UPDATE (12:15 p.m.): In a news conference just now, Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, weighed in on the underlying issue (not the fight itself)—taking the side of the Republican.
Quinn, a staunch opponent of the utility rate-hike bill that Jacobs' committee passed, called it "regrettable" that such a major peice of legislation was approved by a committee "with only a few minutes of debate."
That's essentially the same thing that McCarter later complained about on the Senate floor, with the implication that Jacobs' father's lobbying position was the reason for the rushed committee vote. Which in turn led Jacobs to allegedly punch McCarter.
Jacobs brushed off the incident when we talked to him last night, but in another interview, with the Chicago Sun-Times, Jacobs complained that McCarter had violated Senate rules that prohibit raising personal issues in Senate floor debate. "In effect, what he's saying is I'm a 50-year-old man that does whatever my father tells me, which is a bunch of crap," Jacobs told the newspaper.
(An aside: Jacobs isn't a stranger to in-your-face politics. In 2007, Jacobs very publicly alleged that then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich physically threatened him, "doubling his fists and acting like he wants to punch me," during a private meeting about health care legislation. "If this governor would have been in East Moline, Illinois, in one of my local taverns, I would have kicked his rear end," Jacobs said at the time.)
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • Illinois' rough-and-tumble politics took a turn for the literal late Tuesday, as a northern Illinois Democrat allegedly punch a Metro East Republican on the Senate floor after a debate over utility legislation.
The altercation took place during a lull in the long final day of the legislative session Tuesday, with no reporters around to witness it. Rumors later started drifting around around Capitol—amid the flurry of workers compensation debate and other issues—that Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, had punched Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Highland, after McCarter had accused Jacobs of a conflict of interest regarding the utility rate-hike bill.
"I called attention to the process" by which the rate hike was approved, McCarter said later in a written statement. He noted that Jacob's father, former Sen. Denny Jacobs, is a lobbyist for the utility industry, and that Mike Jacobs is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and a key supporter of the utility-backed bill.
What happened next is disputed.
McCarter says Jacobs walked over to his desk on the Senate floor after the debate and "proceeded to give me his opinion that I had broken the rules, and then he went further to begin using vulgarity and profanity, and cussing me out, and pointed his finger at my face, and then he punched me in the chest." He said fellow senators broke it up.
McCarter said he has filed a police report.
Jacobs dismissed the incident as a "dust-up," and denied any punches where thrown. He sarcastically suggested that if McCarter feels injured, "he should file a worker's comp claim."
The attempt to reform the state's workers compensation system has been a major topic of heated partisan debate in the Legislature this week.
The Senate adjourned for the summer shortly before midnight Tuesday.