Aug. 21, 2020
It’s a good idea to regularly pull our state’s Code of Ethics from the shelf, dust it off and take a closer look. There is always room for improvement. But the timing on the most recent package of ethics reforms released Aug. 13 by the Senate Democrat Caucus is, shall we say, ironic.
Consider these facts:
· Within the last year, four Democrat legislators have been indicted on charges ranging from bribery to ghost payrolling and federal tax evasion.
· Commonwealth Edison has been charged with, and admitted to, a bribery scheme aimed at exerting influence over House Speaker Michael Madigan.
· Federal prosecutors have issued multiple grand jury subpoenas aimed at Madigan, including one to the Speaker’s Office.
What makes it even more ironic is how long Democrat legislative leaders have stalled on addressing the root causes of this corruption. In the 101st General Assembly alone, Senate Republican lawmakers filed numerous bills targeting corruption, but Democrat leaders refused to consider our proposals.
Yet suddenly, mere weeks after the media headlines are filled with reports of ethics charges against Democrat lawmakers, and here comes a package of ethics reforms from Democrat Senators, many of them with themes similar to initiatives Republican Senators have proposed but Democrat Senators would not support.
The timing is suspect, as is the fact that the debate and vote on the Senate Democrat ethics reform package is set for Veto Session, two weeks after the general election!
Action on an issue this important should not wait. It’s time for a special legislative session, where we take a closer look at everyone’s ideas about ethics reforms – Republican and Democrat – not just the ones so conveniently debuted just a week ago.
For a closer look at some Republican ethics bills from earlier this year, go to http://senatoroberweis.com/.
Jim Oberweis, State Senator, 25th District
Ethics reforms bills introduced by Republican Senators during 2019 and Spring 2020
Senate Bill 2297 (Senator Jason Barickman): Allow the Legislative Inspector General (LIG) to conduct investigations and issue subpoenas without the prior advance approval of the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) (currently, the Legislative Ethics Commission rules require that the LIG get approval to conduct any investigation that does not involve sexual harassment). Also, the LIG is statutorily required to get LEC approval to issue subpoenas. The change would give the LIG more autonomy to investigate ethics complaints.
Senate Bill 3594 (Senator Jason Barickman): No legislator may negotiate for employment as a lobbyist during their term of office. Also, creates a one-year ban for a General Assembly member to lobby with members of the General Assembly, if the member accepts compensation specifically attributable to that lobbying.
Senate Bill 2302 (Senator Dale Righter): Expands the definition of “lobbying” so that no member of the General Assembly, their spouse, or any immediate family member living with that member of the General Assembly may engage in lobbying (Currently, only legislator). Provides that a violation of provisions prohibiting member lobbying constitutes a Class 3 felony (currently, Class A misdemeanor).
Senate Bill 1545 (Senator Jason Plummer): No legislator or any other person holding elected office in this State may engage in lobbying units of local government in promotion or opposition of a matter of interest during his or her term of office. Provides that no legislator or any other person holding elected office in this State may accept or participate in any way in any representation case before a unit of local government in this State during his or her term office. A violation shall constitute a Class A misdemeanor.
Senate Bill 3899 (Senator Sue Rezin): Updates the disclosure of economic interest requirements for members of the General Assembly to require a full disclosure. (The current disclosures are vague and need to be updated to help the public understand what conflict exist with legislators.)
Senate Bill 1544 (Senator Jason Plummer): A member of the General Assembly may not be registered as a lobbyist, or make expenditures, receive compensation, or receive reimbursement for actual expenses for lobbying, within a period of five years immediately after termination of the member’s most recent term of office.
Senate Bill 96 (Senator Chuck Weaver): When a legislator chooses to vote on a matter despite a conflict of interest, must notify the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the conflict by filing a written notice describing the conflict with the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The Legislative Information System will then post the notice on the General Assembly’s website with the legislation.
Senate Bill 3127 (Senator Dan McConchie): Provides that, for purposes of determining the partisanship of any person who is appointed by the Governor to an office that either requires specific partisanship or limits the number of appointees from a single political party that may be appointed, the vote of that person in the three general primary elections immediately preceding the effective date of the appointment shall determine their partisanship for that person’s term of office.