* 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…
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.
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.
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.