Against the backdrop of public corruption scandals plaguing Illinois government, the Illinois House passed two pieces of legislation to address the state’s insufficient ethics laws – House Joint Resolution 93 and Senate Bill 1639. State Representative Mike Murphy (R-Springfield) supported the measures, but expressed frustration at their lack of substance in the face of better options.
“Considering the rash of corruption infecting the state, it’s hard to fathom how virtually nothing of substance is accomplished by these measures,” said Murphy. “Why were none of the nearly thirty other bills that have been filed since January allowed to be heard? Why not any of the nine filed in the last month that directly target the issues for which the FBI has raided three legislators? Many of these proposals already had bipartisan support.
“If the argument of majority party leaders is that more time is needed to evaluate these simple, common sense proposals, then we could have done that over the past three days of the veto session. The bills were ready before the week began and if necessary, we could have stayed and continued to work on them.
“Instead, we got what has become expected from majority party leaders, legislation wholly lacking in substance and deceptively partisan, which was dropped at the 11th hour and called for a vote within 24 hours of being filed. Like most of my colleagues, I had no choice but to vote yes because to have done nothing to move the ball on ethics reform would be as bad as the process behind these votes.”
House Joint Resolution 93 creates the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform. However, it skews membership heavily in favor of Democrats, with only six of the sixteen commission spots being guaranteed for Republicans and assigning commission chair posts to Democrats. It also conveniently stalls the committee’s final report for reform suggestions until March 31, 2020, two weeks after the primary election.
Likewise, Senate Bill 1639 falls short with only a minor change to state lobbyist disclosure requirements, as well as failing entirely to address the problem of a sitting General Assembly member being able to lobby a local government.