SPRINGFIELD — His tenure as a member of the Illinois House was a short one, but Rep. Rich Morthland of Cordova said he’s satisfied he did a good job representing the Quad-Cities in the state Capitol.
Morthland spent his final day in the Statehouse on Tuesday after losing his bid for a second term in November to Democrat Mike Smiddy of Hillsdale.
Smiddy is scheduled to be sworn in to represent the 71st House District seat at noon today.
Morthland plans to return home to continue his quest for a second master’s degree in communications, which he hopes will lead to a full-time faculty job at Black Hawk College.
He also plans to continue raising livestock, despite being injured by one of his cows during the run-up to the election, which left him unable to do much in the way of door-to-door campaigning.
Morthland said he’s most proud of being part of a revamped budgeting process in the House, in which lawmakers for the past two years set a cap on spending and then required themselves to stay under that limit.
The move resulted in a more bipartisan approach to reining in state spending at a time when the economy was in a funk and the state owed billions of dollars in unpaid bills.
“I was very pleased to be a part of two good budget processes. We’ve put in a good framework,” Morthland said. “That’s probably the biggest highlight.“
Morthland said his work to improve the state’s Firearms Owner Identification card program also was a personal highlight of his two-year term. He was the chief sponsor of legislation that called for an audit of the program, which later found significant gaps in how the state manages the FOID program.
“That was a real honor to be able to do that, especially as a freshman,” Morthland said.
Before winning a seat in the legislature, Morthland was the lone Republican on the Rock Island County Board. He was the first GOP representative to serve the Quad-Cities in Springfield in recent history.
He said being in the minority was sometimes frustrating, but the language used in politics was even more head-scratching.
“In Springfield, words don’t mean what they do in the rest of the world,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “I don’t like to have conversations where I have to parse people’s intent.”
“That’s probably been one of the biggest frustrations because I’m a plain talker,” Morthland said.
Morthland won the respect of his colleagues during his tenure in the House.
“Rich has been a person who represented his area very well,” said Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro. “In a short period of time, he became a very trusted member. It’s just a shame he won’t be back.”