A new era dawned in Springfield on January 13, when this eight-year House veteran from the west suburbs was voted in as speaker, ending the nearly four-decade, scandal-tainted reign of Michael Madigan. Though trailed by allegations of his own about past treatment of women, he garnered the support of the Black and Latino caucuses, securing more than the required number of votes after downstate representative Jay Hoffman bowed out. The state GOP chairman, Tim Schneider, wasted no time attacking the new speaker, calling him “Madigan’s human shield.” Welch will certainly have a fight ahead of him, but as the first-ever Black lawmaker to lead the body, he’ll bring the power of history to it.