Republican lawmakers make ethics reform a priority for spring session

As investigations into government corruption cases continue to play out in the headlines, passing commonsense legislation, including several measures unveiled last fall by Republican lawmakers, must be a top priority of lawmakers this spring.

One measure, Senate Bill 2300, seeks to ensure members of the Illinois State Board of Elections aren’t funding political action committees. Under current state law, a person can serve as a member of the State Board of Elections while at the same time running a political action committee that benefits candidates.

Senate Bill 2300 would prohibit a member of the State Board of Elections from also contributing to or being an officer of a state or federal political committee. The bill also lays out the process by which members of the State Board of Elections must resign from political committees:

·     A member of the State Board of Elections serving as an officer of a political committee must resign from that committee within 30 days of his/her appointment confirmation in the Senate.

·     Any current State Board of Elections member has 30 days from the effective date to resign as an officer from any political committee.

Senate Bill 2300 was introduced along with several other ethics reform measures Republican lawmakers contend are needed to clean up Springfield. 

Senate Bill 2297 aims to restore public trust in an honest and ethical state government by ensuring independent investigations of ethics violations. This legislation gives the Legislative Inspector General (LIG) the appropriate tools, which the current LIG has suggested, to conduct independent investigations of legislators.

Currently, except in cases alleging sexual harassment, the LIG must get advance approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) before opening an investigation, or issuing subpoenas. Additionally, if, during the investigation, the LIG discovers wrongdoing that is beyond the scope of, or unrelated to the initial complaint, they have to go back to the LEC to get approval to investigate further.

Under Senate Bill 2297, the LIG would be able to investigate complaints against legislators and issue subpoenas without approval from the LEC. By taking legislators out of the process, the bill ensures independence in the investigation of these claims.

Another measure that should be allowed to move forward is Senate Bill 1827, which would revamp the statement of economic interest that elected officials are required to fill out. Despite receiving unanimous, bipartisan approval in the Senate, this measure has failed to advance in the House of Representatives. 

Dale Fowler

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