Chicago

The Windy State? Illinois State Rep Proposes a 51st State — Chicago, USA

Alexandra Runnion | The PhoenixIllinois State Rep. Halbrook said the differences between urban and rural Illinois provide reason for Chicago to be a separate state.

“Chicago, USA” — if Illinois Rep. Brad Halbrook’s house resolution in the Illinois General Assembly is successful, students in future geography classes could have one more state added to their map quizzes.

On Feb. 7, Halbrook — a Republican state representative from central Illinois’ 102nd District — filed HR0101, a non-binding house resolution, to ask the United States Congress to use its constitutional power to make the city of Chicago a state separate from Illinois. The resolution is non-binding, meaning it can’t become a law without Congressional support, and simply shows the legislature’s approval or disapproval of an issue.

With a population larger than the four least populated states in the U.S. combined — Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska and North Dakota — Chicago would become the 36th most populous state, below Kansas and above New Mexico. It would also be the smallest state in terms of physical size, at 234 square miles.

As complicated as the legal process would be, Halbrook said he expects the resolution to become successful due to growing support among Illinoisans outside of Cook County, which covers Chicago. Three state representatives have co-sponsored this bill as of publication.

Halbrook said disagreement on issues such as gun ownership and abortion between the liberal-leaning Chicago population and the more conservative population elsewhere in the state as a reason why he sponsored the resolution. He said he took the idea from a different resolution for the same thing a former Illinois representative sponsored in May 2018, and adjusted the language.

Halbrook said he thinks the gun dealer licensing bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Jan. 18 isn’t something dealers in “downstate” Illinois need because they aren’t experiencing the kind of issues the bill sponsors talk about.

“I heard over the weekend there’s a handful of gun dealers closing just because they can’t afford to put these things into practice,” Halbrook said.

Halbrook also said abortion laws in Illinois— such as HB40, which permits government funding for abortions — don’t represent where the majority of the state stands on the issue.

Dr. John Pelissero, a Loyola professor who teaches Chicago politics, said he thinks the views of citizens and political leaders in urban areas are generally different from those in rural settings because of differing political cultures and value systems.  

“[Cities] are the locales for commerce, for employment, often times for universities, and technology,” Pelissero said. “They’re also areas that have adapted much more so to the evolutions of communities … in ways that rural communities have been unable to do because of continuing loss of population.”

A Pew Research Center study on social and demographic trends in 2018 found there are significant gaps in certain issue positions between people who live in urban and rural areas.

The study showed 61 percent of people in urban areas said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, versus 46 percent of people in rural areas.

Halbrook said increasing support to split from Chicago is caused by people outside the city feeling their state government doesn’t represent them, and is instead dominated by Cook County.

An example referenced in the text of the resolution is from the 2010 gubernatorial election, when Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn was elected by winning only four of Illinois’ 102 counties, one of them being Cook County.

Chicago holds a lot of influence over Illinois’ state politics because of how large its population is, and because of how many Chicagoans hold seats in the General Assembly and executive statewide positions, Pelissero said.

Gov. Pritzker, President of the Illinois Senate John Cullerton, Speaker of the Illinois House Mike Madigan and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul are all from Chicago.

“It’s not unfair for Chicago to have so much influence over what goes on in the state, given its size and the economic engine that it represents,” Pelissero said.

The text of the resolution describes how taxpayers in the rest of Illinois often have to bail out Chicago, using the “$221 million bailout for the CPS pension system” from last year as an example.

However, Chicago mayoral candidate and Loyola alumnus La Shawn Ford said in an interview with WQAD-8 Chicago could benefit from a split with the rest of Illinois. He mentioned how Chicago would get to keep all of the revenue it generates, plus the anticipated increase in revenue from expanded gambling and legalization of marijuana.

Pelissero said he trusts there’s good effort made by the General Assembly and governor’s office to not just make decisions which benefit Chicago.

He said he doesn’t expect this bill will get far in the General Assembly since it’s a Republican proposal and the party holds a minority of seats in the Illinois House.

Tiffy Boguslawski, vice president of College Republicans at Loyola and 21-year-old senior, said she has mixed feelings about a separation between Chicago and the rest of Illinois.

“It does get frustrating when I’m somebody who lives in the suburbs and all the people around me and down south of me are conservative, and then you have [liberal] Chicago that’s pretty much dictating what the rest of the state is doing,” the political science, history and international studies triple major said.

Brian Sabath, a sophomore and vice president of College Democrats at Loyola, said he thinks the resolution is a bad idea because it seems to divide people in a manner of “us versus them,” where there’s the people who live in Chicago and then the “real Illinoisans.”

“This polarization we have in our politics right now, it just exacerbates that,” the 20-year-old political science major said. “I think that we need all types of people and ideologies, and everything like that, in our politics.”

This isn’t the first time a separation in Illinois has been proposed. In 1925, the city of Chicago passed a resolution to become a state, and in 1981 a state senator passed a Cook County state split bill through the State House and Senate, according to the text in HR0101.

Halbrook said he thinks the resolution has support of the general public of Illinois, judging by the amount of favorable calls and emails he’s received.

“I’ve not had anything draw as much attention in my just short of five years in the General Assembly,” Halbrook said.


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