Senator Barickman’s Senate Week in Review: November 18

Barickman co-sponsors legislation to eliminate conflict of interest for Illinois State Board of Elections

Senator Barickman is continuing his efforts to clean up ethics issues in state government by co-sponsoring new legislation that targets potential conflicts of interest with the state board of elections.

Under current law, members of the board of elections can not only contribute to campaigns, but can serve as officers of state and national political action committees which fund campaigns. This inappropriately allows board members to have an oversight role in some of the same campaigns that they are also funding.

“This is another conflict of interest situation where it looks like the fox is guarding the henhouse,” said Sen. Barickman. “Closing this loophole should be an easy vote, and an obvious step in the process of trying to restore the public’s confidence in their government.”

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.

Senator Barickman also recently filed legislation to give the Legislative Inspector General (LIG) the flexibility and freedom they need to conduct investigations, changes which past LIG’s have specifically requested. SB 2297 would enable the LIG to investigate complaints against legislators and issue subpoenas without approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission, which is a commission made up of legislators themselves. By taking legislators out of the process, the bill would ensure independence in the investigation of these claims.

“The public deserves to be able to trust that government officials are working for the people they represent and not their own personal interests, and if not, that they are held accountable,” said Senator Barickman. “These bills are both common sense changes that would provide an important step in restoring the trust of the people in their government.”

Senate Republicans Stand Strong for Ethics Reform

During the final hours of the fall Veto Session, the Senate Republican Caucus united in support of real ethics reform, standing in opposition to House Joint Resolution 93 – a measure that would create a Democrat-controlled commission to consider ethics reform.

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus unanimously opposed House Joint Resolution 93, arguing that if the desired outcome is real, substantial ethics reforms, the committee should be truly balanced.

“With the cloud of scandal hanging over the Dome, we need to be taking up serious ethics reforms not punting to another partisan task force,” the caucus said in a statement issued before the vote.

Under the measure the Commission will be comprised of:
·         Four Democrat legislators (two representatives, two senators) Co-Chairs for the Commission will be chosen by the Senate President and Speaker of the House from this group.
·         Four Republican legislators (two representatives, two senators)
·         Two members from the Office of the Attorney General appointed by the Attorney General (one of whom will be the Executive Inspector General for the Office)
·         Two members from the Office of the Secretary of State appointed by the Secretary of State (one of whom will be the Executive Inspector General for the Office)
·         Four members appointed by the Governor (no more than two Democrats)

Ahead of the vote, Senate Republican members made an attempt to bring partisan balance to the commission, filing an amendment that would give equal voting power to Republicans and Democrats by making the appointees from the Office of the Attorney General and Office of the Secretary of state non-voting members.

Ultimately, the Senate Republican amendment was not called for a vote and the resolution was adopted along party lines. As this is a resolution, it does not require a signature from the Governor. The Commission must submit its report to the General Assembly by March 31.

Proposal seeks to stop legislators from working as lobbyists at the local level

Spurred by recent headlines, a new legislative measure has been filed that would prevent lawmakers from being compensated to lobby.

Senate Bill 2302 would prohibit a member of the General Assembly from lobbying local governments or the state’s Executive Branch for compensation. The legislation also prohibits lawmakers’ spouses and immediate family members from lobbying for compensation at any level of government.

Currently, a member of the General Assembly cannot lobby the General Assembly for compensation; however, there is nothing that would prevent state-level lawmakers from engaging in lobbying at the local level or the state’s Executive Branch.

This loophole is how some legislators are able to profit from lobbying local governments, which some say amounts to leveraging the gravitas of their elected office for personal gain.

Currently, the legislation has not been assigned to a committee

Pension Consolidation Bill Clears the General Assembly

A proposal to consolidate the investment functions of Illinois’ 650 downstate and suburban fire and police pension systems cleared the General Assembly during the final week of the fall Veto Session.

Senate Bill 1300, if signed into law, would consolidate the assets of 650 local police and fire pension boards and put them under the control of two separate boards. One board would be established to administer investments for local fire pensions and another would be created to administer investments for local police pensions.

Opponents raised concerns that the proposal was being rushed through the General Assembly without proper consideration. They argue that the true impact the proposal will have is hard to determine because no actuarial cost estimate of its impact was done.

“Illinois has some of the worst funded pensions in the nation. In 2011, reforms were put into law to slow the growth of the unfunded liability,” said Senator Barickman. “While I believe pension consolidation is a good idea, this legislation includes irresponsible proposals which reverse key aspects of those 2011 reforms and increase pension benefits. Earlier this year, Governor Pritzker proposed taking a pension holiday; now this legislation proposes to increase pension benefits.  Pension holidays and enhancements are to blame for the poor financial condition of our pension systems. Notably, today’s proposal didn’t even include an actuarial cost estimate of its impact.”

Everyone is agreement that we have to do something about the rising costs of our municipal pensions, but today’s proposal is an irresponsible and ill-advised way to approach it.”

Senate Bill 1300 now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting a signature.

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