As Illinois has been swarmed left and right by public corruption scandals at all levels of government, the General Assembly moved to pass legislation to reform the state’s lax ethics laws – House Joint Resolution 93 and Senate Bill 1639. State Representative Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa) supported the measures, but expressed concern at their weakness and bemoaned the litany of better legislative options not given a vote.
“Because something had to be done, I felt compelled to vote for the ‘ethics reform’ legislation put before the House this week, although I fear it was basically just a head fake,” said Weber. “Nearly thirty other ethics reform bills had been filed between January and November, many with bipartisan support, but not one was even allowed a standard hearing. Almost all were ignored and buried in the House Rules Committee.
“Instead, only the two proposals filed by majority party leaders just before midnight the previous night were permitted a floor vote. However, their proposals failed to measure up to basic bipartisan muster or include the most simple and obvious of necessary reforms – preventing a sitting legislator from being a lobbyist. I hope when the General Assembly reconvenes in the spring we can actually address the ethics problem in a meaningful way.”
House Joint Resolution 93 creates the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform. However, as Weber referenced, it skews membership heavily in favor of Democrats, with only six of the sixteen commission spots being guaranteed for Republicans and assigning commission chair posts to Democrats. It also conveniently stalls the committee’s final report for reform suggestions until March 31, 2020, two weeks after the primary election.
Likewise, Senate Bill 1639 falls short with only a minor change to state lobbyist disclosure requirements, as well as failing entirely to address the problem of a sitting General Assembly member being able to lobby a local government.
Weber was part of a group of legislators who pressed for a series of bipartisan reforms prior to the second week of the veto session convening. As he mentioned, none were given a hearing or a vote. More information can be found Here.