The Illinois Senate adjourned for the week without passing onto the House a bill to bring about ethics reforms, but work continues. One thing left out of the package is giving the Legislative Inspector General independence to investigate claims of wrongdoing brought against lawmakers.
State Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, said the package of reforms in Senate Bill 4 addresses lobbyist registration, a revolving door prohibition and statements of economic interest.
“So as we’ve had a lot of testimony, so has the Senate, so we’re trying to work together and try to work across the aisle and try to come up with some real meaningful changes,” Burke said.
The push for ethics reforms follows months of alleged and admitted corruption from elected officials and special interests. In one issue, utility Commonwealth Edison admitted it paid more than $1.3 million in bribes and jobs to allies of former House Speaker Micheal Madigan, D-Chicago, in an effort to influence the outcome of legislation favorable to the utility.
More indictments or additional charges could be imminent in that probe. The Chicago Tribune reports during a status hearing Wednesday for four defendants charged in the sweeping case that defense attorneys indicated there could be more charges coming.
Prosecutors told the court they weren’t in a position to comment.
“There are laws that people are alleged to have been broken and they’ve been arrested and charged and the legal system is working in that way,” Burke said.
Madigan has not been charged with a crime and claims he’s done nothing wrong.
While SB4 has various provisions dealing with the Legislative Inspector General, it does not give the LIG independence to investigate claims against lawmakers. That’s something previous and the current LIGs have advocated for.
Burke said they’re working through that issue.
“There’s a lot that the Legislative Inspector General can do and does do even currently,” Burke said.
Burke is on the Legislative Ethics Commission, a panel of lawmakers the LIG has to get permission from to investigate claims beyond sexual harassment.
State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said giving the LIG independence is crucial.
“It’s important to show a clear break from the type of culture we had previously and to show that that kind of conduct just won’t be tolerated anymore,” Demmer said. “It’s not a get-away-with-it-as-long-as-you-can, it’s a statement that that kind of behavior will not be tolerated in the capitol.”
It’s critical lawmakers clean up ethics at the statehouse following months of alleged and admitted corruption from elected officials and special interests, Demmer said.
“I’m concerned that yet again we’ll have a very long drawn out process only to end up with watered-down proposals that still permit the very behavior that’s still the subject of criminal investigations today,” Demmer said.
The House is back in session Friday morning. The Senate returns Tuesday afternoon. They have a May 31 deadline to pass bills with simple majorities.