Meet the speaker

House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch speaking to the crowd at his annual fall fundraiser in Chicago.

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch has served as a State Representative in the Illinois General Assembly since January 2013. On January 13, 2021, he had the honor of being elected Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, becoming the first Black lawmaker to hold this position.

As State Representative, Welch focused on improving classroom education, creating opportunity for all, and making government more efficient and responsive. He was the chief sponsor of the historic Illinois Trust Act, making Illinois a welcoming state and improving relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities. He fought to defend critical senior services that help older adults stay in their own homes and expand access to affordable child care.

He also prioritized greater diversity and opportunity in corporate America, fighting for new opportunities for Black and Latinx representation on the boards of publicly held corporations.

As Speaker, Welch has worked to strengthen accountability and restore trust in government.  He imposed the state's first term limits on legislative leaders, created tougher financial interest disclosures for all lawmakers, and strengthened regulations on insider lobbyists.

In 2022, the Speaker led the house in passing a fiscally and socially responsible budget funding the redevelopment of the state’s infrastructure, putting $350 million in new funding into Illinois schools, and expanding access to career and vocational education to give young people a pathway into the high-wage jobs you know are so very important to building a strong middle class. 

The Speaker and House Dems turned the former Republican Governor’s $17 billion in debt into a real surplus, rebuilding Illinois’ rainy day fund, and moving the pension systems closer to stability. These steps earned the state over eight credit upgrades. In addition, the Illinois House has worked to protect reproductive health and a person’s right to choose with the codification of Roe v. Wade. 

Before joining the General Assembly, the Speaker served his community for 12 years on the Proviso Township High School Board of Education, including ten years as board chair. He led the Proviso School Board in the creation of the Proviso Math and Science Academy, a school that today is recognized by Chicago Magazine and U.S. News and World Report.

The Speaker is a graduate of Proviso West High School (‘89), Northwestern University (‘93), and The John Marshall Law School (‘97). In 2016, he was honored to be inducted into the JMLS Wall of Fame.

He lives in Hillside with his wife Judge ShawnTe Raines-Welch and their two children, Tyler and Marley.

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