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A new day in Springfield? Lawmakers pass massive ethics reform plan

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A bipartisan group of lawmakers filed an ethics proposal Monday hoping to address years of corruption in Springfield.

Sponsors say this is the first step in addressing egregious scandals in the state’s history. The bill could ban lawmakers from serving as lobbyists for other units of government.

“With the indictments that have been brought forward over the last several years, the people of Illinois continue to lose faith and trust in their government,” Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove). “We are well past the point where we can just point to those who betrayed their oath of office and not move forward with ethical reforms.”

It also ensures retiring lawmakers only receive pay for the days they actually worked. Currently, someone retiring from the General Assembly at the start of a month could receive a full month’s pay.

The legislation prevents lawmakers from becoming lobbyists until six months after they retire or the end of a General Assembly. Although, some lawmakers hoped to pass a one-year prohibition on the lawmaker-lobbyist revolving door.

“While it won’t end corruption overnight, it closes many of the loopholes that have allowed bad actors to game the system for decades,” said Sen. Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights).

Changing the culture of corruption

Of course, this comes amidst the investigation into a bribery scheme between Commonwealth Edison and associates of former Speaker Mike Madigan. The Chicago Democrat denies any wrongdoing and hasn’t been charged at this time. However, several close allies await trial for their involvement. Madigan’s former longtime Chief of Staff, Tim Mapes, faces charges of lying to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice.

Senate Bill 539 also addresses a loopholes for political consultants.

“This is somebody who engages in indirect communication or advising on strategy that was otherwise not meeting the definition of a lobbyist. We’ve closed that loopholes and they will now have to register as well,” said Gillespie.

Lawmakers may have to complete a completely new statement of economic interests forms under this plan. They could be asked to include any creditors or debtors they’re tied to.

The Legislative Inspector General could also have the ability to investigate members without approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Representatives passed this plan on a bipartisan 113-5 vote Monday night. The measure received unanimous support from senators shortly after midnight Tuesday. This proposal now heads to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk.

While many feel it falls short of their goals, Democrats and Republicans hope to pass more ethics reforms to give voters confidence.

“Chair Gillespie and myself and the Attorney General are going to discuss initiatives involving his office including the expansion of the statewide grand jury into the realm of public corruption,” Curran explained.

Gillespie also noted discussion are ongoing for plans down the road.

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