springfield nor to the legislative process. He served from 1985 to 1987 as legal counsel to House Minority Leader Lee A. Daniels (R-46, Elmhurst).

He says that the biggest issue facing his district is property tax reform. "Before I came here, I had received numerous letters and calls from people who have just got their property assessment, and they are very frustrated. . . . People in my district are willing to sacrifice for education, but the system has pushed the taxpayers too far. Something needs to be done to stop creating new tax authorities and to reform the inequities in the system."

The only woman to take the oath of office for the first time was Rep. Janice D. "Jan" Schakowsky (D-4, Evanston). The first bill Schakowsky plans to introduce will be the Food Toxic Disclosure Act, which would require all food to be labeled if it contains cancer-causing chemicals.

Schakowsky is interested in health care and environmental issues in Illinois. She will also fight for women's freedom, their right to choose safe and legal abortion. She takes her predecessor Rep. Woody Bowman as an exemplary legislator and hopes to continue his progressive tradition in the House.

Steve Brown, Speaker Michael J. Madigan's press secretary, describes this new group of legislators as "young but with a lot of political experience in hand" and says that most of them have a good understanding of the problems facing Illinois. Brown hopes their backgrounds in education, business, and state and local government will contribute fresh ideas and new approaches in dealing with education and the state economy.

Although Speaker Madigan failed to put Democrat Neil F. Hartigan in the Executive Mansion, his coordinated campaigns did help Democrats win House seats, Democrats grabbed four seats from Republican incumbents and picked up the open seat vacated by John Hallock Jr.'s (R-67, Rockford) run for Congress, giving them their current 72-46 majority in the House.

That margin may grow: The race between six-year incumbent Robert P. Regan (R-80, Crete) and John A. Ostenburg, a Park Forest Democrat, is still uncertain, and the House will conduct an official inquiry later this year. With or without Regan's seat. Democrats have enough votes to override a veto by the governor.

The Democrat's 28-vote margin gives them a veto-proof House and strengthens Madigan's hand in drawing the legislative and congressional maps which will be crucial to Illinois politics in the 1990s, says David Everson, professor of political studies and public affairs at Sangamon State University.

The new seats will help Democrats. Says Brown: "It will be easier to advance programs that are important to the average working people, programs that will benefit education, to help issues that Republicans typically don't spend a lot of time on or pay much attention to. It will also provide a strong check on any potential excesses in the administration of the governor."

Republicans are not despondent because the Democrats' 31 Senate seats fall five short of what is needed to override the governor. But there will be new faces in the Senate. Sen. Dawn Clark Netsch (D-4, Chicago) and Sen. Bob Kustra (R-28, Park Ridge) resigned upon becoming comptroller and lieutenant governor, respectively. Martin J. Butler, 66, the mayor of Park Ridge, was named to Kustra's seat. On January 23, no replacement had been selected for Netsch or for Sen. Greg Zito (D-26, Melrose Park) who had resigned effective January 31.

12/February 199 I/Illinois Issues

"It is very much preferable for the Republicans to have the governorship, especially in terms of upcoming redistricting," says Pam McDonough, House Minority Leader Daniels' chief of staff. "According to the recent census, there's been substantial population shift from Chicago to the collar counties, and that means two or more seats for the Republicans. . . .

Hopefully the governor will be able to veto a map if it is hideous gerrymandering," she says.

To be practical, McDonough says, a lot of issues like the funding of education in Illinois don't fall along partisan lines. Downstate Republicans or Democrats may have different views from those in Cook County because many downstate districts get back

New faces in Illinois General Assembly

Daniel J. Bruke

Daniel J. Burke, 39 (D-22, Chicago)

Deputy Chicago city clerk since 1979, Burke ousted Robert Krska in the March primary. Burke, who instituted an annual city wide art contest for the design of the city's vehicle sticker, is legislative cochair for the Illinois Municipal Clerks Association and a member of the International Municipal Clerks Association. He also is a member of the Government Finance Officers Association and an elected member of the Tonti Elementary School's local school council in Chicago.

Jay C. Hoffman

Jay C. Hoffman, 29 (D-110, Collinsville)

Hoffman is director of probation and court services in the 20th Judicial Circuit and a former assistant state's attorney in St. Clair County. He wrested the seat from Republican Rep. Ron Stephens in a repeat of the race Hoffman lost by 1,500 votes in 1988. His top priorities are to bring new jobs to the region, establish reasonable utility rates and promote quality education.

J. Bradley Burzynski

J. Bradley Burzynski, 35 (R-76, Sycamore)

Burzynski, governmental affairs director of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, succeeded John Countryman who was elected circuit judge. Burzynski was the first of the new crop of 14 state representatives to take office, having been sworn in December 7. He is president of the Sycamore School Citizens Advisory Committee, a board member of the DeKalb County Family Services Agency and the secretary of the Sycamore School Parent-Teacher Organization.

David B. McAfee

David B. McAfee, 43 (D-47, Indian Head Park)

McAfee is an attorney and partner with the Chicago law firm of Clausen Miller German Caffrey & Withous and has been a special assistant Illinois attorney general under Neil F. Hartigan. He defeated freshman Republican Rep. Anne Zickus. McAfee is managing partner of Predrickson & Co., home builders and general contractors, and heads the Frederickson Real Estate Improvement Co. He serves as president of the village of Indian Head Park.

Dan Cronin

Dan Cronin, 31 (R-40, Elmhurst)

Cronin, former legal counsel to House Minority Leader Lee A. Daniels, works with the DuPage County state's attorney's office. The York Township Republican committeeman defeated veteran Rep. Gene Hoffman in the March GOP primary. Pam McDonough described Cronin as a good campaigner. His antitax position strongly appealed to his constituents and helped carry him to his election victory.

John C. "Jack" McGuire

John C. "Jack" McGuire, 57 (D-83, Joliet)

McGuire, a former teacher, succeeded retiring Democratic lawmaker LeRoy Van Duyne. McGuire, who was elected to the Joliet Township board in 1973, was appointed supervisor in 1982 and has served four years as president of the Will County Association of Township Officials. McGuire is on the advisory boards of several social service agencies including the Salvation Army, HELP Food Pantry and PADS Homeless Shelter.

Terry W. Deering

Terry W. Deering, 32 (D-115, Du Bois)

Deering, a coal miner, was elected to the Du Bois village board in 1979 and has been village president since 1981. He ousted Republican Rep. Charles Wayne Goforth in the general election. District 115 is facing double-digit unemployment. Miners are losing their jobs because Illinois utilities import cheaper western coal. Deering hopes to make Illinois coal a major energy source for the state's utilities and to reduce the number of people on the welfare rolls.

Geoffrey S. Obrzut

Geoffrey S. Obrzut, 38 (D-52, Northlake)

Obrzut, director of public affairs for Patrick Media Group Inc., unseated Republican Rep. Linda Williamson on his third try. He has served as an aide to Gov. James R. Thompson and to House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, was assistant executive secretary of the Illinois Racing Board, and was government liaison for the Illinois State Medical Society. He also serves on the board of directors of Triton Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

February 1991/Illinois Issues/13

a lot more of their tax dollars than they have paid in. Those in Cook County have never been able to pull back all the taxes that they pay.

For the new legislators from both parties, the swearing-in marks the end of a triumphant campaign season but also the kick-off of another more complicated game. "Like starting a new job, there is a whole range of things they have to learn," says Everson. "They need to know about the different interest groups, how to deal with conflicts and how to speak on the floor, etc.; it is an incredible learning experience."

But sometimes learning about and getting acclimated to the whole process can be very frustrating, says McDonough. Some, who try to keep up with what happens on the House floor, will be confounded by the calendar because the order of consideration of bills can be changed if the House leaders decide not to push a certain bill. Some freshmen will feel a "culture shock" when they stand and deliver their first well-prepared speech and find nobody seems to listen, she says. At the Democrat-dominated committee meetings. Republican-sponsored bills may not easily get through the process or sometimes may be hijacked by the Democrats. Her advice to newcomers is to be patient and not to "take some of this stuff too seriously."

Apart from being patient, Brown encourages the rookie legislators to rely on the experienced ones. "By and large, most of the legislators are pretty cooperative and willing to share their experiences. They will go out of their way to help the newcomers get things accomplished."

Throughout the state, voters have fairly consistent needs and concerns and most of them consider their legislators their ombudsmen. With recession around the corner, 1991 is going to be a tough year for Illinoisans. How to weather the difficult economic times tops the agenda of every legislator, Brown says.

Wen Huang is a student in Sangamon State University's Public Affairs Reporting Program. A native Chinese, Huang completed his master's program in international journalism at Fudan University in Shanghai in 1989. He now works in the Illinois Issues Statehouse Bureau.

Vincent A.. Persico

Vincent A.. Persico, 42 Ql-39, Carol Stream)

Persico, who bested Ralph H. Barger in the March primary, taught U.S. history and state and local government at Hadley Junior High School until 1988. He is described as a "young Gene Hoffman" because of his interests and background in education. A former trustee and precinct committeeman in Milton Township and Illinois legislative intern, Persico now serves on the Glen Ellyn Family Services board and belongs to the Citizens's Committee on Affordable Housing in Wheaton.

Janice D. "Jan" Schakowsky

Janice D. "Jan" Schakowsky, 46 (D-4, Evanston)

Schakowsky, a consumer activist, is executive director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens Organizations and, in 1990, established the first Senior Citizens Political Action Committee. She succeeded Rep. Woody Bowman who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for state comptroller. A board member of the Democratic Party of Evanston, Schakowsky is also 4th Ward chairman and, since 1989, a member of the city's Energy Task Force.

James W. Phelan

James W. Phelan, 43 (D-48, Chicago)

Phelan, a small-business man and real estate investor, succeeded retiring Democratic Rep. Robert Terzich. He is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. As a state representative, Phelan hopes to introduce bills to fight the high crime rate in his district and to improve the quality of education. Reducing high utility bills is also one of Phelan's top priorities.

Jeffrey M. Schoenberg

Jeffrey M. Schoenberg, 31 (D-56, Skokie)

Schoenberg, Illinois director of the Roosevelt Center for American Policy Studies, succeeded Calvin Sutker who ran for Cook County clerk. He is a former political aide to several Democratic officeholders and candidates. Schoenberg considers elevating the performances of schools as Illinois' top priority because the current level of education hurts the state's ability to attract investment and new business.

Michael V. Rotello

Michael V. Rotello, 36 (D-67, Rockford)

Rotello, Winnebago County auditor, won for Democrats the seat vacated by Republican John Hallock who ran for Congress. He is a Democratic precinct committeeman and an active member of the National Association of County Officials. At the age of 22, while still a student at Northern Illinois University, Rotello was elected alderman from Rockford's 9th Ward.

Tom P. Walsh

Tom P. Walsh, 53 (D-75, Ottawa)

Walsh, LaSalle County clerk since 1972, succeeded Peg McDonnell Breslin who sought the Democratic nomination for state treasurer. Walsh considers funding of education the biggest issue in Illinois. He says that the school funding system's heavy reliance upon local real estate taxes has to be changed because it is much too burdensome on homeowners and small-business men. Walsh would also like to see some changes in the area of economic development.

14/Febuary 1991/Illinois Issues

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