As indictments, charges, and investigations into state legislators continue to make headlines, members of the Senate Republican Caucus have introduced a package of bills seeking to root out government corruption among members of the General Assembly.
The legislative package focuses on two main objectives: enhancing investigative authority within existing laws and ensuring legislators are serving the public’s interest.
While Illinois already has some strong anti-corruption laws in place, Senate Republicans say many of them are rendered toothless because the appropriate authorities aren’t given adequate ability to investigate wrongdoing.
To address these shortcomings, the legislative package proposes the following enhancements:
- Senate Bill 4012: Allows the Attorney General to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate, indict and prosecute bribery and misconduct by members of the General Assembly.
- Senate Bill 4013: Provides states attorneys with wiretap authority.
- Senate Bill 4014: Grants the Legislative Inspector General the ability to investigate members of the General Assembly without first receiving approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission, and changes the composition of the Legislative Ethics Commission to make them all members of the general public rather than legislators.
“It’s no secret that Illinois is among the most corrupt states in the nation, so to continue to drag our feet on this issue is an insult to the people of Illinois,” said State Senator John Curran (R-Downers Grove). “The laws currently on the books aren’t enough. We need to provide the appropriate authorities with greater tools to investigate legislator misconduct. In a time when the actions of corrupt elected officials have undermined the public’s confidence, continued inaction only further erodes public trust.”
The Senate Republican anti-corruption legislative package also includes measures to ensure that legislators serve the public’s interest and not their own pocketbooks. Proposals include:
- Senate Bill 4015: Bans legislators from lobbying other branches of state government or units of local government for compensation.
- Senate Bill 4016: Creates a revolving door legislator-to-lobbyist prohibition for one year after leaving office, or until the end of the current term, whichever is longer.
- Senate Bill 4017: Prohibits a legislator from leaving office and continuing to use their campaign fund to support lobbying activities. Also prevents an appointee to a board or commission that is confirmed by the Senate from fundraising for or donating from their campaign committee while serving as an appointed public official.
- Senate Bill 4018: Updates the Statement of Economic Interests to enhance the disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.
“These are common-sense reforms that will help ensure that legislators are representing the people’s interests instead of their own,” said State Senator Jil Tracy (R-Quincy). “The recent scandals involving legislators are clear examples that we need ethics reform now. We can’t wait any longer.”
“These aren’t new ideas. In fact, many of these concepts have been supported by legislators on both sides of the aisle for years and yet here we are still fighting for real reform,” said State Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). “There is no good reason to continue to delay addressing government corruption.”
“Within the last year, four legislators have recently been indicted, and another one is under investigation, yet there have been zero anti-corruption bills signed into law,” said State Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon). “It makes us wonder what exactly it will take for Democrats to get serious on the issue.”