SPRINGFIELD — Illinois House Republican floor leader Mark Batinick, who describes himself as a “politician,” came to Springfield to promote good politics.
A father-of-five who resides in Plainfield with his wife, Batinick said after eight years at the General Assembly it was either time to try and run for something else or just move on to better manage his time as a family and a businessman. .
“I felt like it was time to pass the baton,” said Batinick, who represents the 97th District which includes parts of Oswego, Montgomery, Naperville, Plainfield, Bolingbrook, Joliet and Shorewood. “I’m proud of a lot of things I’ve been able to accomplish, especially on the minority side.”
Batinick graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1992 with a degree in business education. After that, he started his own outsourcing business, which he still owns but is now run by his business partner.
He eventually earned his commercial real estate license and served as a real estate agent, dealing primarily with small businesses, while at Illinois House.
When the opportunity arose to run for state representative, Batinick decided to go, as he said at the time that he was a “frustrated businessman”. He said he saw a lot of businesses leaving the state, which gave him an idea of what was happening in his local economy, and he thought he could help.
In 2014, Batinick was elected to the House from Illinois, taking office at the start of a two-year budget stalemate under former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
As a first-year lawmaker watching the budget stalemate unfold, Batinick said he observed that “much of Springfield was theater,” and that he would be watching the then Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, keeping everyone busy, “acting like all these things are happening.”
Batinick said instead of holding committee meetings and budget hearings, lawmakers were instead having debates over “stupid little things,” such as how to label fish on food menus or what to eat. school buses had to be repainted a different color when sold. used.
His biggest lesson over the years, especially looking at the budget stalemate, he said, is to watch things unfold and stay focused.
“Over time, I’ve done a better job of just watching the roller coaster and making my decisions based on observation instead of being personally tossed and getting all emotional with every big change,” said Batinick.
In 2019, Batinick was named Republican Caucus Leader. The Floor Chief serves as the spokesperson for party positions on issues and coordinates legislative strategies.
Batinick said that without having to worry about defending the governor’s choices, it gave him more time to prepare and organize. He noted that he had two goals as floor leader — to prepare ahead of time to help get things done a little faster, and not to debate every bill.
On Mondays, usually the day before the session began, Batinick would make the three-hour drive to Springfield, sit at his desk in a quiet room in the House, and read bills nearing final action. His review would determine which bills his party is concerned about, what questions need to be asked, and who will speak on a certain bill.
When he first became floor manager, Batinick said, he quickly learned that the role was not to support or oppose bills as an individual, but to review them. in place. Batinick said he once made the mistake of praising a bill, but then looked around and saw that some of his members were upset because they hated The law project.
As a first-year lawmaker, Batinick said a colleague gave him a book that talked about vetting bills to promote good politics, and he used that knowledge when it came to tackling bills as a leader.
Democratic House Leader Greg Harris of Chicago, who is also stepping down after completing this term, said everyone should bring their “A game” to the Batinick debate because he is always well-prepared.
“They chose him for this job because he’s smart and articulate,” Harris said. “He has clear, thoughtful principles and he’s a good man.”
Batinick said a primary strategy for advancing good politics as a member of the minority is building up outside pressure.
In his freshman year, Batinick said, he introduced a bill that would end automatic legislative pay increases. It was continually ignored, even though the state had no budget, until the newspapers started writing about automatic pay raises.
With outside pressure building, Batinick said Madigan introduced legislation that was the same concept as Batinick’s to stop automatic legislative wage increases.
“Maybe someone else will take it and get credit for it and that’s fine,” Batinick said. “You just want to push good policy.”
When he first took over in 2015, Batinick said it was a little easier to balance everything because his eldest was going off to college, one was a junior in high school and could fill in for the driver. additional, one was in middle school and the other two were still young.
“As crazy as it sounds, especially with an extra driver, it actually wasn’t too bad,” Batinick said.
Now, with his three oldest children on the doorstep and the two youngest in college and involved in traveling sports, it has become difficult to deal with fatherhood, run a business and spend a good part of his time in Springfield. .
With eight years of memorable moments on the House floor, Batinick said his favorite was the bittersweet passage from his last sponsored bill.
This bill, which authorizes a pension transfer credit for county corrections officers, passed the House unanimously, and his wife, two children and a few close family friends were able to witness the moment.
He said his family was planning to go to the Presidential Abraham Lincoln Museum, but he texted his wife to come to the house gallery for a bit before leaving because his final bill was on the way. to be called.
“My son was sitting next to me, my daughter and my wife were in the gallery and it was pretty special to have that moment with two of my kids there,” Batinick said.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.