State leaders are putting together a Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform after federal raids on lawmakers and lobbyists.
The commission comes after reports of federal investigations at the Illinois statehouse, charges against a state lawmaker and former state lawmaker, two others either under investigation or part of an investigation, and federal scrutiny of lobbying practices at the statehouse.
The commission was created with a majority vote of both legislative chambers. While the measure found large bipartisan support in the House, House Joint Resolution 93 passed along party lines in the Senate. Republicans voted against the measure. They wanted the commission to have a different makeup that they said would be fairer.
The commission will have four members of the Illinois House – two chosen by the House Speaker and two chosen by the minority leader – along with four members from the Illinois Senate – two chosen by the Senate President and two chosen by the minority leader. The governor will appoint four members. And two members will be picked by each the Attorney General and by the Secretary of State. All members will get to vote.
Senate Republicans said because the governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General are Democrats, they would have a weighted vote on any recommendations. Republicans unsuccessfully tried to prevent the appointees from the Secretary of State and Attorney General’s office from voting on matters and to have the governor appoint no more than 2 members from the same political party to even things up. As passed, all members get to vote on recommendations.
By Monday, all four legislative caucuses had announced their members.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, selected House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and Assistant Majority Leader Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park.
“The task of addressing corruption and strengthening lobbying laws is not a Democratic or Republican issue; it must be a bipartisan effort,” Burke said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, picked state Reps. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, and Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis. Wehrli has filed and supported bills he said would tighten up ethics laws and stiffen penalties for lawmakers who violate the public trust.
In the Senate, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, announced state Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, to the commission.
“The last several months have seen very troubling developments and the people of Illinois expect us to be and do better,” Sims said in a statement. “For the people to have faith in their government we must hold ourselves to the highest of standards, and when public officials do wrong, they should face the consequences. Those are the beliefs that will guide me as I serve on this commission.”
Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, picked state Sens. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, and Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, for the commission.
“It is important we restore the public’s trust in their state government, which has been shaken by the recent scandals that have occurred under the dome,” Brady said. “In making these appointments, it is my hope we can develop the meaningful reforms the residents of Illinois deserve.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday he planned to announce his appointments soon.
“There is an ethics commission that is going to focus on important things like should legislators also act as lobbyists, that’s an important question that this commission is going to take up,” the governor said. “I think we’ve got to address all of these issues that are around the recent corruption allegations and indictments that have taken place. That commission should take up those issues immediately.”
The Secretary of State’s office said Jim Burns, Inspector General for the Secretary of State’s office and Nathan Maddox, Executive Counsel for the Secretary of State’s office, have been chosen to be on the commission.
Messages seeking comment on appointees from the Attorney General weren’t immediately returned.
While he’s not on the commission, state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, urged the entire commission to be seated.
“We still don’t have all the members appointed for as much as we’ve talked about it over the last couple of weeks,” Butler said. “We need to get the commission up and going. They need to start having hearings, they need to start hearing from witnesses about what we can do and hopefully early in the Spring session, not waiting until March when the report is due, but early in the Spring session we need to move some legislation.”
Butler said an easy one would be to bar legislators from also serving as lobbyists at any level of government. That issue took center stage after former state Rep. Luis Arroyo was arrested for bribing to an unnamed state senator. He was working for a consulting firm that lobbies the city of Chicago. Arroyo has pleaded not guilty. He stepped down from his elected position under pressure from his own party.
The commission is scheduled to submit recommendations by the end of March.