Illinois lawmakers miss deadline for corruption reforms

Illinois lawmakers miss deadline for corruption reforms

State lawmakers putting together ethics reforms have not met since the first week of March, when the coronavirus ended gatherings.

One of many things the coronavirus has put on hold is badly needed corruption reform in Illinois. Lawmakers missed their March 31 deadline for recommendations on how to curb corruption in the state.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, chaired the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform. They released a statement explaining they will need more time to make recommendations, as they were unable to meet after March 5.

“We have completed our meetings, heard from stakeholders and are working through the proposals that have been put before us. However, due to the ongoing crisis, more time will be necessary to complete our work.”

The commission was established in November to study Illinois’ corruption issues. March 31 was their deadline to release their findings and make recommendations for reforms to state government. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were hopeful ethics reform could be achieved before the General Assembly was scheduled to adjourn on May 31. That may prove to be difficult because Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended the state’s stay-at-home order through April 30.

Springfield had been rocked by multiple corruption scandals during the past year, including the departure and arrest of three lawmakers. Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo was arrested in October on bribery charges and pleaded not guilty in February. Last August, state Rep. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, pleaded not guilty to federal embezzlement charges. In January, former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to bribery and tax fraud.

Illinois has been home to more public corruption cases than any other state since 2000, according to a report by WLS-TV. Lawmakers still have the opportunity to tackle corruption through reforms endorsed by the Illinois Policy Institute:

  • Mandate a two-year “cooling off” period to close the state’s revolving door that allows lawmakers to become lobbyists immediately after leaving office.
  • Require lawmakers to disclose any conflicts of interest before they take action on a bill.
  • Ban General Assembly members and members of their immediate household from working as lobbyists at the same time. Chicago successfully barred City Council members from lobbying City Hall and other units of government last December.
  • Allow the Legislative Inspector General to freely investigate ethics violations without influence from lawmakers.

Ban red-light cameras throughout the state, which have resulted in multiple local corruption scandals and taken $1 billion from Illinois drivers since 2008.

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