Illinois State Rep. David Welter opened up to the public about his voting record and being part of the minority in Springfield during a series of town hall meetings throughout the state’s 75th District.
The Morris Republican welcomed about 20 constituents last week during a town hall meeting at Morris City Hall.
“We had a pretty busy legislative session,” Welter said. “Some might say good things happened, some might say bad things happened. I’d say it was a mixed bag.”
Welter spoke frankly about being in the minority party in Springfield. He said that while some of his fellow Republicans had opted to vote predominantly in opposition to the majority Democrats, he decided to take the opportunity to reach across the aisle, making nonpartisan votes on issues such as the capital bill, which increased the gas tax in the state by 19 cents, and the adult recreational cannabis bill, which goes into effect on Jan. 1.
“I could have just said hell no to everything that [the Democrats] tried to do or proposed,” Welter said. “Some of my colleagues have done that, and that might play well back at home or with my base, but I didn’t think it would be productive for our community. I felt that trying to oppose them when I could and stand on my values and my merits, then I would, but I would also respect some of their priorities and what they believe in and try to meet them in the middle on some of those. That’s how I’ve been able to build a lot of relationships that I think are helping me get projects or things done here back in the district that are very important.”
Welter said he came to the table over adult-use cannabis in order to help secure local control when it comes to passing laws regarding pot sales.
“Good, bad or indifferent, I believe in local government control,” he said. “I’m not a huge fan of cannabis. ... I fought for the bill to make sure that we have local police dollars supporting back to Grundy County, to make sure they’re able to get grants, as well, to help them with monitoring and roadside testing.”
Welter was joined by state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, during the meeting.
The pair did face some pushback from a handful of attendees at the town hall on issues of abortion and energy.
Rezin noted her opposition and plans to continue the fight against the state’s new access to abortion laws. Rezin said she was opposed to the law, which removed decades-old restrictions on abortions and removed criminal penalties for the procedure. Rezin said the law was passed in the last hours of the session, and was unexpected.
But folks attending questioned the popularity of so-called late-term abortions.
“What are the specific instances when a woman actually walks in and kind of shrugs and says, in the eighth month, ‘I don’t want that baby,’ ” one attendee said. “That’s hyperbole. ... It is very difficult, but the difficulty lies in the personal part of it. When you’ve got a government regulating, I don’t know what the right answer is. Are there statistics? I can’t fathom a woman walking into an [abortion clinic] late term, where are the statistics, I want to know.”
There also was some pushback regarding support for solar- or wind- powered energy production. Rezin and Welter noted that the state has multiple nuclear power plants that produce power which need state support. But some attendees balked at the idea that supporting energy production is cut and dry, noting that solar and wind could work as a complement to nuclear energy, not in place of it.
Welter also explained his opposition to some bills that had garnered a good deal of public support.
The state representative opposed the Tobacco 21 bill, which raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products in Illinois to 21. Welter said that while he agreed to the health benefits of keeping tobacco out of the hands of the younger population, the issue was more complex.
“I felt that, we have folks that we’re sending out to war. I know that we use that often. But for some reason, we let them go and fight for their country, but we’re going to limit their personal liberties,” he said. “That’s one of the situations where I felt that I needed to oppose that bill.”
Welter also said he opposed legislation that would raise the age to purchase a long gun in the state from 18 to 21, noting that such a restriction could affect sports shooters between the ages of 18 and 20.
Welter added that he opposed the minimum wage increase to $15, noting the state has such vastly different costs of living throughout its regions, that he felt a static minimum wage was not appropriate.
The town hall also included discussions on taxes, hunting, schools and gaming.
Welter held additional town halls in the 75th District over the past week, including stops in Plano, Wilmington and Seneca.