Sunday, February 25, 2007

Committee of the whole: what does that mean?

Hopefully when you read this blog you learn something new. I'm a student so I learn something new everyday. Well then I learned what it means to convene a body as a committee of the whole.

Terry Martin, executive director of the Illinois Channel, left me a note discussing the purpose of the committee of the whole...
As far as the Committee of the Whole.. this is where the entire House [or Senate] gathers as a body.. but not as the House or Senate per se.. but as a committee. But instead of a normal committee -- which has just select members of the House serving on that body -- the Committee of the Whole is a committee hearing in which the entire House meets as a committee.

Why would they do this?

Because before a bill can come to the floor for a vote it has to be voted out of committee. In this fashion, the House can expedite the legislative process by having the bill pass out of committee.. where the entire House meets and votes on the bill. Also this is a parliamentary way of opening the process to allow all members to both voice their opinion.. and require an official vote from every member on their position on the legislation.

If a controversial piece of legislation is bottled up in committee, bc it doesn't get a passing vote.. then many members of the House [or Senate] who might have been on the spot by having to vote on that legislation, are spared from voting on it, because the Committee didn't pass it. But in the Committee of the Whole.. every member must vote on the bill.

I suspect the thinking here is.. let any member who wishes to go on the record of voting with the utilities do so. But the political pressure will be great on every member of the House, who will be forced to vote on HB 1750, to vote in favor of a roll back.

This is what I suspect is behind the call for the Committee of the Whole. It is a rather rare event. And Tuesday should be one of the more interesting days of this legislative session. In fact, I suspect the phone lines are burning bright this weekend, as the utilities and their advisories are competing to line up votes on this measure.

I hope your readers continue to follow these events, as they are critical to our future power usage and costs. The Illinois Channel will do what it can to keep citizens informed of these events as they transpire.
This is definitely an issue worth keeping track of. And surely this issue impacts Chicago residents, mostly elderly residents as it does downstate communities. But I'll be sure to follow up on this come Tuesday.

And thanks to Terry Martin for this information.

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