SPRINGFIELD – On Friday, March 23, it became apparent that several ethics measures introduced by State Senator Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap) would never make it to the Senate floor. LaHood’s bills, which were common-sense measures to increase transparency and promote ethical behavior in the General Assembly, have been held in the Senate Executive Subcommittee on State Government Operations. This is a tactic often used by Senate Democrats to kill legislation and prevent it from coming up for a vote on the Senate floor. To get this legislation considered, LaHood has even offered to allow a member of the Senate Democratic Caucus to take over sponsorship of the bill, so long as this important measure will be allowed to come to the floor for a vote.
“My legislation included common sense measures that would have made very simple, but necessary, changes to Illinois’ ethics laws. It is unfortunate that the majority party in this state unilaterally decided that my bills wouldn’t be heard on the Senate floor,” says LaHood. “Realistically the pieces of legislation I introduced were only baby steps in a state that has a long way to go in fighting against the prevalent culture of corruption. It’s just too bad that we can’t even take that small first step.”
Senate Bill 3646 and Senate Bill 3647, would have required both legislators and lobbyists to report family connections. According to LaHood, laws in many other states, including Indiana, already address this issue. When this legislation was initially introduced LaHood said, “From time to time we hear that legislators are sponsoring legislation that family members are lobbying for. What my legislation does is to make sure that these family ties are made public so that citizens can have knowledge of these connections. By requiring that both legislators and lobbyists report these family connections, we’re holding them accountable and shedding greater light on the process.”
Other ethics-related legislation sponsored by Senator LaHood included Senate Bill 3649, which would have barred legislators from negotiating for employment with lobbying entities during their term in office, and also prohibited them from being paid to lobby members of the General Assembly for one year after leaving office. This revolving door prohibition is already in place at the federal level.
Senate Bill 3648 would have created the Legislative Ethics Reform Task Force and charged the task force with studying current governmental ethics law and identifying provisions that need to be expanded or clarified. The task force would also have been given the duty of proposing specific penalties for violations of the act and enhancing the level of reporting required in the statements of economic interest.
According to LaHood, his legislation brings Illinois closer to being in line with more stringent requirements already in place for federal legislators, as well as with ethics laws in many other states. LaHood also points to reports from the New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/us/illinois-public-officials-aid-lobbying-clients-of-family.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all> and the Medill School of Journalism as well as a recent study by the University of Illinois, which found Illinois to be the third most corrupt state in the nation, as further proof that Illinois is in serious need of more comprehensive ethics reform.