(The Center Square) – In a state rocked by corruption in government over the years, Illinois lawmakers have agreed on a bipartisan ethics bill, but some said the measure doesn’t go far enough to tighten ethical rules for lobbyists and lawmakers.
At a news conference Monday, citing “glaring corruption” being an issue in Illinois, Senate Bill 539 would end loopholes allowing what state Sen. Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights, called bad actors to game the system.
“My goal has always been to rebuild trust in government,” Gillespie said. “I believe that this bill is a real opportunity to make meaningful change, and offer specific solutions to the recent scandals that we’ve seen under the dome.”
One aforementioned scandal would be the ComEd bribery case, which implicated former House Speaker Michael Madigan. A federal indictment alleges a person acting on Madigan’s behalf tried to secure jobs, contracts and payments to “influence and reward the Speaker in the Speaker’s official capacity.”
ComEd agreed to pay $200 million in fines after admitting it had arranged jobs and payments for Madigan associates. Madigan was named as “Public Official A” in a prosecution agreement. Madigan has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.
Recently, former Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes was indicted for allegedly making false declarations before a grand jury when he testified in connection to the ComEd scandal.
The legislation empowers the inspector general to investigate allegations of corruption, but also bans elected officials from lobbying units of government in the service of businesses or organizations that lobby them in their official capacity statewide.
State Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, chair of the ethics committee, said the changes will hold elected officials to higher ethical standards.
“Let’s face it, with the indictments brought forward in the last several years, the people of Illinois continue to lose faith and trust in their government,” Curran said. “We are well past the point where we can just point to those who have betrayed their oath of office and not move forward with ethical reforms.”
Some Republicans said the legislation didn’t go far enough. State Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, said it was disappointing.