State Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, said on Tuesday that he made a fool out of himself during a floor debate on Friday and allowed an honest bill discussion to turn into nonsense.
During a floor debate on House Bill 3394 – which would mandate the inclusion of one African-American and one female member to serve on the board of directors of any publicly held corporation based in Illinois by 2021 – Reick said if proponents of the bill are going to be demand this kind of mandate, they may as well be putting up signs in Illinois stating that the state is not open for business.
“I don’t care whether you are offended or not by the fact that we are against this bill,” Reick said on the House floor Friday. “The fact remains that you’re not going to get anything in this country in the way of being treated equally if you’re going to take offense at every [darned] thing that comes up.”
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, the bill’s sponsor, said he was not ashamed to fight for a bill that would allow his 5-year-old daughter to have a seat at the table in the future.
“You [the House GOP] should be ashamed of the arguments coming out of the other side today,” Welch said.
The debate quickly de-escalated to the point where House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, urged everyone to take a deep breath and clarified his caucus’ stance.
“We take the position that we think government should take a step back, let those entities make decisions on their own,” Durkin said Friday. “We believe that the more that government micromanages the private businesses and corporations in Illinois and in this country is not the best way for us to move forward and to grow our economy.”
The bill ultimately was voted out of the House by a 61-27 vote on Friday.
Reick made several apologies on Tuesday to Welch, his fellow representatives and anyone who heard the debate.
“I’m not going to say I’m apologizing to those who were offended because if you weren’t offended, you’ve got a problem,” Reick said. “I was offensive to everybody, including myself, and I’m sorry.”
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks, who preceded Reick as representative of the 63rd House District, said Reick’s comments do not reflect the district. However, he was not surprised that the comments were made based on a shift to extremism he has observed within the local Republican Party in the past few years.
“There needs to be some soul searching and changes here locally,” Franks said.
Franks also said he appreciated that Reick recognized that his comments were inappropriate and apologized.
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, called Reick’s comments the low point of his legislative career and he still is offended by the statements.
“It was an absolutely terrible thing to see,” McSweeney said.
Reick said that the next two months are going to be difficult and he regretted allowing the the House to become so rancorous with his comments.
“As I said earlier on our first day of session this past year, we’re a diverse state. We’re a huge state,” Reick said on Tuesday. “We all want to end up in the same place, but we have many ways of getting there. And the challenge we have is making sure that we don’t let the differences that separate us keep us from doing that.”