The fall Veto Session came to a close during the week with the final days’ main focus firmly on combatting the ethics problems currently plaguing the state.
Senate Republicans stood up for true bipartisanship in the composition of a committee to examine the state’s ethics laws, and several ethics-related proposals were introduced. Also during the week, a pension consolidation measure cleared the General Assembly.
Standing strong for ethics reform
During the final hours of the fall Veto Session, my Caucus colleagues and I united in support of real ethics reform, standing in opposition to House Joint Resolution 93 – a measure that would create a Democrat-controlled commission to consider ethics reform.
Members of the Senate Republican Caucus unanimously opposed House Joint Resolution 93, arguing that if the desired outcome is real, substantial ethics reform, the committee should be truly balanced.
“With the cloud of scandal hanging over the Dome, we need to be taking up serious ethics reforms, not punting to another partisan task force,” the caucus said in a statement issued before the vote.
Under the measure the Commission will be comprised of:
- Four Democrat legislators (two representatives, two senators). Co-Chairs for the Commission will be chosen by the Senate President and Speaker of the House from this group.
- Four Republican legislators (two representatives, two senators)
- Two members from the Office of the Attorney General appointed by the Attorney General (one of whom will be the Executive Inspector General for the Office)
- Two members from the Office of the Secretary of State appointed by the Secretary of State (one of whom will be the Executive Inspector General for the Office)
- Four members appointed by the Governor (no more than two Democrats)
Ahead of the vote, Senate Republican members made an attempt to bring partisan balance to the commission, filing an amendment that would give equal voting power to Republicans and Democrats by making the appointees from the Office of the Attorney General and Office of the Secretary of state non-voting members.
Ultimately, the Senate Republican amendment was not called for a vote and the resolution was adopted along party lines. As this is a resolution, it does not require a signature from the Governor. The Commission must submit its report to the General Assembly by March 31.
Prevent lawmakers from being compensated to lobby
Spurred by recent headlines, a new legislative measure has been filed that would prevent lawmakers from being compensated to lobby.
Senate Bill 2302 would prohibit a member of the General Assembly from lobbying local governments or the state’s Executive Branch for compensation. The legislation also prohibits lawmakers’ spouses and immediate family members from lobbying for compensation at any level of government.
Currently, a member of the General Assembly cannot lobby the General Assembly for compensation; however, there is nothing that would prevent state-level lawmakers from engaging in lobbying at the local level or the state’s Executive Branch. This loophole is how some legislators are able to profit from lobbying local governments, which amounts to leveraging the gravitas of their elected office for personal gain.
Currently, the legislation has not been assigned to a committee.
Conflict of interest for Illinois State Board of Elections
New legislation announced on November 13 aims to ensure members of the Illinois State Board of Elections aren’t funding or controlling political committees.
Under current law, a person can serve both as a member of the Illinois State Board of Elections and manager of a political action committee (PAC) benefitting candidates at the same time. Senate Bill 2300 aims to change this obvious conflict of interest.
Senate Bill 2300 would prohibit a member of the State Board of Elections from also contributing to or being an officer of a state or federal political committee. The bill also stipulates that a member of the State Board of Elections serving as an officer of a PAC must resign from that committee within 30 days of their appointment confirmation in the Senate. Any current State Board of Elections member would have 30 days from the effective date to resign as an officer from any political committee.
Senate Bill 2300 and House Bill 3963 come on the heels of several other ethics reform measures Republican legislators are urging the General Assembly to consider in an effort to clean up Springfield.
Pension consolidation bill passed by lawmakers
A proposal to consolidate the investment functions of Illinois’ 650 downstate and suburban fire and police pension systems cleared the General Assembly during the final week of the fall Veto Session.
Senate Bill 1300, if signed into law, would consolidate the assets of 650 local police and fire pension boards and put them under the control of two separate boards. One board would be established to administer investments for local fire pensions and another would be created to administer investments for local police pensions.
The plan creates the potential for greater investment returns and could help to stabilize these pension funds so that promises made to first responders can be kept. Additionally, by consolidating the funds under two boards, instead of 650, the costs of managing the funds could decrease, resulting in a savings for taxpayers. However, at the last moment on Nov. 14, the Democrat sponsor tacked a new Tier 2 pension benefit onto the bill which could offset any potential savings. That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do. It’s the Springfield way. Because they let that happen, I was a “no” vote on something that I actually think could have been a good idea.
Opponents of the bill also raised concerns that the proposal was being rushed through the General Assembly without proper evaluation. They argued that the true impact the proposal will have is hard to determine because no actuarial cost estimate of its impact was done.
On Senate Bill 1300, I started from a basis that I believe in pension consolidation. I support the idea. However, the savings will most certainly be less than the 200 basis points the sponsor was claiming … that’s absolutely ridiculous. But there are some potential savings there. It’s a shame that politics allowed a pension enhancement that wasted the potential savings.
But Senate Bill 1300 passed, and now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting his certain signature.