March 27, 2007

Illinois House majority leader to speak at SIUC

by Pete Rosenbery


Barbara Flynn Currie

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie will share her insights into nearly three decades in government service during a lecture at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week.

Currie's speech is set for 7 p.m., Monday, April 2, in Student Center Ballroom D. Her presentation is part of the John White Lecture Series. White is a benefactor of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and a close friend to institute founder, the late Sen. Paul Simon.

The lecture is free, and open to the public.

"Barbara Flynn Currie is a gifted, truly dedicated and highly knowledgeable lawmaker," institute Director Mike Lawrence said. "She is greatly respected in Springfield for her straight talk and her effective, responsible leadership in behalf of education, more accessible health care for the needy and other important causes she has championed during her trailblazing run in the Illinois House.

"We are delighted this trailblazer — the first woman to achieve the position of majority leader in the Illinois General Assembly — is taking time from her hectic schedule to share her insights and perspectives with us at a crucial juncture in our state's history," Lawrence said.

When Currie, a Chicago Democrat, first won election to the Illinois House in 1978, only 11 percent of the legislators were women. In the 59th General Assembly, women fill 35 of 118 House seats and 13 of 59 Senate seats — or 27 percent of the state's legislators.

Serving portions of Chicago communities that include Woodlawn, South Shore, Hyde Park and Kenwood, Currie rose to the post of assistant majority leader in 1993, and assistant Democratic leader in 1995. In 1997, Currie became the first woman to be named House majority leader, second-in-command behind House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.

During her career she has sponsored legislation including the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit Act, the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace, and funding for all-day kindergarten. She has led the fight for school funding reform and helped craft a compromise on welfare reform legislation, and helped strengthen minority and female business access to state contracts.

Currie attended the University of Chicago, where she graduated with honors, and also earned a master's degree in political science.