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103rd Illinois General Assembly begins session

House Sworn in.jpg
Camryn Cutinello
/
WBEZ
Members of the Illinois House of Representatives take the oath of office at the University of Illinois Springfield on Jan.11.

After a busy lame duck session which included the passage of an assault rifle ban, the 103rd Illinois General Assembly was sworn into office Wednesday afternoon.

The ceremony for the new Illinois House of Representatives took place at the University of Illinois Springfield, and brought in a series of firsts.

These include the first Korean-American representative, the first two Muslim representatives and two members of Generation Z.

Rep. Sharon Chung from Bloomington-Normal is the first Korean-American member and the first Asian-American member from outside the Chicagoland area. She is also the first Democrat elected to the seat since 1982.

“These are really big milestones that are not lost on me,” Chung said. “I think it just really goes to show how hard my team and I worked, and how we were able to get our message out there and really reach a lot of voters.”

Chung.jpg
Camryn Cutinello
/
WBEZ
Rep. Sharon Chung (D-Bloomington-Normal) wore a Hanbok, a piece of traditional Korean clothing, to the ceremony.

She said her inspiration to run for office came from her two daughters and her desire to create a better world for them.

Chung said getting sworn into office is a “surreal” experience.

“It’s a culmination of a year of hard work and sleepless nights and stress,” Chung said. “It’s such an honor and a privilege to be here today.”

Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch was elected for his second term as Speaker of the House.

Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Chicago) nominated Welch, and celebrated the five additional seats the Democrats gained during the midterm election.

The nomination was seconded by Kam Buckner (D-Chicago), who spoke about the diverse Democratic caucus.

“We look like Illinois, we feel like Illinois and we are going to fight like Illinois,” he said.

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Camryn Cutinello
/
WBEZ
Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Chicago) is sworn in for his second term as Speaker of the House by his wife, Cook County Judge ShawnTe Raines-Welch.

Welch also celebrated the diversity of the chamber, and said that all representatives on both sides of the aisle have a similar goal, although they may disagree on how to reach it.

“We are all here to fight for all 118 districts,” Welch said. “Regardless of our region, regardless of our race, regardless of our religion, we all have a common prayer. Our common prayer is that our work today will build a better tomorrow.”

The Democratic caucus also includes the first Muslim members elected to the Illinois House, including Rep. Nabeela Syed (D-Palatine) and Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid (D-Justice). Syed is also one of two new members of Generation Z, alongside Rep. Bradley Fritts (R-Dixon).

Fritts is the youngest member elected to the General Assembly. He won his seat at age 22.

“It’s unbelievable to have the trust of the people in the 74th District,” Fritts said after the ceremony.

Fritts gave a speech in support of House Republican Leader Tony McCombie (R-Savannah), who was nominated for Speaker of the House by Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb).

He said he first saw McCombie speak while he was a sophomore in high school. Fritts added, as a joke, that, despite his young age, he is no longer in high school.

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Camryn Cutinello
/
WBEZ
House Republican Leader Tony McCombie (R-Savannah) said she hopes to “put politics aside” and work across the aisle with Democrats during her speech.

McCombie is the first female leader of a house caucus and Fritts made it clear that’s just the beginning.

“The sky is the limit,” Fritts said, “when the glass ceiling is broken.”

After the ceremony, Fritz said McCombie had asked him to second the nomination, and that if all decisions were as easy as the one he made to support her, this would be the “easiest job in the world.”

The Illinois Senate was sworn in at the Old State Capitol at noon, with Governor J.B. Pritzker in attendance.

Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) was re-elected Senate President and Sen. John Curran (R-Lemont) was elected as Senate Minority Leader.

Both chambers adjourned until tomorrow, when they will meet to vote on their respective rules packages.

Camryn Cutinello is a reporting intern at WBEZ. Camryn can be reached at ccutinello@wbez.org.
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