Ethics reform in Springfield is about 30 years overdue. The very structure of our government breeds corruption. Power is funneled from the people through the local governments to the state government and ultimately, the leadership in the Illinois House and Senate. This has led to the conviction of two governors of corruption-related crimes, indictments of a number of senators and legislators and now the investigation of the Speaker of the House himself. If ever there was a time for a change, it is now.
House Democrats have just listed reforms that they think need to happen right after the general election in November. Some of these reforms echo reforms proposed by Republicans in 2019 especially those calling for a true definition of a lobbyist, not allowing recently unemployed legislators to be lobbyists and prohibiting state government representatives from lobbying at the local level. Some are new including strengthening the Legislative Inspector General, setting term limits for leadership and allowing for censure.
These reforms are a good start but fall woefully short. First, the reforms on lobbying should have been passed in June of this year. I do really like the idea of term limits for leadership. In fact, I would like to see them take it further and ensure it is a lifetime term limit as in one person can only hold the position of Speaker of the House or President of the Senate for a maximum of 8 years total. This would prevent stepping down for a legislative session and getting another set of terms. Also, I like the idea of giving the Legislative Inspector General sharper teeth. However, these reforms still leave the General Assembly only accountable to itself. Until we make the General Assembly accountable to local government and local governments accountable to the people we will never see true ethics reform.
I don’t think these measures will be voted on until after the election. This is unfortunate because the only reason ethics is seen as an issue by the democrats is obviously because this is an election year. Otherwise, they would have called the very similar republican-led ideas up for discussion and a vote. If we wait until the veto session, the main reason for the democrats addressing the issue will be lost. Therefore we need the General Assembly to deal with ethics in a special session soonest. The reason I don’t see this coming to a vote, if it does at all, is because the Speaker has shown that he cares more about his personal power than the integrity of the General Assembly. Specifically, the call for term limits to leadership will undermine his position in the House. So, I don’t think that crucial element of reform will even make it out of committee.
I would like to see Governor Pritzker call for a special session to address ethics reform now. I would like to see him pressure Madigan to push for all 9 recommendations and any recommendations brought forth by the republicans in 2019 not covered in those 9 to get to a vote. I would like to see him condemn the behavior of Com Ed. Finally, I’d like to see him call for Madigan to relinquish his post as Speaker of the House immediately.
It is high time for Illinois to have a government that is of the people, by the people, for the people and accountable to the people.