(The Center Square) – In the wake of federal corruptions charges against a number of legislators and lobbyists in recent years, the Illinois General Assembly is sending an ethics reform package to the governor despite criticism that the rules aren’t strict enough
State lawmakers pledged reforms after ousting former long-time House Speaker Michael Madigan in January, but some are saying the legislation didn’t go far enough.
Senate Bill 539 would require lawmakers to identify their personal assets, but not the assets of close family members creating possible loopholes.
The bill allows the legislative inspector general to open investigations of complaints without the approval of lawmakers. However, the inspector general does not have the power to issue subpoenas for lawmakers without getting approval from the General Assembly.
Amy Korte, vice president of policy for the Illinois Policy Institute, said more needs to be done.
“I think the bill is a good step forward,” Korte said. “It does not go far enough, but it’s definitely a good start to making a break with Illinois’ culture of corruption.”
The bill language allows for a lawmaker to retire from the General Assembly and wait six months before becoming a lobbyist. Most states require one to two years, while Florida is considering a 6-year wait.
“We would like to see it go a little further in terms of the time period that a member of the General Assembly would need to wait before lobbying former colleagues after leaving office,” Korte said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker addressed the ethics bill Tuesday at a news conference in Springfield.
“It isn’t perfect and more work definitely remains, but there are more ways now to putting a stop to corruption than there ever have been before,” Pritzker said.
The organization Reform for Illinois said the bill falls short, especially the limitations put in place for the Legislative Inspector General.
“We still don’t have truly independent oversight of the legislature – the fox is still guarding the henhouse,” the group said in a statement.
State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, voted in favor of the bill, but called it an embarrassment to the people of Illinois.
“Right now we have no trust, we have no credibility with the citizens in this state,” said Wilhour during floor debate. “The citizens don’t trust the people in this body and they shouldn’t. We don’t deserve it.”