On Tuesday, April 18, KCDW members were welcomed to the state Capitol by two of our state senators, Cristina Castro, who represents the 22nd Senate District, and Linda Holmes, who represents the 42nd Senate District. Our trip began with dinner with the senators on April 18th, where they outlined some of the events taking place at the Capitol the next day.
On Wednesday, we arrived at the Capitol early to find numerous groups on the steps outside with signs about climate change, early childhood education, justice and equity, etc. We were also surrounded by busloads of school children touring the Capitol that day. It was a bird’s-eye view of the hectic life that state legislators lead, meeting with various groups and moving forward legislation while they are in session.
Our first event was touring the office of Cristina Castro and talking to her assistants. Then a tour guide led us through the Capitol building and told us the history behind various rooms, including showing us where President Barack Obama sat when he was a legislator. Our Chair, Carolyn Bird Salazar, and Vice Chair, Theresa Barreiro, were also invited to attend the joint session of Congress and see the legislative process in action.
All of us were thrilled to have a photo taken with the Governor, who met with us for a few minutes outside his office. And later in the day, a group of us met with Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton and talked about our mission to encourage and support Democratic women, and the men who support women’s issues, who are running for office.
A few members stayed an extra day and toured the Supreme Court building, which is across the street from the Capitol. We were able to walk through the extensive law library on the second floor and take pictures of the courtroom where the justices make decisions affecting the everyday lives of citizens of Illinois. Although the library primarily serves the needs of the Supreme Court, it is also open for use by members of the bar and the public.
History is evident in the numerous murals, photos of justices, and images of President Abraham Lincoln, which are on the second floor of the Supreme Court. The third floor of the building, which consists of small apartments, is off limits to tourists. Illinois provides living quarters for the justices when court is in session, which is five times a year and two weeks each time. The justices stay in Springfield four days a week when they are in session.
Overall, we were impressed by the welcoming atmosphere at both the Capitol building and the Supreme Court. After going through security, visitors are able to wander through the halls, take the guided tour, and enjoy the beautiful artwork depicting the history of our state. And you never know whom you might meet in those halls. Two of us were pleasantly surprised when Governor Pritzker and his security detail joined us on an elevator going to the second floor of the Capitol.