January 2020 marked my first anniversary as a State Representative, and I think it goes without saying that serving in the Illinois legislature has been an interesting experience so far. The expression “timing is everything” applies to a lot of things in life, but serving in the Illinois House of Representatives has taught me that this expression has a more powerful meaning at the State House than in everyday life. How so? I’ll explain in a moment.
Over the past several weeks, my colleagues and I have been drafting new legislation and determining which legislation filed in 2019 we want to prioritize for the new session that began last week. The Governor also gave us an idea of his priorities for the session during his recent State of the State address.
While the Governor and I tend to differ on several major policies, I wholeheartedly agreed when he said it’s time to “confront a scourge that has been plaguing our political system” and “root out the purveyors of greed and corruption.” He even specifically mentioned proposals myself and House Republicans sponsored last year.
The Governor said we should ban sitting legislators from serving as local lobbyists, institute a revolving door ban so you can’t immediately become a state lobbyist after leaving office and strengthen disclosure requirements on statements of economic interest to prevent conflicts of interest. It all makes complete sense, right? Did I mention legislation to address all of these issues was filed last year? Take a look at HB 3947, HB 165, HB 879, and HB 3954. These bills even have bipartisan sponsors.
And, although the Governor didn’t specifically mention that we also need to close the loophole that allows legislators who resign on the first day of the month to get paid an entire months wages, it has bipartisan support too. I filed HB 818 to do this as my second bill in January of 2019, and now, Democrat State Senator Cristina Castro has filed Senate Bill 2456 to do the same thing with the backing of Democrat Comptroller Susanna Mendoza.
None of the aforementioned proposals are new or revolutionary, many of them have been refiled for several years in a row. However, they’ve typically been bottled up by Speaker Madigan in a House committee.
To bring it back to “timing is everything” at the State House – only when the public and political will on all sides is insuppressibly overwhelming can Madigan’s hand be forced on major issues. That’s why my HB 818 didn’t go anywhere last year, and why none of those other bills went anywhere during the fall veto session, or in previous years.
If the Governor and other Democrats are serious about joining Republicans and the public, maybe the time has finally come to address the “scourge” of corruption. Then we can get back to doing what government is supposed to do – get out of the way and promote the prosperity of citizens. I stand ready to work together to finally get this done.