Editorial: Ethics reform must apply to all in legislature

  • House Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer of Dixon announces GOP legislation last October to tighten ethics rules on legislators and outside lobbying as Republican Rep. Tony McCombie of Savanna looks on.

    House Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer of Dixon announces GOP legislation last October to tighten ethics rules on legislators and outside lobbying as Republican Rep. Tony McCombie of Savanna looks on. Associated Press File Photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted12/5/2019 5:34 PM

If Republican legislators in the Illinois General Assembly expect their laundry list of ethics reforms to get the fair hearing in January it didn't get in the fall veto session, there's a little housecleaning of their own they need to handle.

To be clear, we believe that what Republicans have been arguing for are common sense reforms that should be seriously discussed and adopted as soon as possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They include, among other important actions, preventing lawmakers and their family members from working as lobbyists at the local level; forcing lawmakers' annual disclosure statements to be more detailed as to their financial interests; relaxing the control House committee chairs have over the fate of bills, by allowing a chief co-sponsor of any bill with five co-sponsors from each party to call it for a vote; and calling for special elections -- not appointments -- to be held to fill vacant seats in both the House and Senate.

That these ethics proposals have their genesis in a series of recent Democratic miscues -- including federal bribery charges brought against former state Rep. Luis Arroyo -- is predictable, but the reforms would hold both parties to equal account.

And the Illinois public is more than ready for reform.

For a party deeply entrenched in the minority, this ethics legislation is its best chance to do something meaningful.

What's disappointing in the current climate is word that Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington has been trying to quash a measure coming out of his own party that would ban lawmakers from profiting from gambling.

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In May, a WBEZ/Pro Publica investigation determined that Brady is a sales agent for Midwest Electronics Gaming, a video gaming company. Republican state Sen. Jason Plummer of Edwardsville, who has filed the bill to ban members of the General Assembly from making money on gaming, claims that Brady offered him a spot on a joint ethics commission in exchange for Plummer sticking that bill in his back pocket.

Plummer, to his credit, says he rejected Brady's offer and filed the bill anyway. Plummer was Brady's running mate in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Brady should not be fighting this. The legislature has too much control over gambling in this state to want lawmakers' personal finances anywhere near it.

If statewide Republicans don't get behind Plummer's bill, it'll look like the only ethics they want to impose are on the Democrats. Instead, the GOP must show Illinoisans that the party stands for ethics in all corners of the legislature.

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