Senate Republicans call for 'common-sense' ethics reforms
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD -- Demanding what they call "common-sense ethics reform," Senate Republicans plan to take action in addressing unethical behavior by elected officials.
Upon introducing the ethics reforms package, Senate Republicans called for the legislative inspector general position to be filled through an independent search committee. Republicans said Democrats need to end the "political games" and hire a legislative watchdog.
"It is not OK to have the legislative inspector general's seat empty, and it is not OK for the majority party to play political games with an issue as important as legislative ethics, and it is not OK for legislators to think they can police themselves," Sen. Don DeWitte, a St. Charles Republican, said during a virtual news conference.
The position has been vacant since Carol Pope left on Jan. 6. That day, 45-day countdown to find an interim legislative inspector general started, but the commission is currently at an impasse. If the position is still vacant in six months, the Illinois auditor general will choose the next legislative inspector general.
Republicans also filed legislation to give legislative inspector general the power to subpoena lawmakers and make the Ethics Commission meetings open to the public.
Sen. Jil Tracy, a Quincy Republican, introduced Senate Bill 3636, which would build on the reform bill passed in 2021.
Sen. Sally Turner, a Lincoln Republican, says the new bill addresses glaring omissions left out of last year's measure.
"We're continuing to push from last year for strong common-sense reforms that will truly root out the corruption our state has become all too known for," Turner said.
The measure would prevent spouses and other close family living with a General Assembly member from engaging in lobbying if they accept compensation and would prevent legislators from negotiating for employment with lobbying entities while holding public office.
"It's too easy for legislators to spend their time in Springfield advocating on behalf of special interests instead of their constituents," said Sen. Terri Bryant, a Murphysboro Republican.
Under last year's bill, a provision banned legislators from lobbying until six months after leaving office. SB 3636 would extend the ban to 12 months.
The bill would also allow the attorney general to expand the authority of a statewide grand jury to investigate, indict and prosecute public corruption cases and would give state's attorneys power to investigate corruption of public officials.
"We must bring an end to the known practices that lead to unethical behavior," Tracy said. "Then and only then will we be able to take back our government for one that serves the people of the state of Illinois."