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*** UPDATED x3 *** Democratic legislators want reforms including forcing leaders to step aside during criminal investigations

Thursday, Aug 13, 2020

* Press release…

In the wake of the numerous, ongoing federal investigations involving bribery, influence peddling and insider-trading impacting state government officials and lobbyists, a broad coalition of lawmakers gathered today to announce their support for nine specific ethics reform measures that they believe could receive bi-partisan support in the upcoming veto session.

* The specific proposals

Lobbying Reform

1. Prohibit legislator-lobbyists. We would prohibit any sitting legislator from simultaneously lobbying other units of government, including city, county or federal entities. This ban should apply to lobbying elected officials; performing legal or regulatory work should still be allowed.

2. Stop the legislator-lobbyist revolving-door. We would establish at least a one-year prohibition on legislators and senior management within each caucus (those who file statements of economic interest) leaving their offices and immediately going to work as lobbyists.

3. Better define who is a lobbyist. We urge the Joint Commission to consider changing the current definition of what constitutes a lobbyist to cover additional individuals or consulting firms. Consultants and lawyers should not be able to use loopholes to perform lobbying and skirt registration as a lobbyist.

Legislative Reform:

4. Fuller disclosure of outside income. We would expand current requirements for legislators to disclose the sources and amounts of their outside income and increase penalties for those who refuse to comply in full. This must be done in a way that protects confidentiality rules of professional conduct, and avoids disproportionately impacting legislators and candidates who are not independently wealthy.

5. Initiate an official censure. We would establish a process to officially censure a legislator who has violated ethics laws, similar to that which is practiced in the United States Congress.

6. Strengthen the Legislative IG. We encourage changes to the Legislative Inspector General’s Office to increase its independence, such as allowing the IG to self-initiate investigations and making it an independent agency for the purposes of budgets and hiring.

7. End exemption from Human Rights Act. We would remove the current exemption of legislators’ direct employees from the state’s Human Rights Act, so those employees receive the same protections afforded to other employees.

Leadership Reform:

8. Term-limits for leaders. Establish term-limits for the period that legislators can serve in leadership positions, including the Speaker and Minority Leader of the House and the President and Minority Leader of the Senate.

9. Removal of leaders and committee chairs. We urge creation of a policy calling for the temporary removal of a legislative leader or committee chair during any criminal investigation relevant to job duties involving that member or an actual charge/indictment. The individual can be reinstated upon completion of said investigation or upon their acquittal.

Most of these aren’t new except maybe the censure idea and removing leaders and chairs during a criminal probe. That last one would seem to apply to House Speaker Michael Madigan, but I was told by two legislators at the presser today that it would depend on how the legislation was actually written. However, Sen. Melinda Bush said it would apply to MJM.

…Adding… Sen. Andy Manar…

Strict interpretation yes provided there is an affirmative communication from the investigatory authority. What if there isn’t? How that then sets the temporary removal (via automatic/resolution etc) is another question. Like many of these, these details are very important and the impact will be determined by the final language. This one will be a challenge to draft if the commission recommends. At least that’s my take. Others may disagree.

* List of legislators…

Senator Melinda Bush
Representative Lindsey LaPointe
Representative Kelly Cassidy
Senator Kimberly Lightford
Representative Daniel Didech
Senator Andy Manar
Representative Mary Edly-Allen
Senator Iris Martinez
Senator Sara Feigenholtz
Representative Bob Morgan
Senator Laura Fine
Representative Jonathan “Yoni” Pizer
Representative Robyn Gabel
Representative Delia Ramirez
Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz
Senator Heather Steans

Of the Democratic House members, Reps. Didech, Edly-Allen, Morgan, Gabel and Ramirez have not yet called on Madigan to immediately step down.

The House members were asked about whether Madigan should step down at the presser today. Rep. Morgan avoided the specific question, saying he preferred to talk about the larger issue. Sens. Bush and Martinez then stepped in to stress that the proposed reforms aren’t about one person.

…Adding… Press release…

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, issued the following statement on ethics reform:

“While I agree the legislature must take action on ethics reforms, we need to evaluate each proposal carefully and objectively. Any proposal that flies in the face of due process for anyone sets a dangerous precedent. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass a strong ethics package.”

*** UPDATE 1 *** From the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform…

Today, a coalition of legislators laid out suggestions for the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform to consider in their final report. In response, Co-Chairs of the Joint Commission, Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. and state Representative Greg Harris and commission members Senator Cristina Castro and state Representative Kelly Burke released the following statement:

“We received recommendations from a group of members of the General Assembly that included ideas and suggestions to be considered in the final report of the commission. Many of these ideas have already been discussed over the course of the commission’s hearings, and they will be included in the list of items we’ve heard throughout the year and submitted as part of the commission’s report.

“The commission’s charge is to come up with ideas and suggestions. After conducting multiple public hearings and getting input from many stakeholders, including our fellow legislators, the commission will submit a final report. However, the commission cannot file legislation. Only members of the General Assembly can do that. We look forward to working with our colleagues on their suggestions as we work together to develop a strong package of ethics reforms.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** Press release…

State Representatives Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) and Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis), who serve on the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform, are offering their reaction to a press conference held by Illinois State Senate and House Democrats today touting a “new” package of ethics reform legislation.

The legislative fixes suggested by Senate and House Democrats include multiple ideas already introduced and sponsored by House Republican Caucus members. These include legislative fixes under three categories: lobbying reform, legislative reform, and leadership reform. Specific items include:

    * No legislator lobbyists
    * Revolving door prohibitions
    * Clearer definitions of “lobbyist”
    * Fuller disclosure of outside income for legislators
    * Establishing an official censure process
    * Strengthening the office of the legislative inspector general
    * Ending the exemption for GA Employees from State Human Rights Act
    * Establishing term limits for legislative leaders
    * Allowing for temporary removal of leaders from leadership positions or committee chairs if they are indicted

“Senator Manar actually said the Joint Commission on Lobbying & Ethics Reform is working hard, when in truth, we haven’t met since March 5th! We haven’t met in person and we haven’t met on Zoom. Other state committees, commissions and panels have met multiple times since early March, but the Joint Commission on Lobbying & Ethics Reform has not. We did not finalize our work and we did not finalize our report,” said Rep. Wehrli. “Today’s press conference was completely out of touch with the reality on the ground. Every House member that took part in today’s press conference voted to put Mike Madigan in the Speaker’s chair and voted to accept his Rules of his House. While I applaud those who went on the record again today saying the Speaker should resign, this is merely political theater and window dressing. Until these members demand that the Governor call a special session to address ethics legislation and take real steps to remove Mike Madigan as Speaker, this is all just political cover.”

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst says he led an effort to send a letter to Ethics Commission Co-Chairs Senator Elgie Sims and State Rep. Greg Harris, both Chicago Democrats.

“I think Rep. Wehrli and I were well ahead of our colleagues in asking for the Ethics Commission to resume its work. We haven’t met since March,” Windhorst said. “Many of the legislative fixes proposed by House and Senate Democrats today have been introduced in bill form since November 2019. I just wonder where they have been. Corruption in Springfield has been rampant, and the House Speaker is implicated in a serious scheme involving bribery for taking official action. I believe we should return to Springfield in a Special Session to address the state’s serious plague of public corruption.”

On July 24, the Republican members of the General Assembly serving on the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform issued a letter to the co-chairs of the Commission requesting to meet to finish its work and finalize its report that was due at the end of March.

*** UPDATE 3 *** Gov. Pritzker…

I commend lawmakers for taking the initiative to propose a strong set of ethics reforms, including many of measures that I have prioritized since January. We need to restore faith in government, which is why I have worked hard to achieve important ethics reforms like stringent lobbyist transparency to end the practice of hiding influence from the public. And it’s why I have laid out priorities like closing the revolving door, expanding disclosure and ending the practice of lawmakers acting as paid lobbyists, among other proposals. I look forward to the report of the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform, as well as working with members of the General Assembly to ensure public servants live up to their obligation to represent the interests of the people of Illinois, and not their own interests. I believe we should accomplish these important objectives during this fall’s veto session.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

29 Comments
  1. - Marijuanaczar - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:10 pm:

    Bob Morgan…profile in courage


  2. - Ostomie Wedgie - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:10 pm:

    Looks like US Attorney John Lausch has already had a huge impact on the Illinois Legislature. New reforms for both ComEd and the Illinois House and Senate seem like a very likely to dramatically reform a corrupt system. The 200,000,000 penalty collected puts him in the Chicago history books. Most importantly longtime Speaker Mike Madigan is on political life support with greatly reduced influence and most certainly will be replaced as Speaker in January.


  3. - ILPundit - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:12 pm:

    If you listened to the press conference, Mary Edly Allen answered the Madigan question by saying if she were in the Speakers shoes, she would resign.


  4. - Shytown - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:16 pm:

    Hmm. Where are all the other “progressives” that one would assume would lend their name to this list.


  5. - Frumpy White Guy - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:19 pm:

    Any State Representative and Senator who fails to add their name to this list should be defeated in November. The reforms are reasonable and necessary. Let’s make John Lausch proud.


  6. - Hamlet's Ghost - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:20 pm:

    @FrumpyWhiteGuy

    Since the choice is between MJM and QAnon, do you really think QAnon is the better choice?


  7. - Springfieldish - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:22 pm:

    At least we didn’t have to hear Scott Drury say “Well, as a FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR …..” and then get it wrong. So, we can live with Morgan’s sidestep.


  8. - Hamlet's Ghost - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:23 pm:

    Meant to say “[If] the choice is between MJM and QAnon . . .”

    Hopefully we can get better choices.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:24 pm:

    === Any State Representative and Senator who fails to add their name to this list should be defeated in November. The reforms are reasonable and necessary.===

    “Fire Madigan” called, even *they* said “good luck”


  10. - Hmmmmmmmmm - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:28 pm:

    So Pritzker wouldn’t have to step aside for his toilet tax scheme?


  11. - The Dude Abides - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:54 pm:

    Gee, I wonder if Madigan will agree to call the bill for a vote.


  12. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 12:56 pm:

    ===his toilet tax scheme===

    What always gets lost in this is no allegations were made about him in that IG report. His wife, yes.


  13. - Frumpy White Guy - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 1:18 pm:

    If Mrs. Pritzker was involved in property tax fraud she should be held accountable just like us little people.


  14. - Back to the Future - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 1:36 pm:

    If Mrs. Pritzker did something on taxes that was clearly criminal she probably would have been prosecuted . She wasn’t prosecuted. She may have sailed the boat a little to close to the wind, but it appears the Pritzker family was advised by people with experience in the area and when the advice seemed questionable they paid the taxes etc. that were due under the theory the IG put forth.
    Time to move on.


  15. - Opening Day - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 1:36 pm:

    Remember a time not so long ago when we count on the Illinois Senate to always the adults in the room? What happened to the rest of them? Where are the suburban “progressives”???


  16. - Bigtwich - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 1:41 pm:

    So, if the State’s Attorney of, say Clay County, derides to investigate the Governor for acting under color of law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States the Governor has to step aside?


  17. - Ostomie Wedgie - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 1:41 pm:

    =she probably would have been prosecuted= Call it a gut feeling but many of us think the clock hasn’t run out on a possible criminal charge.


  18. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 1:49 pm:

    === Call it a gut feeling but many of us think===

    I call it silliness of a want… on the “find them guilty then have a trial”… “feeling”

    It’s first the miss that the Governor isn’t under a microscope, it’s his wife and another family member… the next is the misunderstanding of an IG report isn’t a criminal charge.

    Then it’s… gut feelings, spidey sense tingling, the hairs on the neck raising…

    The family paid “the two dollars”… in my opinion that was a serious own oppo fail that the taxes weren’t paid in gearing up, but it was what it was… and after hemming… and hawing… they paid “the two dollars” that shoulda been paid weeks and months earlier.

    So let’s see how it ever plays out.


  19. - renno - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 1:51 pm:

    I believe that this is a step in the right direction for true, meaningful, systematic reform that would benefit Illinoisans for generations to come. I hate that everyone focuses on either Pritzker or Madigan though. Rep. Edly-Allen said her piece the best in condemning reporters for only focusing on Speaker Madigan and not on the proposed ethics reform. It was more of an ambush interview


  20. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 1:55 pm:

    ===It was more of an ambush interview ===

    Nobody ambushed anyone. You put yourself out there, you take what comes.


  21. - Frank talks - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 2:19 pm:

    @renno- What did you think they were going to ask about?


  22. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 2:35 pm:

    “If Mrs. Pritzker was involved in property tax fraud she should be held accountable just like us little people.”

    Then don’t vote for her.

    – MrJM


  23. - Pundent - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 3:12 pm:

    =It was more of an ambush interview=

    And Democratic rep that steps in front of a microphone right now has to be prepared to answer this question. It would be journalistic malpractice not to ask it. And if you’re name is attached to proposal that calls for terms leadership term limits and anyone involved in a criminal investigation to step down, how could anyone claim they’re being ambushed. Unless you or Rep. Edly-Allen are arguing that the timing of all of this is just coincidental and it has nothing to do with Mike Madigan.


  24. - Chicagonk - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 3:54 pm:

    Not a good look that the joint ethics committee hasn’t even had a zoom meeting since March. The media and the people need to hold these reps feet to the fire because it’s clear their preference would be to do nothing.


  25. - renno - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 5:21 pm:

    @pundent, @Rich Miller @Frank talks

    I admit that you are right. It was not “ambush journalism.” To me, it felt like the media was hung-up on Madigan and did not want to hear anything that was not Madigan related. What I think the Dems were trying to say was that corruption is much bigger than the Speaker (see the latest headline of another Dem Senator who sat on the Ethics Committee). Yet, the media is only focused on the Speaker. This state needs broad-sweeping changes and the Speaker should have resigned years ago. Nonetheless, let’s change it now.


  26. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 5:44 pm:

    Violations are rampant. Can someone explain how the head of the Restaurant Association is not a registered lobbyist for example? He’s constantly with the Governor, clearly working and communicating with the Gov’s Office on laws and regulations, and talking to legislators. The IRA is not even registered as a lobbying entity in 2020. How blatant can it be?


  27. - low level - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 6:10 pm:

    This is what happened in California when then Speaker Willie Brown’s excesses lead to the passage of term limits in the state.

    I happen to like the status quo, however, the longer Himself refuses to resign, the more he will force the hand of rank and file legislators. The longer He stays, and the more that revelations come out, the more impetus is created for reform. And I think reforms cause more harm than good, but there is no choice the longer this goes on.


  28. - Annonin' - Thursday, Aug 13, 20 @ 6:25 pm:

    Mr/Ms low level
    How can we explain how 2 Missouri speakers got tossed for antics with aides — they were products of tern limits


  29. - Pundent - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 8:29 am:

    =What I think the Dems were trying to say was that corruption is much bigger than the Speaker (see the latest headline of another Dem Senator who sat on the Ethics Committee).=

    Ultimately the justice system will decide Madigan’s fate. But if he was engaged in corruption I don’t know how it gets “much bigger” than a speaker that’s held office for 40 years with a large percentage of that time in a leadership position. Mike Madigan is the leader of the Illinois Democratic party not merely a participant. If he has committed illegal acts it will be an indelible stain on the party notwithstanding the acts of anyone who also engaged in corruption. And he may very well be the architect of the system that you and others are referring to.


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