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House Republicans unveil ethics proposals

Pritzker says comprehensive reform will likely have to wait until 2020 session

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, speaks to a group of about 50 St. Mary's School middle-schoolers at the Holloway Catholic Community Center in Dixon Thursday afternoon, after appearing at a 10 a.m. news conference in Springfield where he and other GOP leaders unveiled a package of measures aimed at ethics reform. Demmer, a graduate of St. Anne School in Dixon and Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling, talked to students about state government and about getting involved in the local community and government.
State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, speaks to a group of about 50 St. Mary's School middle-schoolers at the Holloway Catholic Community Center in Dixon Thursday afternoon, after appearing at a 10 a.m. news conference in Springfield where he and other GOP leaders unveiled a package of measures aimed at ethics reform. Demmer, a graduate of St. Anne School in Dixon and Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling, talked to students about state government and about getting involved in the local community and government.

SPRINGFIELD – State Rep. Tom Demmer and other House Republicans unveiled another package of proposed ethics reforms Thursday that they say are prompted by the wide-ranging federal probe into alleged corruption by some high-profile Chicago-area Democrats.

Speaking at a news conference in Chicago, Minority Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, said the reforms are needed to restore public trust in state government and he challenged Democrats, who control both chambers of the General Assembly with supermajorities, to act on the proposals when lawmakers return to the Statehouse for the last 3 days of the veto session next week.

“Illinois government has sunk to an even lower low,” Durkin said. “A crisis of confidence has never been more profound.”

The GOP package includes House Bill 3954, which would require lawmakers to disclose more of their personal financial information on their statements of economic interest.

It also includes a proposed constitutional amendment, HJRCA 36, which would change the way vacancies are filled in the General Assembly by requiring special elections. Such vacancies now are filled by party officials from the precincts within the legislative district.

Demmer, deputy minority leader, said that proposal is a direct response to the recent resignation of former Rep. Luis Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat arrested in October and charged with trying to bribe a state senator who also working as a confidential FBI informant.

As a Democratic committeeman for the 36th Ward, Arroyo, would be part of the process of selecting his replacement.

“Today we have a situation where former Rep. Arroyo recently resigned amid federal corruption charges, only to then be still a part of the selection process to choose a successor for the seat from which he just resigned,” Demmer said.

House Republicans also have introduced House Resolution 588, that would enable a chief co-sponsor of any bill that has at least five co-sponsors from each party to call for an up-or-down vote on that bill in a substantive committee.

Demmer said that bill is a response to Sen. Martin Sandoval, the former chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee who stepped aside from that post after federal agents executed search warrants at his district and Statehouse offices as well as his home.

Sandoval was known for bottling up bills in that committee, even when they had broad bipartisan support, Demmer said.

Republicans also are proposing House Bill 3947, which would ban members of the General Assembly, their spouses, and immediate live-in family members from working as lobbyists paid to influence local units of government.

Finally, Republicans are offering House Bill 3955 to create publicly available documentation of any communication a lawmaker has with any state agency regarding the awarding of a contract.

Sandoval is reported to have intervened with the Illinois Department of Transportation on behalf of a company that provides automated red light cameras for cities and villages in the Chicago area, a company that also has made substantial contributions to Sandoval’s campaigns.

Speaking at a separate and unrelated event in Chicago Thursday, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker did not speak directly to the Republicans’ proposed package. He did, however, renew his call for comprehensive ethics reform, including more disclosure by lobbyists, while saying he thinks it is unlikely that lawmakers will be able to pass very much legislation next week.

“We’ve seen that Rep. Arroyo was a lobbyist for other levels of government,” Pritzker said. “I think that is challenging and problematic, but once again, I’m not sure we’ll be able to do the proper amount of investigation and hearings in the three legislative days that are left this year. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim at getting the best and most comprehensive ethics package through that we can.”

Editor’s note: Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government to the more than 400 daily and weekly newspapers that are members of the Illinois Press Association.

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